Edible Landscaping

Charlie says… Eat Eco-Apples

Eco apples may not be organic, but have fewer pesticides on them than conventional apples.

Many gardeners and consumers are embracing eating locally and organically whenever possible. With the advent of so many new organic farms, eating locally is getting easier than ever. But one crop can be difficult to raise organically and find in markets — organic apples. There is a growing organic apple industry in America. By 2008 production of organic apples had increased to about 488 million pounds raised on 20,000 acres. Most of the production of organic apples is in Washington and California, so if you live on the West Coast you can find local organic apples relatively easily. However, for Midwest, East Coast, and Southeast consumers, finding locally-grown organic apples can be hard.

The problem is that growing an organic apple orchard east of the Mississippi River is not easy. Growers must deal with pests such as plum curculio beetles, for which there are few effective, non-chemical controls, and diseases such as apple scab that are difficult to control in the rainy, humid weather. Repeated sprays of organic pesticides, such as sulfur, often have more harmful than beneficial results.

So what's a consumer in the East to do who wants to buy local organic apples? The solution is the next best thing — Eco-apples. Eco apple farmers use advanced Integrated Pest Management (IPM) techniques to control insect pests, weeds and diseases. They rely primarily on the least-toxic and natural methods such as biological controls, and use extensive monitoring of the trees to identify the best timing for controls. Conventional chemical pesticides are used only in limited, very targeted circumstances. They try to avoid the most harmful chemical pesticides such as organophosphates.

Eco-Apple farms are supported by the USDA and Universities in New York, Massachusetts, and Wisconsin. Often Eco apple operations are small to medium-sized, family-run orchards in these regions. So, if you want to stay local, look for Eco-apples in the market. It may not be organic, but it's the next best thing.

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