At Royal Oak Farm we use an entirely new approach to managing pests called Biointensive Integrated Pest management (Bio-IPM) and the use of Sustainable Agriculture to minimize the insect and disease damage to our fruit. Biointensive IPM utilizes a systems approach to pest management based on an understanding of pest ecology. It begins with steps to accurately diagnose the nature and source of pest problems, and then relies on a range of preventive tactics and biological controls to keep pest populations within acceptable limits. Our preventative tactics include a combination of ecological, biological, natural, and cultural controls to keep applications of chemical controls to a minimum.
Often there are enough beneficials to control the pest(s) in the orchard without spraying. On other occasions we can use traps to catch pest species as they enter the orchard, or determine from the traps that there are too few of the pest to cause serious damage to the trees or fruit. In 2007 we made use of a new product called Virosoft that is a 100% ecological solution. Virosoft is a biological, natural baculovirus which specifically and exclusively attacks the target pest. Virosoft is absolutely harmless to all other members of the ecosystem, including humans. Because of the success of this product we have not had to apply any sprays in the month of August when growers would normally apply at least one timed spray. As a last resort, reduced- risk pesticides are used if other tactics have not been adequately effective, and with care to minimize risks.
We have our own IPM specialist to monitor a number of species of insects and mites in our orchard, including beneficial species (predators and parasites of pest species). Each week of the growing season, we also consult with the Eco-Apple Project network of professional growers via weekly conference calls directed by a professional entomologist. A weather station in the orchard tracks temperature, rainfall, and humidity 24 hours a day, transmits this data to our weather computer and we then use this information to monitor pest biology and the progress and severity of various diseases that can attack our fruit.
The benefits of implementing biointensive IPM include reduced chemical input costs, reduced on-farm and off-farm environmental impacts, and more effective and sustainable pest management. An ecology-based IPM has the potential of decreasing inputs of fuel, machinery, and synthetic chemicals - all of which are energy intensive and increasingly costly in terms of financial and environmental impact. All these efforts make it possible for us to apply chemical controls only a few times each season when they are truly required. And we have made it a policy to always use the most environmentally friendly materials available. The good health of our bees located all around the orchard is a testament to our insect and disease management strategy.
At Royal Oak Farm we are proud of the quality of the fruit we grow, and equally proud that through our monitoring efforts and the use of Biointensive Integrated Pest Management procedures we need apply so few sprays to grow excellent products.