Fourteen organic apple producers in Washington State were interviewed in a select survey study that sought to identify common successes and barriers in organic apple management. Historically, control of codling moth has been a primary barrier to organic apple production in the Northwest. In addition, organic production incurs significantly higher costs than conventional production for certain aspects such as fruit thinning and weed control.
The following commonalities emerged from the interviews:
1. Mating disruption has become the dominant pest control method for codling moth.
2. Production practices are driven by both internal (i.e. pest populations, tree nutritional status) and external (i.e. market prices, spray material availability) factors.
3. Growers use several strategies simultaneously to achieve acceptable levels of pest control.
4. Growers perceive that enhancement of habitat for beneficials andecological diversity is linked to reducing reliance on pesticides.
5. Growers attribute better fruit quality and fewer disease problems to an active organic fertility management program.
6. Labor is the largest factor in increased cost of organic production.
7. Though costs of production during the first few years of organic practices are generally higher than in conventional systems, net returns improve over he first few years of organic production and consistently exceed net returns from conventional orchards.
While there is no simple "recipe" for organic apple production, experienced growers share a core of strategies that include diversification of pest management techniques, proactive soil fertility management, and continued experimentation to develop cost-effective options for those aspects of organic production that are more expensive than conventional practice.