Consumers demand good-looking, great-tasting produce, which inevitably puts a lot of pressure on growers – especially those growing organically. Imperfect fruit that used to be accepted simply because it was organic is no longer passing muster with consumers who have become increasingly accustomed to seeing supermarket shelves stocked with flawless fruit. The right balance in an integrated pest management program is paramount for growers’ success and can make all the difference when it comes to the bottom line.
For organic growers looking to improve quality and yield to command higher prices, Bt is an indispensable tool that has been used in organic farming for generations. Bts stop worm pests from feeding, and prevent burrowing injuries that make crops more susceptible to diseases. Worm infestations can impede fruit’s sugar content and decrease vigor, reducing crops.
Organic or conventional, overall plant health is fundamental to crop value. Bt helps ensure plants stay healthy and vigorous early in the season, then protects the crop at the end. And the fact that Bt is specific to Lepidoptera means that beneficial insects are able to thrive along a Bt-protected crop.
John Teeple of Teeple Farms in Wolcott, NY, says that Bt has been tremendously helpful in improving the quality of his Red Delicious crop. “We’ve got this problem with obliquebanded leafroller on red delicious, and it seems to get started during bloom,” he says. “We can’t use anything that’s going to be harmful to bees during bloom, so the Bt seems to fit very well there.”
Bt is not only good for beneficials and growers, it’s good for produce buyers and retailers. Bt leaves behind no toxic residue and has no mandated tolerance limits for residue in food. Biorationals can be applied closer to harvest, offsetting late-season insect pressure and ensuring that fruits and vegetables arrive at the point of sale insect free and able to maintain their quality through to the end user.
Not only is Bt good for organic growers, but it can be easily worked into a conventional Bio-intensive IPM program like ours at Royal Oak Farm.