Washington State University Student Takes Natural Approach to Apple Pest Management

In *All, Agricultural Systems by Ag is America

Robert Orpet, a doctoral student at Washington State University’s Tree Fruit Research and Extension Center, is working to protect apple orchards from the woolly apple aphid. This aphid is a pest that harms  apple trees and shrinks  apple harvests. The woolly apple aphids feast on the roots and branches of apple trees, stealing nutrients and causing infections which put apple harvests at risk While most farmers use chemical sprays to prevent pest damage , Orpet’s work involves taking a natural approach by using predatory insects to eat the aphids. Predatory insects reduce the need for using pesticides. Consumers are often concerned about buying produce that has been treated with chemicals. By using natural pest management methods, Orpet is helping farmers prevent pests from damaging apple harvests without using chemicals that may cause consumers to be wary of buying their produce. Apples are a major commodity in Washington, so ensuring healthy apple harvests is of particular importance for apple farmers.

Orpet found the earwig insect is a predator to the aphids and he has set out to start catching them for use in apple orchards. While the earwig is a familiar predatory insect, some apple farmers were concerned that the earwig would damage apples while eating the aphids. Orphet placed groups of the earwigs he collects at various places in orchards infested with aphids and measured the effectiveness of the earwigs in depleting aphid populations. He found that the earwig was very effective in managing aphid populations while not damaging the apples. Orpet hopes that through this natural approach to pest-management, apple-orchards will remain healthy and ensure plentiful harvests without the need to use chemicals.

For more information on this work from Washington State University, read more here.

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