“Miracle” apples and pest management with biodiversity

Today, let me introduce you to this apple farmer, Akinori Kimura.

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(Ozaki, 2007)

 

His apples are known as “Miracle” apples

He is an apple farmer in Aomori prefecture, Japan. Several years ago, He was in the spotlight and his apples were named “Miracle” apples (Ozaki, 2007). Also, his life story was published in many books and even made  into a film (Picture1).  Do you know why? Truth be told, he farms apples without using any pesticides and agricultural chemicals.

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Picture1: the package of “Fruits of Faith” (taken from http://www.yesasia.com/us/fruits-of-faith-dvd-japan-version/1034064898-0-0-0-en/info.html)

 

Pesticides are harmful, but still necessity for farmers.

It is difficult for farmers to farm apples without insecticides because apples area fruit vulnerable to fruit  pests. It is said that apples are one of fruits for which people use agricultural chemicals the most intensively (Knight, 1995).

Using pesticides or insecticides effectively  reduces the risk of pests, but they are harmful for other living things in the area and also for farmers themselves. Also, use of pesticides is costly for farmers. Even though many farmers are trying to reduce the use of pesticides because of increasing social concerns about these negative aspects, a lot of pesticide is still being used by many farmers.

 

How he made it?

Then, how was he able to grow apples without any pesticide? Through long period of trial and error to grow apples without any pesticides, he discovered the use of biodiversity as pest management.

This is his apple farm (Picture2). In his apple farm, you can see plenty of understory vegetation which is generally cleared in existing styles of apple farming. In his farm, you can see various species such as rats, rabbits, birds, and many types of insect.

In existing orchards, people clear the understory vegetation in order to decrease the risk of pests or bugs emerging (Picture3); however, he found a weird thing after he left understory vegetation on his farm. When he stop cutting understory weeds and they grew, he found that the incidence of some pests started decreasing little by little even though he did not use any pesticides.

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Picture2: Kimura’s apple farm with plenty of understory vegetation and weeds. (taken from http://songsfor.exblog.jp/22097668/)

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Picture3: Existing style of apple farm with cleared understory vegetation. (taken from http://www.byrontalbott.com/the-underground-farm/)

 

Biodiversity can be used for pest management.

What he found on his farm was pest management using biodiversity. If many farmers can use biodiversity as effective pest management instead of pesticides, it is beneficial for both  farmers and the natural environment. The good news is that research also show that effective pest control can be achieved using biodiversity.

Teranyshus spp (Picture 5) is a well- known mite infesting apple and strawberry farms. A study shows that Phytoseulus spp (Picture 4), which is a different mite species, has a positive effect on the control of Tetranyshus spp. And this is an example of biological pest management (Gough, 1991).  Phytoseulus lives in understory vegetation, when there is plenty of understory plant cover , and since they predate Teranyshus they are working as a biological pesticide. This is exactly what Akinori Kimura found when he grew understory vegetation on his farm.

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Biological pest management in the world.

This type of biological pest management can be applied for not only on Japanese farms, but also for farms  all over the world. Lundgren and Fausti (2015) explain that they found fewer pests in the cornfields of North America with more biological diversity. The authors also insist that diverse insect community have great functionality as pest managers and their functionality has also financial benefit for farmers by reducing the use of pesticides.

I hope that this agricultural style which has positive impact on both of farmers and biodiversity  becomes more common in the world in the near future.

Thank you for reading.

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Reference list

Botha, J., Bennington, J. and Poole, M. (2014) Spider mite pests of Western Australian plants. Available at: https://www.agric.wa.gov.au/plant-biosecurity/spider-mite-pests-western-australian-plants (Accessed: 29 September 2016).

Gough, N. (1991) ‘Long-term stability in the interaction betweenTetranychus urticae andPhytoseiulus persimilis producing successful integrated control on roses in southeast Queensland’, Experimental & Applied Acarology, 12(1-2), pp. 83–101. doi: 10.1007/bf01204402.

Jones, G., Campbell, C.A.M., Hardie, J., Pickett, J.A., Pye, B.J. and Wadhams, L.J. (2003) ‘Integrated management of Two-spotted spider mite Tetranychus urticae on hops using hop ß-acids as an Antifeedant together with the predatory mite Phytoseiulus persimilis’, Biocontrol Science and Technology, 13(2), pp. 241–252. doi: 10.1080/0958315021000073501.

Knight, A. (1995) ‘The impact of codling moth (Lepidoptera: Tortricidae) mating disruption on apple Valley, Washington’, J.ENTOMOL.SOC.BRIT.COLUMBlA, 92, pp. 29–38.

Lundgren, J. and Fausti, S. (2015) As biodiversity declines on corn farms, pest problems grow. Available at: https://theconversation.com/as-biodiversity-declines-on-corn-farms-pest-problems-grow-45477 (Accessed: 2 October 2016).

The State of Victoria (2015) Biological control of Gorse with the Gorse spider mite. Available at: http://agriculture.vic.gov.au/agriculture/pests-diseases-and-weeds/weeds/state-prohibited-weeds/biological-control-of-gorse-with-the-gorse-spider-mite (Accessed: 29 September 2016).

Ozaki, Y. (2007) Apple farmer raises ‘miracle’ fruit | the Japan times. Available at: http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2007/10/04/national/apple-farmer-raises-miracle-fruit/ (Accessed: 2 October 2016).

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About Biodiversity Conservation Blog

I am an Associate Professor at The Australian National University and convene a (very awesome) course called Biodiversity Conservation. Myself and students in the course contribute to this blog.
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