How do you reduce the use of pesticides without compromising the yield?
The continuing consumer shift towards environmentally friendly produce has presented a significant challenge for producers, particularly regarding pesticide use.
Although a move towards organic, chemical-free and ethically produced foods is certainly a positive one for both the environment and human health, it can have a negative impact on the quality of the produce, retail cost and the yield for the producer.
For a family-owned British farm that grows a variety of soft fruits and makes its own juices on site, there was a definite advantage to reducing the use of harmful chemicals and pesticides. But they faced the enormous problem of how to grow fruit pesticide-free, without losing huge amounts of produce to pests and diseases.
To solve this, the farm’s team embarked on a significant R&D project with a number of aims – primarily, to develop a unique chemical-free fruit propagation, testing and commercialisation system to identify disease resistant varieties.
The project presented a myriad of challenges for the team to solve. During their extensive R&D programme, they worked on ways to commercialise heritage varieties with natural disease resistance. These had become unpopular with commercial farmers due to their lower yields, smaller fruit and non-uniform shape. But the team understood that these varieties could be the key to a pesticide-free future
Developing customised cutters for mechanical pruning led to an impressive labour reduction of 70%, while discovering a replacement wire for support frameworks cut installation time by 40%.
Enhancing soil quality, improving the testing process for superior breed identification and boosting process efficiency have also formed part of the team’s R&D activity, along with innovations in machinery, equipment and growing methods.
By taking the initiative with innovation, this farm has seen its hard work already starting to bear fruit.