Farm Blog

Orchard Ridge Farms


Organic Spotlight: Mating Disruption

Dear Readers,

As our 2013 growing season continues, we’d like to share with you one of our organic farming practices that allows us to grow fruit without the use of harmful chemicals. John explains how we keep the pesky Codling Moth from ruining our apple crop, while staying faithful to our commitment to being environmentally friendly. Here’s to healthy fruit!



This week, I’d like to put the spotlight on one of the methods we use at Orchard Ridge Farms to grow our apples.

               If you’ve ever had a backyard apple tree, you know that, left alone, the fruit will be full of bugs by the time fall rolls around.  The most common culprit is an insect called Codling Moth.  These moths fly to apple trees in the spring and again in the fall and lay their eggs on the developing fruit.  When the egg hatches, the larvae will chew into the apple.  As an apple grower or an apple consumer, these bugs are bad news.  The conventional approach to stopping these moths is to apply chemical insecticides several times per season.  While effective, many of the insecticides used can be dangerous, especially to the people working on the farm, like myself, along with potential environmental consequences. 

Luckily, there is a new way to stop Codling Moth from eating our apples without spraying anything!  This new approach is called mating disruption.  In the spring, just before Codling Moth begins to fly, we take these small plastic twist-ties, called pheromone disruptors, which have been embedded with a special pheromone that confuses Codling Moths, and we hang them by the thousands throughout the orchard.  The pheromones then waft through the entire orchard, preventing moths from finding a mate and laying eggs.  The ties are totally safe, and help allow us to avoid spraying any chemicals whatsoever.  The ties are also odorless to humans and completely safe to be around.  So if you happen to visit Orchard Ridge Farms and you see red plastic ties hanging from the trees, now you’ll know what they are.

Unfortunately for backyard growers, mating disruption must be put in place on a large scale (~10 acres or more) to be effective.  But there are many organically approved methods you can use on your backyard trees, which I will talk about and make recommendations on in a future post.





-John, Orchardist

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