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The Quick Solution May Not Be the Best Solution

The Quick Solution May Not Be the Best Solution

In our modern-day society we have become accustomed to finding quick answers to just about any question we have, thanks to the power of internet searches. However, internet answers are not always trustworthy, and quicker is not always better.

We've seen a similar phenomenon in our work with farmers of Central Asia. Many questions from our farmers involve how to rid their orchard of a particular insect pest or disease that is damaging their orchard. If they resort to asking the pesticide dealer for help, they will usually get a quick recommendation for a pesticide that is supposed to quickly “solve the problem.”

Oh, if it were that easy!

Orchard pests or disease problems are usually caused by a combination of factors, and quickly trying to solve the problem with a pesticide can lead to other problems.

The quick solution is not necessarily the best solution.

Farmers try to protect their apple orchards from destructive insects, but strong insecticides can kill most types of insects in your orchard, including the beneficial insects that help limit the bad insects. A couple of sprays with a powerful insecticide early in the season can destroy the good insects that help control the bad insects.

Without any natural enemies left, bad insects can multiply quickly to damaging levels and virtually suck the life out of the trees, resulting in small fruit and no harvest the following year!

We've been training farmers to identify which pests and diseases are in their orchard and to use “smarter” methods of controlling them. Using less pesticides and/or pesticides that do not kill all of the good insects is a start.

Another method called "mating disruption" is more expensive short-term but more effective long-term. This method places pheromones (the scent of female moths) in tops of trees to confuse the male moths so that they cannot find the females, resulting in less mating. After several years the farmers end up saving money because they use much less pesticide. When we introduced this method over 10 years ago, some of the farmers saw damage to their orchards drop from 40% to 0%. 

Farmers must also learn how to spot which bugs are the beneficial ones the Creator placed in nature to help keep bad bug populations to a manageable level.

One local farmer told us that they have a saying: “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” If you get rid of your enemy’s enemy, then you will have to fight your enemy alone!

Taking time to effectively resolve the issues of a struggling orchard brings to light how the Creator designed plants and all the intricate relationships between insects as they interact in the orchard.

In my work with thousands of farmers over the past 20 years I am reminded that sometimes the best solution is the slow, but more effective, solution. 



About the Author: Patrick is IDEAS Agriculture Sector Director and Orchard Training Program Manager and Consultant. He has worked in fruit orchard renovation and development in Central Asia for 21 years. Enjoy other posts from IDEAS agriculturalists, such as "Compost: Transformation Accomplished."