Implementing biointensive pest management and evaluating hard cider manufacturing to increase sustainability of apple production

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2007: $129,427.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2010
Region: North Central
State: Iowa
Project Coordinator:
Dr. Mark Gleason
Iowa State University

Annual Reports


  • Fruits: apples, general tree fruits


  • Crop Production: application rate management
  • Education and Training: decision support system, extension, participatory research
  • Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns, risk management
  • Pest Management: cultural control, economic threshold, field monitoring/scouting, genetic resistance, integrated pest management, weather monitoring
  • Production Systems: agroecosystems, holistic management, permaculture
  • Soil Management: organic matter, soil quality/health

    Proposal abstract:

    Producing apples in the Midwest requires intensive, chemically based pest management systems in order to bring high-quality, fresh market apples to consumers. A combination of rising costs, pest resistance, and new legislation has caused existing systems of apple pest management to become ineffective or to fall out of favor with growers. Because of this, new methods of pest control were developed to combat the ever present problems in apple production. These new methods must meet a number of criteria: sufficient pest control must be achieved, the innovative tactics must be safer for applicators, the environment, and consumers, and must also be economically feasible or they are not likely to be adopted by growers.

    In 2008, field experiments showed that IPM protocols designed for a scab-resistant apple orchard resulted in fewer pesticide sprays, lower input costs, higher returns, and a lower Field Environmental Impact Quotient rating than either conventional IPM or a traditional calendar-based pesticide-spray schedule, and that using composted hardwood chips as mulch suppressed weed biomass and reduced reliance on chemical herbicides in tree-row strips while conserving soil moisture, reducing soil temperature, and increasing soil organic matter and nitrogen. Experiments to produce hard cider from Iowa apples continued to refine methodology and blends to develop products that consumers would prefer over national brands currently on the market. On-farm demonstration trials with six commercial apple growers in Iowa added to the project’s evidence that the Brown-Sutton-Hartman warning system for sooty blotch and flyspeck saves 1 to 2 fungicide sprays per season compared to conventional calendar-based spraying without compromising control of this disease, and that volume of first- and second-cover fungicide sprays did not impact performance of the warning system.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Objective 1. Compare innovative tactics to conventional IPM and traditional practices for disease, insect, and weed management in annual field trials.

    Objective 2: Develop methods for producing hard apple cider of consistently high quality that Midwest consumers are willing to buy.

    Objective 3. a) Calculate the costs, benefits, and risks of the alternative apple management systems in Objective 1; b) Estimate the costs, benefits, and risks associated with local-scale manufacturing and marketing of hard cider in Iowa.

    Objective 4. Communicate project findings to North Central Region apple growers through on-farm demonstration trials, field days, meeting presentations, statewide and regional newsletter and trade-journal articles, a project website, press releases, and an on-line Extension bulletin.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.