Sustainable Food Group provides apple orchards and other specialty crop growers throughout the upper Midwest with technical assistance to implement Integrated Pest Management (IPM) practices, achieve sustainability goals and improve yield and crop quality.

The Challenge:

Perennial fruits are a challenging crop to grow and apples are no exception. Over 70 different pests and diseases attack apples and one poorly timed spray can result in a complete-crop loss. To avoid this risk, many apple growers maintain an aggressive-spray schedule using broad-spectrum pesticides.  This often results in excess applications and unnecessary risks to groundwater, human health, and pollinators.

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) better manages these environmental concerns, while ensuring growers can produce a high quality crop. Orchardists implement IPM by learning about the pests, using pesticides that pose the least amount of risk, properly timing pesticide applications, and using thresholds and predictive models from trapping and monitoring data.

To help Wisconsin orchardists learn and implement IPM, the Wisconsin Eco-Apple Project began in 2003 as a partnership between Wisconsin Apple Growers Association, private IPM consultants, the University of Wisconsin Extension and the University of Wisconsin – Madison Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems. The Eco-Apple program would make IPM more attainable for growers by providing them with the necessary educational and technical assistance.

Our Role:

After a successful four years, grant funding for the scouting interns ended. In 2009, IPM Institute (our parent organization) took over the program. Today, Specialty Crop Grower Services is a project of Sustainable Food Group. Our specialty crops team works directly with growers to implement sustainable pest-management strategies through on-farm scouting and consulting. We offer a variety of services, such as: scouting for insect, disease and weed identification; pest management recommendations and planning; collection of soil tissue and fruit samples for laboratory diagnosis and analysis; scouting and monitoring supplies; and more!

The Outcome (updated January 2020):

Since 2009, Specialty Crop Grower Services has worked directly with over 60 farms, ranging from one to 300 acres. The program has expanded its services from apple growers to now include grape, berry, and hemp producers. Please contact us if you are interested, we are currently accepting new clients! Click here for more information.

If you are interested accessing technical assistance to help improve your orchards IPM program, check out Apple Talk!