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OSCII Activity B.11

Exclusion nets for organic apple production in Eastern Canada

Activity summary

Except in dry climate regions, organic apple production is difficult in Canada and the United States because of the dozens of types of insect pests and diseases that can damage the harvest. This problem considerably limits the supply of locally produced organic apples, for which there is a growing demand. However, apple production under exclusion nets that protect the tree from insects and scab and isolate it from the orchard floor in an enclosed space, could be a way to meet this demand. The objective of this project is to validate the overall hypothesis that properly deployed exclusion nets can prevent attacks from most apple tree pests and reduce the incidence of disease without having a major adverse effect on fruit quality.

The proposed method is a row by row exclusion system, consisting of nets with an added impermeable rainproof coating. The following aspects will be studied:

  • An assessment of the orchard-scale agronomic performance of the two exclusion systems (with and without rainproofing);
  • Development and characterization (durability, impermeability and safety) of a superhydrophobic coating and the impact on the incidence of disease;
  • Assessment of the net's compatibility with fungicides used in organic production systems (net durability and penetration of fungicides);
  • Development of an effective pollination strategy for apple production under nets (pollination by bumblebees without opening of the nets or pollination by honeybees and indigenous pollinators with selective opening of the nets);
  • Analysis of the cost-effectiveness of exclusion systems on the scale of an organic orchard in Eastern Canada.

The row by row exclusion system proposed in this project is adapted from the model used successfully in southern France to control codling moths, and is a completely new technique in North America. In Eastern Canada, the potential for implementing this type of system will depend on the success achieved with plum curculio and apple maggot. The addition of a superhydrophobic coating on the nets will provide added protection against scab and insects. To our knowledge, this project is the first in Canada, if not in the world, in which an in-depth assessment will be done of the technical and economic potential of a complete exclusion system using nets to produce pesticide-free apples.

It is anticipated that this new technology will have a positive, sustainable impact on organic apple production businesses, a sector where current yield losses are as high as 50% in Eastern Canada. Higher yields and better fruit quality will make organic enterprises, or enterprises making the transition to organic operations, more viable and competitive, and will help to significantly expand the supply of Canadian organic fruit in domestic and international markets. The exclusion method will make it possible to safely deal with the onset of new obstacles to organic production, including brown marmorated stink bugs, which have severely damaged crops in several American states and may also spread to other types of horticultural production operations.

Activity researchers

Name Affiliation
Gérald Chouinard, Activity Leader Institut de recherche et de développement en agroenvironnement (IRDA)
Mirella Aoun Centre d'expertise et de transfert en agriculture biologique et de proximité (CETAB+)
Luc Belzile IRDA
Gaétan Bourgeois Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
Horticulture Research and Development Centre
Jean Duval CETAB+
Éric Ménard Dubois Agrinovation
Mélanie Noel Fédération des producteurs de pommes du Québec
Gregory S. Patience École Polytechnique de Montréal
Vincent Philion IRDA

Jason R. Tavares

École Polytechnique de Montréal

Materials and Results to Date

  • Organic apples under exclusion nets: Verger des frères