Analysis shows Environmental Impact of EcoApple® Orchards

Sixteen Northeast orchards representing 1439 acres of fruit are successfully certified Eco Apple® for 2017. Several of the orchards have now been certified Eco for ten years or more, with additional orchards joining over the past decade. Phoenix Fruit Farm of Belchertown, MA, under the leadership of new owner Elly Vaughan, is certified for the first time this year.

Eco Apple helps growers expand the adoption of orchard management practices that reduce risk for humans, pollinators, and environment.

This year, with support from the Cedar Tree Foundation, we were able to contract with the IPM Institute of North America to analyze records for five orchards that have participated in the program consistently over the past 10 years. Practices and spray records were analyzed using Pesticide Risk Tool (PRT), www.pesticiderisk.org, a risk assessment tool that measures high, moderate and low risk of pest management treatments in four categories:

  • Environmental
  • Farm Worker
  • Consumer Dietary (including chronic and cancer-causing health effects)
  • and Pollinators.

The results indicate use of high-risk chemicals among Eco-certified orchards has decreased 59% since 2004, the year before the program began, and has continued to drop 18% since 2010. Growers and scientists review practices annually based on current research, and have steadily replaced more high-risk approaches with biological and lower-risk methods as they become available.

“The pressure from pests and disease in an orchard can vary from year to year due to weather and other conditions, but the goal of the Eco program is to steadily reduce overall risk over time. We are encouraged to see the data indicate that is happening,” notes Dr. Thomas Green, entomologist and President of the IPM Institute.

Several Eco-certified orchards have also participated in a study of wild pollinators by Professor of Entomology Dr. Bryan Danforth at Cornell University. “We surveyed bees in conventional and Eco Apple® orchards and found a striking difference between the two in terms of wild bee species richness and abundance. The Eco Apple orchards host many more species and many more individual wild bees,” reports Danforth. “The Eco Apple protocol does a very good job of protecting the beneficial insects, including pollinators.”

Partnership supports local growers

Apple growers in the eastern US face more than sixty species of damaging insects, and twice as many diseases compared to growers in the drier climates of the Pacific Northwest. Over 93% of certified organic apples grown in the US come from eastern Washington. Eco-Apple offers a both growers and consumers a way to support sustainably grown local fruit in the Northeast.

The Eco Apple program is a partnership between farmers and scientific advisors to advance the most progressive and environmentally responsible growing practices in the northeast region. Farmers manage damaging pests with biological methods such as natural predators, mating disruption, and trapping as their first line of defense. They use science-based practices to promote soil and tree health, nurture pollinators, and protect biodiversity – ultimately ensuring balanced ecosystems and safer working conditions while producing the highest quality fruit.

We are especially proud that the program addresses specific farming challenges for this region.  It is reviewed every year, and continually adapted to deliver better standards and better fruit – season by season, crop by crop, orchard by orchard.

2017 certified Eco Apple® producers are below; starred* orchards are also certified for Eco Stonefruit in 2017:

Blue Hills Orchards*, Wallingford, CT
Lyman Orchards*, Middlefield, CT
Rogers Orchards*, Southington, CT

Fishkill Farms*, Hopewell Junction, NY
Indian Ladder Farms, Altamont, NY
Kleins Kill Fruit Farm, Germantown, NY
Mead Orchards*, Tivoli, NY
Orbaker’s Fruit Farm, Williamson, NY
Sullivan Orchards, Peru, NY

Champlain Orchards*, Shoreham, VT
Scott Farm, Dummerston, VT
Sunrise Orchards, Cornwall, VT

Clark Brothers Orchard, Ashfield, MA
Davidian Brothers Farm, Northborough, MA
Phoenix Fruit Farm, Belchertown, MA

Schlegel Fruit Farm, Dalmatia, PA

 The Eco Apple certification was covered by:

Perishable News
The Packer
Sustainable Food News (hard paywall)