Technology drives organic category advances

05/03/2013 02:03:00 PM
Melissa Shipman

Courtesy Well-Pict BerriesWell-Pict Berries, Inc., uses “bug vacuuming” technology to control pests without the additional application of pesticides.Technological advances are especially important to the organic category as growers strive to find more effective and efficient methods of dealing with pests and other problems.

“Extensive research for control of fire blight and other diseases and pests is being done all the time,” said Diane Dempster, manager of Farmer’s Own, the local organic program at Charlie’s Produce, Seattle.

 

Vacuuming pests

Well-Pict Berries Inc., Watsonville, Calif., still uses the large vacuum the company invented more than 20 years ago, organic category manager Brad Peterson said.

However, in recent years, it’s been improved with new technology, specifically more focused suction.

“Before, it was just a big gust of wind, but now it’s lowered down to the row and concentrated specifically on the vegetation, which limits the amount of dust and negative fallout from it,” Peterson said.

The vacuum consists of three or four fans hooked to a tractor, which goes up and down the rows to suck up any infestations, Peterson said.

“It’s usually about twice a week, depending on need,” he said.

After removing the negative insects, Peterson said the company’s integrated pest management program calls for the addition of helpful mites that feed on harmful pests.

“We use several different mites that each take care of different infestations,” he said.

Other Well-Pict technology advances include new product varieties that are in the development stage.

“We use the same varieties in conventional fields as we do the organic fields, but we’re constantly upgrading because you only have a few years of plant life with each variety,” Peterson said.

Varieties are bred first and foremost for flavor, with other characteristics such as color and shape also taken into consideration, especially with cross-pollination efforts, according to Peterson.

“Each year you produce them, the genetic code gets a little weaker and after three to five years, you see the characteristics you’re trying to breed out sneaking back in,” he said.

Peterson also said that Well-Pict is proud to be a non GMO grower.

 

Jacobs Farm/Del Cabo

Jacobs Farm/Del Cabo, Pescadero, Calif., is also involved in new research and technology for the organic industry.

Larry Jacobs, owner, has been working on several projects in regards to better solutions for organic and sustainable farming.

One such project deals with anaerobic soil disinfection.

The company has been working with researchers at University of California, Santa Cruz, on the idea of creating anaerobic, or no air, conditions in the field to reduce soil disease.

The university researchers brought back this idea from Japan.

Jacobs Farm/Del Cabo has been working on developing the field practices for widespread use.

“Based on production we’re seeing on the 150 acres we treated last fall and by farmer response, we’re optimistic that this is a less expensive replacement for methyl bromide and with comparable results when done correctly,” Jacobs said in an e-mail.

Jacobs said developing and providing the agricultural community with these technologies will increase yields and reduce dependence on toxic materials.

“This gives farmers better tools to farm more sustainably into the future,” he said.

Jacobs Farm/Del Cabo also is collaborating with an entomologist and a semiochemist to find and use the signaling chemicals of beneficial insects such as ladybugs to be able to increase their populations in fields in anticipation of insects that feed on the crop.

“We’re in the embryonic stage of developing this idea but are confident there is much to learn from nature that will provide us powerful new tools and strategies for managing how we grow food,” Jacobs said.



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