Submitted to: Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment
Publication Type: Peer reviewed journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 12/1/2003
Publication Date: 7/12/2004
Citation: Brown, M.W., Tworkoski, T. 2004. Pest management benefits of compost mulch in orchards. Agricultural Ecosystems and Environment. (2004) 103:465-472 Interpretive Summary: The public is demanding a reduction in the use of chemicals in the production of their food, and there is an increasing demand for organically produced food. In this study we investigated the impacts of a compost mulch in an apple orchard on weed, insect, and diseases of fruit trees. Application of a compost mulch under the fruit trees reduced weed growth for one year and reduced the number of several insect pests for several years. The mulch also increased the number of beneficial insects and was shown to reduce brown rot fungal growth, a serious fruit disease. The use of compost mulches in apple production will lead to a reduction in the need for chemical pesticides. These results will be used by organic farmers, farmers wanting to reduce chemical inputs, and extension specialists in management of weeds, insects and diseases.
Technical Abstract: The effect of compost application on weed, fungal, and insect pest management in apple (Malus x domestica Bork.) orchards was investigated from 1999 to 2001. Composted poultry manure was applied in June 1999 to half of two small research orchards which had previously received little or no management. The compost provided weed control for one year after application. There was no effect of compost on apple scab (Benturia inaequalis) infection. In a laboratory experiment, growth of the brown rot fungus (Monolinia fructicola) was significantly slower on a compost substrate than a sterilized compost substrate. The compost significantly affected edaphic arthropod abundance during the first two years following application, with more predators and fewer herbivores in the compost treated plots. Populations of spotted tentiform leafminer (Phyllonorycter blancardella) and migrating wooly apple aphid (Eriosoma lanigerum) numphs were reduced in the compost plots. This study showed that the use of compost in an orchard ecosystem is beneficial to management of weed, fungal, and insect pests. The use of compost as a mulch in orchard ecosystems should be encouraged as a sustainable management practice because of a potential reduction in pesticide use.