What was the challenge/ problem that was addressed? 

One of the current problems in apple production is the presence of residue on fruit, hindering its sales in certain markets while generating a degree of distrust among consumers. In this context, protection for the plants is one of the cornerstones of the production process for achieving high quality production with the maximum commercial value, but it also leads to residue on the apples. Most commercial apple orchards use alternative techniques to conventional chemical treatments primarily, but the dependence on phytosanitary applications is still considerable, hence the number of treatments using health protection products is still very high. 

How did you solve the problem? 

This project has applied and assessed a global strategy for disease and pest control to obtain high-quality produce with minimal residues. 

What are the success factors in solving the problem? 

The total enclosure of the farms along with a thorough monitoring of pests and diseases, together with the application of more sustainable strategies led to a significant reduction in the number of phytosanitary treatments, while achieving good overall control of all pests and diseases and leaving undetectable levels of residue on the fruit. 

Unexpected fails if any 

The incidence of some of the pests, including grey aphid, woolly aphid and the tiger, was too high on some farms. The defense strategy must be strengthened, especially for aphids, by incorporating complementary methods which are compatible with the use of auxiliary fauna to increase the likelihood of success in controlling these pests, such as releasing auxiliary fauna and improving winter disinfection treatment. 

Lessons learned. 

  • All pests and diseases were effectively controlled in most cases, with very low levels of damage to the fruit at harvest. 
  • The number of insecticide treatments was significantly reduced compared to the farms using integrated production in the area, and they were limited to preventive treatment only for aphids on some of the farms. 
  • Fungicide treatments were reduced, the treatment strategy for scab was changed, and the number of fungicide treatments was reduced by almost 20%. 
  • Residue-free fruit was obtained by replacing all the fungicide treatments with checks for Alternaria and conservation with potassium bicarbonate. 
  • Total enclosure seems to have a negative effect on fruit production and quality, which may be associated with varying environmental conditions. 

What role does the advisor or advisory service play within the practical case? 

The leader of the group is a cooperative that provides advice to apple producers. They were the promotors of the group, in association with fruit producers. Because of their previous experience, they took contact with the research institute (IRTA) that could facilitate the study they were interested in and designed the project in cooperation with them. The cooperative and the producers provide the fields (commercial farms) in which most of the tests were carried out. 

Can your approach be transferred and/or adapted for other innovation challenges and regions? 


Estimated transferability on a scale from 1 to 5  

(where 1 is easy and 5 very difficult) 


For sharing the experience on the good practice, please contact Jordi Cabrefiga Olamendi (jordi.cabrefiga@irta.cat)