Eco AppleTM Program
Eco Apple orchards are family-owned, small to medium-size farms; (one, Scott Farm, is owned by a preservation land trust.) All are in the northeastern U.S. Only apples grown by orchards which are certified as partners in this non-profit marketing program are labeled Eco Apple. Visit our grower page to see a complete list of Eco Apple orchards. Below are some frequently asked questions about Eco Apple.
Some Eco Apple growers also grow organic apples. But organic apples are extremely tough to raise in commercial quantity and quality in the northeastern United States, due to pests specific to this climate, such as the plum curculio beetle and apple scab. Organic-approved pesticides for these pests and diseases must be applied frequently and in large quantity to be effective here; and some, such as sulfur, can have detrimental ecological impacts if used in the quantities required for commercial production in the northeast. For those situations, Eco Apple producers choose the least toxic, minimal-impact methods based on what is best for the orchard ecosystem.
One way that Eco Apple production and organic production are similar: the Eco Apple protocol prohibits the use of all organophosphates on the fruit itself, a class of pesticides that has been linked to a number of serious health concerns.
Do Eco Apple growers use Organophosphates (OPs) on their apples?
Eco Apple producers have been working steadily to eliminate OPs, and the Eco Apple protocol prohibits all use of OPs on the fruit itself. Since 2008, only one specific OP, chlorpyrifos, is allowed in restricted use for a specific pest, early in the year, to tree trunks only, and only as a last resort. (Chlorpyrifos is sold as Lorsban and several other generic brands.) The protocol is reviewed annually. Each year, we carefully monitor whether any grower will need to use chlorpyrifos on any trees and provide complete disclosure before shipping product to market. The Eco Apple crop has been grown 100% without the use of OPs since 2009.
How is Eco fruit different from regular fruit?
Eco farmers use advanced Integrated Pest Management (IPM) to control insect pests, weeds and diseases in their orchards. They rely primarily on the least-toxic and natural methods such as biological controls, along with extensive monitoring of trees, pests and environmental conditions. Conventional chemical pesticides are used only in limited, very targeted circumstances. These practices can be more expensive and labor-intensive, and require more monitoring, than conventional programs. Any producer may incorporate IPM practices on their farm, but Eco growers use ONLY the strict practices outlined in our written protocols.
How are Eco AppleTM standards set?
The Eco Apple advisory group, which includes growers, scientists, and others, also recommends priorities for further research and helps to push for funding and support for research into ecological methods. Pubic funding of this type of research has been cut drastically over the past several decades, so programs like Eco Apple are an important source of new research and information for farmers.
What criteria are used to determine pesticide use and restrictions for growing Eco ApplesTM?
One of the tools used to analyze pesticide hazards is the database at www.pesticideinfo.org. This on-line tool, created and maintained by the Pesticide Action Network of North America, collates information from recognized authorities such as international watchdogs and state and federal regulators such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the International Agency for Research on Cancer.
All pest control methods are used only after systematic scouting and weather monitoring, and only when pests exceed science-based thresholds.
How is Red Tomato able to develop such a comprehensive program?
The Eco Apple program is supported in part by USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service Conservation Innovation Grant Program, the USDA Crops at Risk Program, the USDA Northeastern IPM Center and the EPA Region I Strategic Agricultural Initiative Grant Program. Research partners include scientists at the University of Massachusetts, Cornell University and others.
Eco Apple™ farmers use an advanced IPM protocol for pest control that is designed for apple production in the northeastern United States.
Grower Protocol: An important part of the Eco Apple™ program is an annual review of the protocol, working closely with a group of scientists from Cornell University and the University of Massachusetts.