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Susquehanna Life

Safer Pest Management

Oct 13, 2014 07:11PM ● By Erica Shames

      Years ago, Betsy and Karl Schlegel, lifelong farmers, made sure they did everything they could to avoid exposing their children to harmful pesticides on their Dalmatia fruit farm. About the same time, their children began to get chronic ear infections. “I wasn’t able to get lasting solutions from the pediatrician,” noted Betsy. “The only solution they offered was another prescription for antibiotics.”

      Betsy began searching the Internet for safer and more lasting cures. “I began to find natural solutions for our health problems. I also found a natural doctor that offered simple, noninvasive cures. I realized if this worked in the health field it probably worked in the growing fields.

      The Schlegels began to look at each problem they faced individually and tried to get the safest and most effective cure for the problems—a holistic approach toward growing fruits. “We have found that a combination of approaches to solving orchard problems gives us access to some of the best solutions to the many changing challenges to producing crops,” said Betsy.

      Under the instruction of Dr. Greg Krawczyk, and in cooperation with the Fruit Research and Extension Center in Biglerville, the Schlegels are employing cutting edge research to control common pests in their apple, peach, plums, cherries, nectarines, pears, grapes, pluots and aprium orchards as well as in their sweet corn fields—including reduced risk pesticides, biological control, mating disruption, bug trapping and monitoring.

      With mating disruption, for example, a pheromone dispenser is placed in a Gala apple tree. As pheromones are constantly released into the orchard, the male pest becomes confused and cannot find the female. This eliminates the possibility of egg laying on the fruit and provides damage control without pesticides. These tactics have allowed the Schlegels to reduce pesticide usage by up to 80 percent.

      Betsy advises everyone to use common sense when using pesticides. Her advice includes: live with a little more inconvenience for the sake of a healthier environment; leave broadleaf weeds in your lawn to attract and feed honey bees; follow the directions on pesticides you buy for your homes and lawn and don’t over-apply.

      “We use only reduced-risk pesticides—ones that have been shown not to have any harmful effects on the environment or humans—and only if the need arises,” says Betsy. “Always wash your fruits and vegetables—not just for any possible pesticide residue, but for dirt and anything naturally occurring outside.”

      “We hope to continue to learn as a farm and a family more and better ways to grow safe and healthy fruits,” added Betsy. “It’s our hope that we can make the farm profitable enough to support our children and their future families.” 

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