News 452 views last update:Mar 7, 2008

Orchard owner uses pigs in fight against beetle

Orchard owner, Jim Koan, has apparently resorted to pigs in his battle against a beetle that threatens his 120-acre organic apple orchard.

As part of a research experiment believed to be among the first of its kind, Koan is using pigs to help protect his fruit from the plum curculio, a tiny insect that is among the most destructive apple pests.

More than two dozen pigs police his orchard, eating the immature apples containing the beetle's larvae.

After a successful trial run late last spring, Koan and some researchers at Michigan State University are gearing themselves up for the second year of the experiment. They aim to reduce the use of pesticides in the long run for fruit growers.

The quarter-inch-long plum curculio is particularly difficult for growers like Koan to control because no good organic controls have been developed for them. The beetle is best controlled conventionally, often with the pesticide azinphos-methyl. The US Environmental Protection Agency is phasing out the powerful pesticide, marketed under the trade name Guthion, because of the risks it poses to farm workers and to the environment.

Finding an animal that would eat the fallen apples as they lay beneath the trees, before the bugs became adults, was difficult. He tried chickens first until the neighbour's dog attacked them.

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