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ISHS Acta Horticulturae 1137: International Symposium on Innovation in Integrated and Organic Horticulture (INNOHORT)

From orchard to agri-food system redesign to reduce pesticide use

Authors:   S. Penvern, C. Kouchner, L. Ruynat, S. Simon, C. Lamine
Keywords:   pest management strategies, technology adoption, socio-technical lock-in, drivers, food chain
DOI:   10.17660/ActaHortic.2016.1137.46
Decreasing pesticide use in orchards is a major challenge to increase their sustainability. The study of pest management strategies and their determining factors is important to evaluate if these strategies can provide reductions in pesticide use. Decision-making in orchards is influenced by the high risk of fruit damage and yield loss due to the permanent presence of pests in a perennial system, as well as market standards for 'zero damage' fresh fruits. In this context, we focused on the middle Rhone Valley in southeastern France, where many producers have switched from peach to apricot production in the last two decades due to an economic and sanitary crisis. We addressed the following questions: is new orchard planting an opportunity to rethink pest management strategies? How do technical constraints and socio-economic aspects (e.g., commercial outlets, information networks, technical support) influence decision-making? A survey was conducted with 35 apricot and peach producers. The interviews focused on pest management strategies and the adoption of alternative methods, recent farm pathways, marketing channels and information and technical networks. Drivers, bottlenecks and opportunities to adopt alternative methods and to design more ecological pest management strategies were identified. Orchard planting was not so much a prerequisite for orchard redesign as was the progressive integration of various alternative methods in existing or replanted orchards. Our results also emphasized the interdependencies between farmers' pest management strategies and pesticide regulations, food chain constraints and information systems: farmers advised by input sellers used more pesticides than those with no or independent advisors; farmers selling through short distribution channels used fewer pesticides than those selling through farmers' organizations, brokers or wholesalers. Promising levers have thus been identified to reduce pesticide use, but their application and diffusion often fail due to inadequate regulatory compliance and/or technical support systems. Therefore, orchard transition towards ecologization and pesticide reduction should be facilitated through a deeper redesign at the scale of the agri-food system.

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