John Wooldridge, Johan Fourie & Marlise E Joubert
There are around 22 000 ha of commercial apple orchards in South Africa. Of these, 70% are located in the upland areas of the Western Cape. The apple industry exports c. 40% of its production and supports an on-farm labour force of 27 800 (Hortgro 2012. Apple producers are currently adjusting their production techniques to meet increasing consumer demands for organic over conventionally produced fruit.
Most Western Cape apple orchards are managed according to integrated production (IP) principals (Cross and Dickler 1994). These minimise environmental impacts through a system of penalty points for undesirable practices, notably agrochemical usage. Organic apple producers are regulated by accredited certification organisations who define acceptable practices. These exclude synthetic chemical inputs such as fertilisers and herbicides. Sewage sludge (used in some composts) may also be prohibited. Many IP and organic practices concern the orchard floor. Orchard floor management affects access, competition between trees and weeds, nutrient and water availability, and root environment. It may also have pest control implications (Wooldridge and Harris 1989, Wooldridge and Botha 1991, Wooldridge 1992, Hogue at al. 2010, Fourie et al. 2011)