Integrated Fruit Production

Integrated fruit production (IFP) is defined as "economical production of high quality fruit, giving priority to ecologically safer methods, minimizing the undesirable side effects and use of pesticides, to enhance the safeguards to the environment and human health" (Cross and Dickler, 1994, p. 2). IFP systems emphasize long-term sustainability by minimizing the use of external inputs into the agroecosystem.

There are many differences between conventional and IFP production systems. For example, in new orchards, IFP programs encourage growers to select sites, rootstocks, cultivars, and planting systems that will require minimal external inputs but lead to both ecological stability and economic success. Soil sterilization generally is not permitted or is highly discouraged, and planting spaces are required or encouraged to be large enough to accommodate trees throughout their life span without the use of synthetic plant growth regulators and/or severe pruning. IFP programs require that growers practice soil conservation by recycling organic matter when possible and apply fertilizers only if results of soil and/or plant chemical analysis identify a specific nutrient deficiency. When deemed necessary, fertilizers are to be applied in a manner to minimize risk to groundwater, and to minimize soil compaction and/or erosion. IFP programs encourage pruning practices and training systems to achieve balanced and sustained productivity and quality. Fruit thinning by hand is recommended and preferred, although chemical thinning agents are permitted on some cultivars. Many IFP programs do not permit synthetic plant growth regulators for improving fruit finish and color or to regulate ripening. Under IFP, multiple tactic management of insects, diseases, and weeds is given priority over synthetic pesticides. Conservation of natural enemies such as predatory mites and parasitic wasps is required. Bare soil management and use of residual herbicides generally are not recommended or are not permitted. Therefore, weed-free strips beneath fruit trees are to be maintained by cultural means such as mulching or mechanical cultivation, with herbicides acting as a supplemental treatment only. Monitoring is an essential component of pest management for IFP production. Any pesticide that is used in IFP systems must be one that is approved under IFP guidelines. These particular pesticides are considered to be the most selective, least toxic, and least persistent and are to be used at the lowest effective rates. Under IFP, fruit are harvested according to cultivar maturity, and if stored, then done so in a manner to maintain internal and external quality. Depending on the region of an organization-specific IFP program, postharvest treatment with some synthetic antioxidants and fungicides may not be permitted.

This particular production system is currently in use in the United States, Europe, and other fruit-growing regions throughout the world. European programs require that growers be professionally trained in IFP-endorsed management practices. Growers must attend an introductory training session as well as periodic updates. To become certified in Europe, a grower must practice at least a minimum number of IFP-endorsed guidelines for fruit production and must maintain accurate records of these practices and make them available for inspection by IFP administrators. In the United States, certification may or may not be part of the program; some, but not all, growers using a singular IFP plan to produce tree fruit undergo certification (Hood River District Integrated Fruit Production Program, 1997; Core Values Northeast, 2001). Regardless, these programs and production systems found in the United States, Europe, and other fruitgrowing regions throughout the world may use an IFP label to market to consumers that fruit have been grown with both economic and environmental considerations.

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