Pathways to resilient apple orchards –Economic and ecological aspects of Integrated Pest and Pollination Management

University essay from Stockholms universitet/Stockholm Resilience Centre

Abstract: Apple orchards as social-ecological systems provide high value crops and habitat for a variety of species. Yields are influenced by pest control and pollination services, and profit-oriented management often motivates the use of inputs, e.g., pesticides, to complement or replace these services. This can cause undesirable side-effects on the agroecosystem. Previous research insufficiently considers the interplay of social, including economic, and ecological aspects of orchard management. I present an economic-ecological model integrating ecosystem services from natural enemies of pests and wild pollinators, and the anthropogenic inputs pesticides and honeybees. The value of ecosystem services is approached by service provisioning of resilient systems granted through the availability of habitat for service providing organisms instead of assessing the contribution of individual species. The model identifies profit-maximising combinations of anthropogenic inputs and land for habitat. Adding a social perspective, the findings of the model are complemented with survey data on perceptions and economic preferences of apple growers in Skåne, southernmost Sweden. The study suggests that initial densities of pest natural enemies and wild pollinators create a path-dependency determining profit-maximising strategies. Over time, either high- or low-input management is economically rational, and switching strategies requires time and foregoing profits. The threshold, determining the optimal trajectory towards high- or low-input management, is influenced by prices for pesticides, land and honeybees, pesticide toxicities for pest vs. non-target organisms, beneficial effects of habitat, and the effectivity of honeybees substituting wild pollinators. Individual perceptions, e.g., on the substitutability of wild pollinators, as well as risk and time preferences play a vital role in decision-making of the apple growers. Future research should continue exploring the economic importance of resilience in perennial crops as well as social and economic drivers of integrated pest and pollination management. 

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