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Scientists discover flowers may be key to keeping pests away from fruit crops — here's how this could transform agriculture

"By looking after our creepy crawlies, we can take better care of our apples."

"By looking after our creepy crawlies, we can take better care of our apples."

Photo Credit: iStock

New research uncovered a surprising method to enhance apple orchards, potentially leading to better-quality fruits without the need for harmful pesticides.

The University of Reading study, reported by Earth.com, revealed that planting wildflowers around apple orchards can help farmers attract beneficial insects such as ladybugs and hoverflies, which help control harmful pests.

Researchers strategically planted wildflower borders around apple orchards in England, selecting a diverse mix of grasses and flowers that bloom year-round to ensure a constant food source for predatory insects

As a result, orchards with these flower borders experienced considerably less fruit damage compared to those without, with the protective influence extending up to 50 meters (over 160 feet) into the orchard.

This approach not only reduces the need for harmful pesticides but also supports the environment by promoting biodiversity. 

In 2020, the United Kingdom produced 200,000 tons of dessert apples, per a University of Reading news release, and this method could increase the harvest of premium apples by up to 6.9% per hectare (roughly 2.5 acres). The benefits are clear: better quality apples and a healthier environment.

Charlotte Howard, the study's lead author, emphasized the broader benefits of this approach.

"By looking after our creepy crawlies, we can take better care of our apples," she explained. "Planting flower margins near fruit trees is a sustainable way of preventing damage to crops as it reduces reliance on insecticides. We will get more good bugs on farms and better British food in supermarkets as more flower strips are added next to orchards." 

This method represents a sustainable farming practice that reduces our reliance on insecticides, leading to healthier produce.

Overall, the study highlights the importance of innovative and eco-friendly solutions in agriculture.

The technique of planting wildflower borders to attract beneficial insects isn't just beneficial for commercial apple orchards; it can also enhance personal gardens. 

By incorporating wildflower borders around garden patches or landscapes, individuals can create a vibrant habitat for pollinators such as bees and butterflies while naturally controlling pests. These flower borders not only add beauty and color to outdoor spaces but also contribute to biodiversity and ecosystem health. 

Whether it's a small garden patch or a sprawling landscape, implementing flower borders can transform a plain space into a lively and ecologically valuable area, benefiting gardeners and the environment alike.

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