LESS PESTICIDE, BETTER APPLES

Farmers in the Prespa region receive text messages that notify them of when and with which chemicals they should spray their orchards to prevent diseases and pests. The text messages are sent to the farmers from the local agro-chemical laboratory, which electronically monitors seven agro-meteorological stations placed at various locations in Prespa that monitor various parameters and warn if there is a need to spray pesticide. The aim is to prevent the excessive use of chemicals that pollute the environment.

Ljube Pampulevski is one of the largest producers of apples in Prespa and says that the text messages from the agro-meteorological stations have significantly reduced the number of times that he sprays his orchards during a season.

Farmer Ljube Pampulevski prepares to spray his orchards having received a text message advising him to protect his apples within the next three days.

“In the past, we treated the apples on the basis of how they looked, or for example you’d see your neighbour spraying, so you would, or on the recommendation of an agronomist or an agricultural product vendor in the agricultural pharmacy, whose primary goal of course is to sell more products. With that we were jeopardising the entire production, and the apples were not healthy. However, this has now changed. By applying these innovative practices we now receive information on when to spray, and what to spray with, in order to protect the apples”, explains Pampulevski.

The placement of the automatic agro-meteorological stations as an innovative method of environmental protection has already borne fruit. The number of times orchards are sprayed with pesticides has decreased by 30%.

These stations measure 40 parameters, such as air temperature, wind speed, humidity, and solar radiation, on the basis of which is determined the risk of diseases or pests, resulting in a more rational use of pesticides and fertilisers, and thus reducing their harmful impact on the environment.

One of the seven agro-meteorological stations financed by the European Union placed in an orchard in the village of Pokrvenik

“The goal of the agro-meteorological stations is to provide farmers with accurate and timely information on treating their orchards. Treatment means protecting the orchards with chemicals. Until now, farmers were spraying when they felt like it, 20 or even 30 times, while now, with the information from the agro-meteorological stations at their disposal, they only spray when necessary. The number of sprayings during a season has been reduced by 15 to 17. In this way we protect the environment and the farmers save their resources”, says Frosina Gjorgievska, head of the agro-chemical laboratory in Resen.

The Prespa region has as many as 4,200 registered farmers, most of whom grow apples. Apple orchards in this region cover seven thousand hectares, and fruit cultivation has been the locals’ main economic activity for more than 100 years. Although the area’s climate and soil are favourable, specific geo-climatic factors such as poor air current make Prespa’s apples susceptible to disease and, as a result, in the past farmers constantly sprayed their apples with pesticides that harm the environment. Nowadays, pesticides are only used when the automatic stations sound the alarm.

“Our end product is now of a far better quality and, most importantly, the apples are healthier”, says Pampulevski.

Currently, 170 farmers receive accurate information from the agro-meteorological stations on whether and when to spray their apples with pesticides, but this number is expected to increase. The Association of Farmers in Resen says that this would further reduce the excessive use of pesticides and protect the environment.

Frosina Gjorgievska, head of the agro-chemical laboratory in Resen, monitors the parameters from the seven automatic stations

As the owner of 3.5 hectares of orchards, Ljube Pampulevski says that he is trying to implement all the modern production practices in order to improve the quality and status of his apples. As part of this project, he and 12 other farmers from the Prespa region took part in a study visit to the Italian region of Emilia-Romagna, famous for its apples, to learn about the latest trends in agricultural production.

„The practices and techniques in Italy are somewhat more advanced and we would like to implement them here as soon as possible. We had the opportunity to see how it all works in practice, with those agricultural collectives and cooperatives, and I think we will have to implement the same model here so that we can be better, more efficient and more successful in the future”, explains Pampulevski.

The seven agro-meteorological stations cover about 90% of the arable land in Prespa.

The project “Innovative practices in environmental protection”, which in addition to placing agro-meteorological stations also includes methods to improve the treatment and quality of water in the Prespa Lake basin and the Korça region in neighbouring Albania, as well as many training sessions to raise awareness of environmental protection, is supported by the European Union to the tune of around €182,000, within the framework of the Cross-Border Cooperation Programme under IPA component II.



FACTS:
- The project “Innovative practices in environmental protection” is supported by the European Union, within the framework of the Cross-Border Cooperation Programme under IPA component II, to the tune of around €182,000
- The Prespa region has 4,200 registered farmers, and 170 of them regularly receive text messages from the automatic agro-meteorological stations advising them on when and how they should protect their orchards from diseases and pests. These innovative methods have achieved the expected results – the number of sprayings with pesticides has decreased by 30%
- As part of this EU-financed project, 13 farmers from the Prespa region took part in a study visit to the Italian region of Emilia-Romagna to learn about the implementation of new economically and environmentally sustainable agricultural practices
- A special informative website was created as part of the project to disseminate information in order to promote sustainable agriculture

This project has been funded by the European Union

The content of this article is the sole responsibility of Imika and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of the European Union