Leading by example

Improving biodiversity by setting up a flower strip in orchards

Understanding flower strips behaviour in European orchards


Organic fruit growers often suffer economic losses due to insect damages. Functional agrobiodiversity (FAB) can reduce pest damage and pesticide use in organic apple orchards. There are many techniques available to improve FAB, and farmers have various preferences and feedbacks throughout Europe. One exemplary measure is the use of flower strips, an easy, attractive, fast technique to improve functional biodiversity in cropping systems by maintaining beneficial insects in the crop. However, choices to select useful botanical species and manage strips require technical knowledge.


EU Region


The EcoOrchard project (2014-2018) has been launched to improve our understanding of flower strips behaviour in European orchards, and their effect on apple pests (codling moth, rosy apple aphid). Partners of the EcoOrchard project performed different tasks to improve farmers' commitment:
  • EU survey to track innovation on agroecological infrastructures set up by apple growers in EU countries;
  • Assessment botanical and entomological of flower strips to improve their composition and advice to manage strips after sowing;
  • Practical handbook to help farmers with simplified tools to assess themselves their own functional biodiversity and better decide on pesticide need.
To identify the most efficient species to target apple pests, FiBL and other partners in the project assessed complex botanical mixtures in different climatic conditions by selecting some specific species, useful and easy to maintain in the strips. For the first time, they were also able to show a suppressive effect on rosy apple aphid, with a limitation of 15% of damages on apples. The EcoOrchard project has also developed four simple and practical methods for farmers to assess FAB in their orchard to best decide which practice works best in their case. In 2016, 40 EU apple growers used the handbook provided, and 50 farmers got involved in 2017.  

François Warlop, EBIO-Network, EcoOrchard Project
Email: francois.warlop@grab.fr, Tel: +33 4 90 84 01 70

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