Rows of apple-tree spindles under a hail net in the daytime.

Crop protection is an ongoing challenge for California’s fruit, vegetable, and tree nut growers. Unfavorable climate conditions, depleted soil, pests, and bacterial and fungal diseases can ruin part and even all of a crop — causing significant losses for growers and raising prices for consumers. At a time when many of the chemical controls we are most familiar with are being limited due to concerns over health, pollinator death, and chemical-resistant disease, it’s critical for growers to know what else is out there and most importantly, what really works.

New Approaches to Crop Protection

Sometimes, what we need isn’t so much a new product but a new paradigm about crop protection. This paradigm then informs which crop protection products we use, how much, and when and how they’re applied. Integrated Pest Management and Integrated Pest and Pollinator Management are two fairly recent approaches that focus on a whole-picture view of crop protection.

Integrated Pest Management

Integrated Pest Management or IPM is described in detail on the University of California website. IPM is an evidence-based crop protection system that seeks to identify and manage the agricultural pests (animals as well as pathogens) that damage crops to the point that they don’t cause economic damage to the grower. Rather than taking a purely reactive approach to pests and disease, IPM begins with building up a healthy ecosystem of beneficial insects and plants and using horticultural techniques that discourage the development of problems. 

Should problems still develop, IPM requires the grower to identify the pests accurately and try biological and mechanical controls. Chemical controls should only be used if absolutely needed — at the right time and in the right way to ensure effectiveness while causing the least amount of harm.

Integrated Pest and Pollinator Management

A pollen-covered bee perching in the center of a yellow flower.

Integrated Pest and Pollinator Management, or IPPM, is a more recent version of the IPM approach to crop protection. Whereas IPM seeks to address pests using a preventative, harm-minimization perspective, IPPM (popularized in 2020) goes one step further to address the needs of pollinators as part of its framework. 

In addition to recommending habitat for beneficial insects — i.e. those that are predators of the pests you frequently deal with — IPPM also recommends specific habitat considerations for pollinators that increase pollination naturally. Spray schedules (when absolutely needed) also take into account the chemicals that are less harmful to bees, the times at which bees are most active, and placement considerations that help to prevent unnecessary pollinator deaths.

Physical Crop Protection Products Compared

As mentioned in the previous paragraphs, physical and mechanical measures are integral to a complete crop protection framework and provide real results with very few risks. Fruit-tree nets are one of the key physical barriers for preventing climate- and pest-related problems in fruit-tree growing, including:

  • Hail
  • Wind
  • Harsh sun
  • Pests

While using nets is not a new idea, more recent developments in the kinds of fruit-tree nets on the market mean that growers can be more strategic in choosing netting that meets their needs. Of the options currently available to orchardists, anti-hail, photoselective, and exclusion nets offer different effects for fruit production, as do the mesh size, shading factors, and timing and system of use. A detailed review of fruit-tree net types available in 2018 and their effects is available here.

Peptides: Another Cutting-Edge Advance in Crop Protection

When we talk about what’s “new” in crop protection, we are sometimes talking about products that are so new that they haven’t yet been officially approved but are already showing excellent results. Peptides are a group of substances that fall squarely into this category and we hope to see them available on the market soon.

Found in animals, plants, and organisms, peptides are short chains of amino acids that affect the growth, structure, and resistance of the organism. Athletes frequently use peptides to support effective muscle growth and repair. Now, scientists are discovering that peptides can help with plant growth and resistance to pests — all at an extremely economical price.

Stay Abreast of New Developments with Fruit Growers Supply

Fruit Growers Supply Company has been around for more than a century and we’ve seen wave after wave of new developments in agricultural production. Moving forward into the twenty-first century, we‘re committed to serving California’s fruit and nut-tree growers with the best ideas and products that work.

Whether you’re an established conventional grower who’s looking to adapt to increasing water shortages or a novice organic specialty grower looking for crop protection ideas, we have everything your enterprise needs to thrive. Subscribe to our updates for the latest industry news and visit or call our retail stores for an extensive selection of niche crop protection products.

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