There is strong market demand in the UK, led by consumer expectations, to reduce or ideally to eliminate, the occurrence of chemical residues in fruit. Many of the main UK varieties of fruit are susceptible to major pests and diseases and the UK climate ensures that one or other of these problems are significant in most seasons. Most fruit in the UK is produced using integrated pest and disease management and this ensures that pesticide use is targeted and therefore minimised, so that residues, if present in the harvested crop, are well below the Maximum Residue Limit (MRL) permitted. However, to consumers, the scientific appropriateness of MRLs is confusing and the presence of any pesticide residues in fruit is unacceptable. The challenge therefore is to develop sustainable crop protection systems that satisfy the consumer, but that are also profitable for the grower.
Using knowledge and expertise of pests and diseases, their life cycles and epidemiology, methods of control using cultural, synthetic pesticide and biological techniques, prediction modelling, post-harvest technology and currently applied management regimes, a zero residue management strategy for apples is now under trial at a commercial level. The aim is to produce quality fruit with minimal risk of occurrence of detectable pesticide residues at harvest. The lessons learned from this research are now being applied to develop a similar sustainable strategy for other crops such as raspberry.