As everyone knows, forests and trees are of vital importance
to the world’s ecosystem, especially in their role of removing
carbon dioxide from the air, and producing oxygen for animals
and humans to breath.
But do you know that apple orchards serve our environment in
exactly the same way? In fact, an acre of apples will extract
about 15 tons of carbon dioxide from the air each year, and
produce 6 tons of oxygen too.
So if every person in Ireland were to eat an apple a day, think
how much good it would do to the environment. 20,000 acres of
apples would be required to produce the annual apple
requirement, and this in turn would remove 300,000 tons of
carbon dioxide from the air, and replace it with 120,000 tons of
Or, to put it another way, for every apple you eat, the apple
tree is producing about 1 hour’s oxygen supply for you as
well, and this, of course, is free of charge.
It will come as
no surprise that in order to make apple juice in such a way that
it lasts in the bottle requires pasteurization. On our farm we
pasteurize our juice using hot water. Up to now, we have been
using gas and electricity as our source of hot water, but we have
recently added solar energy to this mix. We have installed Thermomax
solar water-heating panels on the roof of one of our farm
buildings, and a special enlarged hot-water tank to maximise the
efficiency of the panels. According to theory, 80% of our
summer-time hot water requirement can be substituted by this
system, (and we will report whether this can be delivered in
practice). This will have the effect of reducing the amount on
non-renewable energy required, both in the manufacture of our
apple juice, and the operation of our camping & caravan park.
We hope that you will enjoy our even-greener (but as tasty as
ever) apple juice.
For anyone who has purchased our apples at any
time beyond October, you are probably aware that they are kept in
refrigerated stores to keep them fresh. Running these stores
requires a considerable amount of electricity, as does the
operation of our electrical fork-lift, and various other
electrical machines on our farm. With the environment in mind, we
have therefore switched to Airtricity from ESB. This switch means
that we are now using wind-generated electricity for all aspects
of our business, and that anyone purchasing our produce can be
satisfied that it is being produced in the most
We have always been very happy with the quality of service offered
by ESB, but not entirely satisfied with its environmental
credentials. Of special concern are the peat-fired electricity
generating plants, which are not very efficient, and are also
damaging to peat-land habitats. Also of concern is the coal-fired
generating plant in Moneypoint (Co. Clare), which produces cheap
electricity, but also contributes to acid rain due to sulphur
emissions to the air. Indeed, any form of electricity produced
from oil, coal, gas or peat is less than perfect, because they all
involve carbon dioxide emissions to the air, and this contributes
to climate change and global warming, with the ensuing problems of
loss of glaciers and rises in sea level.
The alternatives to fossil fuels are renewable energy sources, and
the best available in Ireland is wind energy. While there have
been arguments about the problems with wind turbines,
having visited sites in the Netherlands, I can say that they are
both aesthetically pleasing and very quiet. In fact, that people
could object to wind farms in all but the most sensitive of
locations seems unbelievable, considering that the alternative is
to continue using polluting hydrocarbons that harm the environment
Airtircity produces electricity from wind-turbines only. Among its
wind-farms are one in Co. Mayo and another offshore farm on the
Arklow banks. For a customer wishing to purchase power from
Airtricity, it is very simple, because power is still supplied via
the ESB network, except that the bill is issued by airtricity for
its green electricity, rather than ESB, for its normal electricity
mix. By making a switch to wind-generated electricity on our farm,
we are reducing Carbon dioxide emissions to the atmosphere by
about 50 tonnes per year, and providing airtricity with the
capital to invest in further renewable energy projects. While the
domestic (household) user of electricity cannot yet purchase green
electricity, we believe that this opportunity should be afforded
to them as soon as possible.
Our farm is run with a strong environmental
commitment. To this end fruit is produced using a system called
integrated fruit production (IFP). Using this system alternative
methods (integrated pest management (lPM) methods) are used to
control pests and diseases.
Examples of how pests are controlled are as follows:
These can be sprayed with a naturally occurring virus (Gmnulosis
virus) which kills them.
Alternatively, their mating patterns can be upset by using
pheromone (sex hormone) lures to attract the males. We use these
pheromone lures placed in sticky traps to catch males within our
orchard. lf the males and females cannot mate, then there will be
no larva to attack the fruits.
Fruit tree red spider mite
These miniature pests suck sap from the apple leaves. However,
they can be controlled by maintaining a population of predatory
spiders within the orchard. The predator in question is called
T.pyri, and we have had these in our orchard since 1993. As long
as we do nothing to upset the predator population we needn't worry
about the fruit tree red spider mite.
Tortrix moths & winter moths
These can be controlled by spraying with a naturally occurring
bacteria; Bacillus thurengiensis (called Bt for short)
Disease control options:
Apple Canker: Prune to remove infected branches
Apple powdery mildew: Remove infected material in May; there
should not be any secondary infections thereafter.
Apple scab: Remove all the leaves in Autumn; we do this by
spraying falling leaves with urea ( a fertilizer). This causes
them to rot, and also encourages worms to chew the leaves. If
there are no leaves left by spring-time then new infections can be
Food and Farming campaign group Sustain recently
issued a report entitled "Eating Oil: Food supply in a
The central argument of this report is that buying food that has
had to travel to get to your plate mops up fossil fuel in its
transportation and distribution.
Both international and national transportation of food is
critisised. Even home-produced food now has to travel twice as far
to get to the supermarket shelf compared with 1978. (I have ample
experience of this as follows: if I wish to supply apples to any
supermarket in Clonmel, they must be delivered to Cork or Dublin
depots. This means fruit would have to travel 150 to 250 miles to
get from Cahir to Clonmel, an utterly wasteful journey).
In fact, between 33% and 40% of road freight is now due to food
Sustain argues that this means that the food supply is inefficient
Take a strawberry for example: An average strawberry might contain
10 calories. However, to fly it here from California takes
200 calories. What a waste of aviation fuel. Even in the case of
the much more efficient ocean transport, for every calorie of
apple shipped from New Zealand, one calorie of oil is burned in
getting it here.
Road transport is of intermediate efficiency. To get an apple from
Italy to Ireland by road takes as much energy as to get it from
China to Rotterdam by ship.
Of course, none of this is sustainable. Report author Andy Jones
has said that the food system has become almost completely
dependent on oil. One shopping basket of 26 imported items
travelled 241,000km and released as much Carbon Dioxide as would
cooking for a family of four for six months.
Sustain said the one way to reduce food miles is by choosing
seasonal, home-grown products, and by buying direct from the
farmer. On average, this option is 50 times more energy-efficient
than purchasing imports.
Examples of the figures:
4 kCal is approx equal to 1 kJ
1 kJ is 1000 joules
1 kCal is 1000 calories.
The energy value of food is usually given in kCal or kJ