Apple Pest Management & Their Adaptation Practices Towards Climate Change In Two Major Apple Producing Provinces In Fes-Meknes Region Of Morocco
Apple production plays a vital socio-economic role in the Fes-Meknes region of Morocco. It is the main source of income for a large segment of small and medium-sized farmers in mountainous areas where it is considered among the most adapted tree crops to the edaphoclimatic conditions. The region accounts for nearly 38% of the Moroccan apple production and 34% of the country’s cultivated area (48,671). This sector generates 3 million working days, 10 billion dirhams of turnover for the country(Alami, 2017). An apple tree needs a cool winter to meet the requirements of dormancy-break.
The high and Middle Atlas regions with mild temperatures in the summer and cold provide favourable climatic conditions for the production of quality apples. In addition, provinces with mild winter have potential for extension of apple production with the development of new varieties with low chilling requirements (Alaoui, 2005). Thus, the first apple plantations in Morocco were probably established since 1920s based on Spanish cultivars with low chilling requirements. Besides, the apple production areas are located in the regions of high and middle atlas mountain range (Alami, 2017; MADRPM, 2014).
The Fes-Meknes region is characterized by the diversity of its soils ranging from volcanic ash to triassic clays and from primary schist to alluvial deposits. These soils present high potential for agricultural production in the region. Considering the climate, the region is characterized by a continental climate in the North, cold and humid in mountain areas, and a semi-arid climate in the highlands of Missour (Courti, 2016). It should also be noted that this climate variability leads to a diversity of crops that adapt to the specificities of this region. To strength the economy, the apple production sector receives support and incentives from the government within the framework of the contract program between the government and the Federation of the development of the arboriculture in Morocco (FeDAM) for the period 2011-2020.
The contract program aimed at improving the development of the sector by increasing production, promoting and improving valuation conditions, developing aggregation projects around recovery units and strengthening professional organizations associated with the sector (Anonymous, 2017b). Despite all these advantages, apple production is faced with a lot of constraints especially those linked to pest management and adverse weather conditions. The major constraints, which hinder the progress of the sector, are frequency of frost, hailstorms and chergui coinciding with the critical stages of plant growth. Definitely, the sector lacks proper management practices by a good number of producers and market facilitation (Anonymous, 2017a).
These constraints related to farm management practices of the FeDAM could be overcome by upgrading farmers’ knowledge, perceptions and practices in pest management. Worldwide, apples are subject to a large number of diseases caused by pathogenic fungi, bacteria, and other phytopathogens (Grove et al, 2003). In Morocco, disease management is expensive because of the high number of pesticide applications that each species requires. It depends on the situation of each orchard and pest outbreaks. This makes it difficult to establish a calendar-based treatment (Oukabli, 2004). The chemical inputs have raised concerns with consumers about the environment as well as food safety and their increased awareness is reflected in legislation and more so in the pressure by retailers to reduce residue levels on fresh produce. The impacts of climate change on agriculture are becoming increasingly important in the region. Apple production decreases significantly due to temperature and rainfall fluctuation. In Morocco, adverse weather conditions are one of the major problems, which hinder apple production (Maazouz, 2016).
For instance, in Drâa-Tafilalet, which is the neighbouring region of Fes-Meknes, apple production decreased by 40% in 2016 (Jirrari, 2017). This decline in production was due to the unfavourable climatic conditions and the alternation in the productivity of the trees. According to Oukabli (2004), due to abrupt weather conditions where chilling requirement tends to decrease, the extension of apple cultivation is hampered. Keeping in view the problems of pests and weather changes to apple production, our survey focused on apple farmers’ decision making, their knowledge, perceptions and practices in managing these problems. The information was used
to evaluate the pests and climate change problems that farmers perceive as most important;
to characterize a farmer’s knowledge, perceptions and attitudes in apple pest management and their adaptation practices towards climate change in two major apple producing provinces in Fes-Meknes region of Morocco.
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