The average non-organic fruit can contain more than twenty pesticides. Because organic fruit farmers are not permitted to use chemical pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers on their crops, emphasis is placed on site selection and crop rotation. The process of crop rotation is used not only to help maintain the soil’s health, but also to disrupt the average pest’s life cycle in order to reduce their population. To ensure adequate pest management, natural and specific synthetic insecticides, such as rotenone, pyrethrum, Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), and pheromones may be used. In place of chemicals, organic farmers may use natural fertilizers, such as composted organic manure, bone meal, and rock minerals. The process of weeding is carried out by mechanical and non-chemical means. Studies have shown that, aside from organic fruits having more vitamin C, they also contain 63% more calcium, 125% more potassium, 73% more iron, and 60% more zinc than their conventionally-grown counterparts.
Nitrates are a common element found in synthetic fertilizers. They are converted to nitrosamines, which may be carcinogenic. The nitrate content in organically grown fruit is significantly lower than in their traditionally managed counterparts. Nitrates from agricultural runoff can also contaminate the surrounding waters, and possibly damage the fragile aquatic systems that exist there. When chemical fertilizers and pesticides are used in organic fruit farming, they put the plant into a state of stress, which reduces their uptake of nutrients from the soil.
Handling Organic Fruit
When organically grown fruit is matured, picked, and ready for mass consumption, there are two main concerns for the organic farmer. The organically grown fruit must be clearly identified so as not to be mixed with non-organic produce, and so as not to be contaminated with post-harvest chemicals. The tanks and lines in a fruit handling plant must be thoroughly cleaned with biodegradable soaps before any organic product is processed. The use of detergents is strictly prohibited. Protective waxes are usually not applied; however, there are natural waxes that may be used. All handlers of organically managed fruit must maintain all records concerning production. When a fruit is deemed certified organic, it means that an independent third-party has verified that the item conforms to all the guidelines of organic production, including growth, process, and handling.