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Doctoral thesis, 2015

Co-developing pest management for organic apple production

Swiergiel, Weronika


Participatory Action Research (PAR) is an interventionist, action-orientated and transdisciplinary approach to applied research that strives for the collaborative development of any practice together with relevant stakeholders. It enhances the relevance of research to practice by active stakeholder involvement in all research steps, including the spaces in which the practice is conducted, its iterative knowledge construction and the recognition that knowledge exists in practice and is created when attempting to transform reality. During the PAR project on pest management in Swedish organic apple production on which this thesis is based, several pests and control methods were addressed, focusing mainly on the apple sawfly (Hoplocampa testudinea Klug). An interdisciplinary methodology and PAR approach was employed, including participatory meetings, interviews and field and laboratory experiments. An efficient control method was developed involving a forecasting model in combination with a botanical pesticide derived from Quassia amara L. However, the potential negative side effects of Q. amara on natural enemies are currently being evaluated by the European Union. Control of the apple sawfly by soil application of the entomopathogenic fungus Beauveria bassiana (Balsamo) Vuillemin was found to be insufficient in the field trial and requires further studies to bridge the gap between laboratory and field results. B. bassiana persistence was found to be high during the apple sawfly descent to the soil and negligible after a year. During the project a need emerged to find a theory and tools that could support participatory problem formulation by identifying the systemic root causes of the pest problems being experienced and explain the main drivers of this development. It was assumed that this would facilitate the development of more sustainable solutions. Cultural-Historical Activity Theory (CHAT) offered these tools and was applied as a retrospective analytical lens on the PAR project. I analysed the emergence and development of organic apple production in Sweden and formulated a hypothesis on the root causes of disturbances reported in pest management by farmers growing organic apples. The results suggest that the formulation of pest management problems during the previous PAR project focused on development of tools to increase productivity. However, based on the historical root causes of the problems, identified by the CHAT-based analysis, a wider systemic approach is required to find sustainable solutions.


systemic thinking; sustainable development; contradiction manifestations; developmental dimensions; biological control; integrated pest management; Beauveria; organic orchard; forecasting; monitoring

Published in

Acta Universitatis Agriculturae Sueciae
2015, number: 2015:93
ISBN: 978-91-576-8384-7, eISBN: 978-91-576-8385-4
Publisher: Department of Plant Protection Biology, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences

Authors' information

Swiergiel, Weronika
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Plant Protection Biology

UKÄ Subject classification

Environmental Sciences related to Agriculture and Land-use

URI (permanent link to this page)