ASK Jeff: The Rodale Institute’s farm manager, Jeff Moyer, answers your hardcore farming questions

Could an organic producer use kaolin clay on cherries?

Posted August 3, 2004

What Jeff brings to the table

Jeff Moyer, who’s been the farm manager here at the 333-acre Rodale Institute research farm for more than a quarter of a century, receives lots of mail from farmers just like you asking for advice. Jeff’s hands-in-the-dirt experience over the past 26 years has run the gamut from refining the farm's cover cropping and crop rotation systems (including managing 270 acres in a rotation of corn, small grains, hay, and edible soy beans for a Japanese market) to overseeing The Rodale Institue Farming Systems Trial®, the world’s longest running side-by-side comparison of organic and conventional agriculture. We thought it would be fun and informative to share some of these farmer-to-farmer exchanges, and Jeff’s practical wisdom, with our readers … and we’ll be doing it on a regular basis.

Got a question of your own? Send it to Jeff at:

Editor’s note: In our last issue, Jeff answered a question about protecting cherry trees from birds, squirrels and other would-be fruit robbers. He suggested a physical barrier such as netting or spun-row covers. One of our readers offered another solution:

Dear Jeff,

Thanks for all the good advice that keeps coming our way from your experience. As far as organic protection from pests for cherries, I know one of my uncles used a sprayed-on kaolin or clay barrier on fruit trees. Both insects and birds were discouraged from the fruit, no matter what kind, since their bright colors were dulled by the clay, and the film on the fruit deterred them.

Would this be considered an organic solution? Have you heard of anyone else using this method on cherries? Just a thought.

Thanks again,
Tim Gierschick II

Dear Tim,

I’m not a cherry grower and have no experience with them at all. I would think that the kaolin product would do just what you suggest. I spoke with several of my colleagues and no one saw a problem with the practice from a cultural aspect.

We use the product on a routine basis on our apple trees with great success as part of our insect management program. Our organic certifier has no problem with it and I have not heard of anyone who has experienced any problems with certification. If you are currently certified, I suggest you contact your certifier prior to using any new product and receive a letter of support.

Let me know how it works if you try it.




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