Good articles on organic apple growing experiences in midwest

Scott F Smith(6B/7A MD)May 23, 2012

I just happened on some good articles outlining how one smart commercial organic apple grower has been solving his bug and disease problems in Minnesota. See link below. I use a similar program but have a somewhat different mix of diseases and a much higher tolerance for less-than-perfect fruit so I spray a lot less.


Here is a link that might be useful: Hoch orchard pest management

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franktank232(z5 WI)


That orchard is probably 15 minutes from my house. I first read about it about a year ago in a local newspaper article. I'll try to get over there over the summer. I'd like to see how many different varities of plums they grow.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2012 at 10:49AM
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Very good infos. Thanks Scott.


    Bookmark   May 23, 2012 at 1:15PM
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Scott, This is a great article. Thanks for posting the link.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2012 at 2:20PM
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Interesting. I am seeding (in fact, today) perennial flowers all around my newly planted 0.2 acres orchard, the usual midwestern mix (various types of daisy, echinacea) plus sunflowers. Next year I will increase the variety with zinnia goldenrod and milkweed.

The point was to have a continuous blooming season from June to October, and help retain pollinators (bumblebees). But I am wondering if this will also be contributing towards pest reduction. I have also planted 4 seaberry nearby, and due to their cactus thorns, I expect birds to take residence there.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2012 at 2:59PM
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Scott F Smith(6B/7A MD)

Glib, I read that part and was not sure what beneficials he was talking about. There are a few kinds of wasps that both feed on flowers and kill bugs, that is the only example I could think of and they are not very common where I am. So, I am somewhat skeptical on that with the information he gives.

One of the reasons why I found this page to begin with is I was looking for how to deal with a long rainy period like I am in right now. You are supposed to spray sulphur before the rain and lime-sulphur after, but if you have an inch of rain followed by 3-4 days of off and on rain then putting sulphur down at the start is not very helpful as it will all wash off in the big rain. Just doing lime-sulphur at the end is going to be too late, it only has kickback for a day or two. I was looking to see if I could put sulphur powder and lime-sulphur in the same spray, and this guy was the one hit I found on that -- he believes you can get both forward and backward protection with a combo spray like that. I just did my first test of that spray yesterday evening, will have to see how it works. We are in the peach scab interval so that is mainly what I am going after with the sulphur.

Another good idea he has for his large orchard is to only target the most infested places, using monitoring traps all over to see which blocks are worst. I only have two separated blocks, the front and back orchards, but I have found it handy to view them as different as far as sprays go. My back orchard has had horrible brown rot so last night I hit every inch of the Euro plums with the spray since they have been the biggest rot problem by far; in the front I just hit the fruits since there is little or no rot problem there. For him he shows how the cost savings is large, he saved $15K on chemicals alone, not to mention the time saved from all those unneeded sprays. Many home orchards are all in one spot, but it plantings have 50' or more between them this strategy can be used.


    Bookmark   May 24, 2012 at 8:40AM
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olpea(zone 6 KS)

Thanks for posting Scott,

He mentions more plant diversity reduces pest pressure (i.e. alternate row mowing). As you know this is a common theme in organic agriculture.

Interestingly I'm not seeing the same thing on my new planting. My new planting used to be a cattle pasture and hasn't been mowed for years and I haven't mowed it yet this year. So far there have been lots of flowering plants in bloom (right now it's sweet clover). I do like to see the bees working the plants, but I've also noticed a significant increase of pest pressure on non-bearing trees, vs. pest pressure in my backyard.

When you walk through the field at the farm, the grass/weeds are pretty tall and the bugs swarm out of the cover. I have to keep the new apple trees sprayed out there or the bugs will completely defoliate the trees (One tree was completely defoliated before I caught it.) Even peaches, whose foliage is never attacked in my backyard, have to be watched very carefully at the farm.

The hogs under his trees probably go farther in reducing pest pressure than the alternate mowing (although he has some of his facts mixed up regarding hogs. U.S. hogs are not fed hormones, in spite of his repeated claim otherwise).

It sounds like the farmer is definitely on top of his monitoring program. I'd like to try trap monitoring when the new trees start bearing. The only problem is that stink bug seems to be so prevalent out there, I don't know how that will play into it. Also we get a second generation of PC here as well.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2012 at 11:22AM
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Scott F Smith(6B/7A MD)

Olpea, I confess I don't think much about plant diversity in the orchard setting. I see high populations of beneficials in my orchard, the ladybugs and spiders are having a feast. A few weeks ago I saw some significant aphid damage and loaded up the sprayer the next day to get them but when I got there the aphids were all gone and the trees were covered with ladybug larvae.

I decided to look around to see what the research was on orchards and diverse plants nearby and could not find much. The most recent study I could find seems to align with your results, see the link below -- it is an article in last months Fruit Grower. I also found a study indicating positive aspects of a winter clover crop mowed over in the spring -- the standard nitrogen fixation benefit. Your results seem to align with the study below.

There are surely some kinds of plant diversity that are good (beyond the N fixation), but there are many other kinds of diversity which may not be good at all.


Here is a link that might be useful: GFG article

    Bookmark   May 24, 2012 at 9:28PM
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