Friday, May 14, 2010

Plum Curculio (PC)

Spotted the first Plum Curculio (PC) in the orchard today. We have still not set a biofix on codling moth (CM) and it is very unusual that we would spot PC before a CM biofix. Nevertheless, when I spot just one PC, I know they are in the orchard and we have to spray for them. This is one of the most difficult pests to avoid in any orchard. Our temperatures have not been high enough for them to start feeding yet, but just as soon as we hit the 60's, they will start feeding and laying eggs, so we have to spray right away!









Damage: Both adults and larvae cause damage.  Adults damage fruit when their feeding and egg-laying causes scarred and malformed fruit.  Adult damage also provides entry sites for fungal rots.  Larvae tunnel and feed inside developing fruit.  Most fruit infested early in the season drop prematurely.  Fruit infested later in the season are of no market value due to the presence of the grubs.

Life Cycle: Adults overwinter in ground litter or other protected places.  They become active shortly before peaches bloom.  Adults fly to trees, mate, and lay eggs.  Females deposit each egg in a hole under a crescent-shaped cut eaten in the fruit.  Eggs hatch in about five days.  Grubs feed in the fruit for eight to 22 days.

Mature larvae tunnel out of the fruit, enter the soil, construct small earthen cells and pupate after about two weeks.  The complete life cycle, from egg to emerged adult, may require five to eight weeks.   There are usually two generations and possibly a partial third generation each year.

Control: Controls should be aimed at overwintering adults to prevent the laying of first generation eggs.  Adults can be monitored by traps or limb jarring over a ground sheet.  Sprays for curculio should be initiated at petal fall with the initial application followed by two or three sprays at 10-day intervals.  Additional applications may be necessary for the second generation (ca. June).  Destruction  of nearby wild plums, abandoned fruit trees and other alternate host plants can help to reduce infestations.


For further information on this pest visit Fruit IPM Resources at Michigan State University.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Biointensive Integrated Pest Management (Bio-IPM) at Royal Oak Farm

At Royal Oak Farm we use an entirely new approach to managing pests called Biointensive Integrated Pest management (Bio-IPM) and the use of Sustainable Agriculture practices to minimize the insect and disease damage to our fruit. Biointensive IPM utilizes a systems approach to pest management based on an understanding of pest ecology.  It begins with steps to accurately diagnose the nature and source of pest problems, and then relies on a range of preventive tactics and biological controls to keep pest populations within acceptable limits.  Our preventative tactics include a combination of ecological, biological, natural, and cultural controls to keep applications of chemical controls to a minimum.

Often there are enough beneficials to control the pest(s) in the orchard without spraying. On other occasions we can use traps to catch pest species as they enter the orchard, or determine from the traps that there are too few of the pest to cause serious damage to the trees or fruit. In 2007 we made use of a new product called Virosoft that is a 100% ecological solution. Virosoft is a biological, natural baculovirus which specifically and exclusively attacks the target pest. Virosoft is absolutely harmless to all other members of the ecosystem, including humans. Because of the success of this product we have not had to apply any sprays in the month of August when growers would normally apply at least one timed spray. As a last resort, reduced- risk pesticides are used if other tactics have not been adequately effective, and with care to minimize risks. 

We have our own IPM specialist to monitor a number of species of insects and mites in our orchard, including beneficial species (predators and parasites of pest species). Each week of the growing season, we also consult with the Wisconsin Eco-Apple Project network of professional growers via weekly conference calls directed by a  professional entomologist.  A weather station in the orchard tracks temperature, rainfall, and humidity 24 hours a day, transmits this data to our weather computer and we then use this information to monitor pest biology and the progress and severity of various diseases that can attack our fruit.

The benefits of implementing biointensive IPM include reduced chemical input costs, reduced on-farm and off-farm environmental impacts, and more effective and sustainable pest management.  An ecology-based IPM has the potential of decreasing inputs of fuel, machinery, and synthetic chemicals - all of which are energy intensive and increasingly costly in terms of financial and environmental impact.  All these efforts make it possible for us to apply chemical controls only a few times each season when they are truly required. And we have made it a policy to always use the most environmentally friendly materials available. The good health of our bees located all around the orchard is a testament to our insect and disease management strategy.

At Royal Oak Farm we are proud of the quality of the fruit we grow, and equally proud that through our monitoring efforts and the use of Biointensive Integrated Pest Management procedures we need apply so few sprays to grow excellent products.


If you would like to read further information on Biointensive Integrated Pest Management (IPM), I would recommend the publication  Biointensive Integrated Pest Management (IPM)  - Fundamentals of Sustainable Agriculture, published by The National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service - ATTRA – which was developed and is managed by the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT). The project is funded through a cooperative agreement with the United States Department of Agriculture's Rural Business-Cooperative Service. Visit the NCAT website for more information on other sustainable agriculture and energy projects.

Biointensive Integrated Pest Management (IPM)  - Fundamentals of Sustainable Agriculture provides the rationale for biointensive Integrated Pest Management (IPM), outlines the concepts and tools of biointensive IPM, and suggests steps and provides informational resources for implementing IPM. It is targeted to individuals interested in agriculture at all levels.

The electronic version of Biointensive Integrated Pest Management is located at: