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February 2011


This year at the Portland meetings a number of the talks were focused on a new "superbug", the Brown Marmarated Stink bug.  Wreaking havoc in Pennsylvania.   Reports of extensive damage on peach and apple were told.  "This critter caused 60% cullage on apples at harvest after EIGHT additional sprays."  After what seemed to be a half day of talks on this bug, I thought to myself, I'm sure glad I live and farm in Western Colorado.   Protected by the great Rocky Mountains and a long, long way from Pennsylvania.   Then they showed a US map of distribution, where the BMSB has been identified.  Colorado was highlighted!!!  My groan must have been audible.  A person sitting behind me asked, "are you from Colorado?"   She then told me that she was the one to find it, in Meeker of all places.  She and a friend (both extension agents from Cornell) came to Colorado to hunt elk.  As she sat reading in the outfitters cabin she spotted a BMSB on the window ledge.  As a trained entomologist she knew what she had found.  A few questions to the outfitter revealed that the season before the same cabin had housed a group of hunters from,  yup you guessed it…..Pennsylvania!    DON'T PANIC.  The leading character of this story was killed and tagged, then given a free ride back to New York.  If there are others, it's very unlikely they will survive the winter in Meeker.  Take a moment and visit these websites.  Familiarize yourself with its appearance.


It is recognized that good weed control is mandatory if optimal growth and yields of young plantings are  to be obtained.  What is not recognized, however, is the degree of weed control required.  Research from Cornell University in New York had shown that growth restrictions of over 40% have been measured in apple trees during the planting year from only moderate weed competition.  Research also shows that a single month of suppression early in the season (April/May) is more beneficial than three months of control later in the summer.  Weeds tolerated by older trees cannot be tolerated by young trees.  Newly planted trees have limited root systems and ability to fight off competition for resources.  In addition, some weed species have allelopathic ability.  Allelopathy is a biological phenomenon by which an organism produces one or more biochemical's that influence the growth, survival, and reproduction of other organisms.  In simple terms, a weed produces its own herbicide that keeps other plants (in this case your tree) from growing close to it.  Proper weed control and timing will impact the growth and yields of a young block for many years.   Do you have a weed control plan?

John F. Kennedy held a dinner in the White House for a group of the brightest minds in the nation at that time.   He made this statement: "This is perhaps the assembly of the most intelligence ever to gather at one time in the White House with the exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined here alone."

Is it important that the fruit you grow tastes good?  Not only is it important, IT’S CRITICAL!  A large share of our fruit enjoys a price premium in the market place.  That premium is based on flavor, not perceived, or hoped for, but great taste in every bite.  Is flavor one of the factors in your management decisions?   Are you willing to pull a block of trees because you can’t get it to pick with great flavor?  I know of a local grower that did just that!  A different grower mentioned in a conversation that one of his buyers told him to never send that variety again, “it has no flavor”.  If your fruit goes into a direct marketing channel your more likely to hear back about flavor.  What about fruit that disappears into the wholesale side?  To what extent are you willing to go, to be able to supply good tasting fruit?  Read the following from a friend in New Zealand:

 “Have been out of the office for near on a month running technical seminars around the country. ZESPRI (a New Zealand marketing organization) is making a significant change to how it is going to pay growers. They will be getting paid not only on how much fruit they submit, but also on the taste of the fruit, as our offshore marketing staff (backed up by sensory research) believe we can do a lot better if we can get growers to produce a better tasting crop. So we have been out telling growers what we know on that subject.”   How extensive is your horticultural knowledge on practices that increase or decrease flavor?

I often get asked, "Can I skip this spray, or if I skip a spray which one should I leave out?"  Pest management is always a numbers game.  The numbers are always lowest at the start of the season as a pest population emerges from its overwintering form.  Left alone a population will grow exponentially.  One female lays 100 eggs of which 50 are females.  Those 50 lay 5000 eggs of which 2500 are females. They lay 25,000 eggs….  You get the point.  I'm a big proponent of always attacking at the first appropriate timing.  Past that event it makes good sense to trap and monitor to determine the need for additional controls.

"I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them."   - Thomas Jefferson

After a number of years we’re finally having a real winter with a few mornings in the “belows” and lots in the single digits.  Suppose we can put the sprayers away this year since all the pests have froze to death?  What is the impact on pest populations from low temps?  Each year there’s a certain percentage (high or low) of winter mortality.  Air drainage, snow cover, micro-habitat, genetic characteristics of local populations, and simple raw temps all impact the survival of pests.  Let’s say for discussion’s sake you’re down to a handful of individuals left in your orchard.  Forget what lies behind and focus on the future!    The greatest factor on the coming season’s pest populations is the early spring conditions we encounter.  Favorable development weather early in the season can easily compensate for a small over-wintering population.  Conversely, a cold, wet and extended spring can be as effective as a well-timed early season spray program towards reducing populations.  The growth of most pre-bloom arthropod populations is pretty much determined for the first half of the season by early spring weather patterns.  Mites, aphids, plant bugs and lygus are obvious examples that suffer from cold, wet, rainy and windy springs.  But, bring on a hot, dry and quick spring and watch what happens! 

It's a nice snowy day as I write this, a great time to think and plan for the coming year.  If this newsletter has stirred a question, please give me a call!

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