Leach Orchards – Farm Walk – August 3, 2015

Organic Pest & Disease Management in Apples and Pears

Leach Orchards, Yakima County
August 3, 2015

Near Zillah, WA, twenty-one farmers and agricultural professionals gathered at Leach Orchards to learn about organic pest management in apples and pears, plus drought issues that have faced the Yakima Valley this season. Hosted by orchardist Scott Leach, the farm walk hit all the high points of what it means to be a certified organic orchardist. On-hand to lend their expertise regarding organic tree fruit production was Tom Unruh (USDA-ARS) and David Granatstein (WSU).

Tom Unruh spoke about biocontrol in tree fruits and the decade’s long research he has been completing – often times right in Scott’s orchard! Biocontrol he spoke to included traps, lures, and mating disruption. Scott utilizes pheromone canisters timed to mist mating disruptors in his orchard blocks between dusk and midnight when moths are active. He iterated that this is just one tool of many to control pests and he utilizes an orchard consultant to place canisters and recommend other courses of pest control. As far as other production practices, Scott applies gypsum and a prilled, organic fertilizer for his NPK needs. He also uses a copper product to help control blight.

A large portion of the farm walk was dedicated to speaking about the drought this season, and how that has affected Scott in his management. He dedicated time early on in the growing season to replace old sprinkler heads to fix leaks and prevent loss of water. Scott prioritized what tree blocks needed water the most and generally irrigated every other tree row, every other day. He predicts that water issues and water rights will continue to be at the forefront of issues for growers no matter the seniority and no matter the irrigation district.

Based on where he sees the market going and what he likes to grow, Scott plans to replace his fresh apple blocks with apricots and pluots. He doesn’t want to have to compete with large apple growers. David Granatstein shared that the organic apple market has seen a 70% increase in the past 2-3 years and pears and cherries have seen about a 60% increase. This is a promising outlook for mid-sized organic growers such as Scott.

Click here to view the farm walk booklet for Leach Orchards.

Farm walk summary by Angela Anegon.

This Farm Walk is supported in part by the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, USDA, Grant # 2012-49400-19575. For more resources and programs for beginning farmers and ranchers please visit www.Start2Farm.gov.