2012 22.1 Research Symposium Brings Scientists From Across the State

Recap from the Research Symposium at Tilth Producers’ annual conference

The goal of the Washington Tilth Producers’ research symposium at the annual conference was to gather research scientists and crop specialists to share the newest in research and production ideas for managing two serious crop pests affecting Washington State Organic producers. The symposium focused on fire blight in tree fruit and Spotted Winged Drosophila (SWD) in berries and cherries. Researchers from around the state participated in the symposium: Dr. Betsy Beers of WSU Wenatchee; Entomologist Bev Gerdeman of WSU Mt. Vernon; Joe Bennet of Small Planet Foods and; David Granatstein of WSU Wenatchee.

Spotted Winged Drosophila Management

SWD has spread throughout the US in just a few short years and though conventional insecticides have shown efficacy in managing this insect, there are few organic management strategies yet identified. Scientists at the symposium stressed the importance of field sanitation in both machine and hand harvested fields.

Trapping can provide an early warning system and Dr. Betsy Beers of WSU Wenatchee shared her latest work on testing the most effective traps, namely the Haviland Trap. Instead of a traditional set up of a 12 ounce plastic cup with holes punched near the top, the Haviland Trap is quart sized and has a mesh lid. The bait is a blend of red wine, molasses, and apple cider vinegar. The trap is fitted with a cover to prevent rain from diluting the bait.

Bev Gerdeman, Entomologist at WSU Mt Vernon, tested several organically approved insecticides and found the best results against SWD from Entrust. Good control was achieved at a rate of 2oz per acre. As an alternative to applying the material to the plants, Gerdeman’s team applied it to shade cloth hung on a wire trellis over the blueberry bushes. They found that with a small enough mesh, the fly has to land on the net before flying on to the berry. The treatment seemed to retain enough insecticidal properties to stop the fly from laying eggs for up to two weeks
after application

Joe Bennet of Small Planet Foods discussed the importance of spiders and hummingbirds of fly management in organic systems. Hummers can eat up to 300 fruit flies a day and depend on the flies for an important source of protein. Early in the season sugar solutions are often enough to initially attract hummingbirds, but there also needs to be available protein. Bennet talked about using bananas as a feeding source for other fruit flies to establish a food source to help keep hummers where the grower wants them.

Fire blight Management

Fire blight management became a more serious issue last spring when the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) allowed the use of antibiotics to sunset to prohibited material status. Many fruit growers testified at the April Seattle NOSB meeting and petitioned the NOSB to delay the sunset provision. As a result of that action, a nationwide task force was convened to gather information and work with USDA to prioritize funding for research to address this critical tree killing pathogen. For more information on the current research around fire blight management in organic systems, see our fall quarterly article, Organic Fire Blight Control & the NOSB.

Research Funding

David Granatstein of WSU Wenatchee discussed the loss of state funded research that has at least temporarily been replaced by federally funded competitive grants programs. In the face of severe funding cutbacks, these sources will probably be phased out. Granatstein described a new program initiated by the Washington Tree Fruit Research Commission to increase grower assessments to create a permanent endowment for funding WSU tree fruit research. Alan Schrieber of WA State Commission on Pesticide Registration discussed their available funding for biological pest management. Alec McErlich of Small Planet Foods discussed funding opportunities provided by corporate donations as well as those by the Northwest Agriculture Research Foundation (NARF ).

Tags: 2011, Antibiotics, Beneficial Insects, Berries, Bev Gerdeman, Cherries, Conference, David Granatstein, Disease, Dr. Betsy Beers, Entemology, Fire Blight, Funding, Joe Bennet, Management, NOSB, Pathogen, Pest Management, Research, Small Planet Foods, Spotted Winged Drosophila, SWD, Symposium, Trapping, Tree Fruit, WSU Mt. Vernon, WSU Wenatchee