On-farm Demonstration Project Promotes Sustainable Apple Production Practices in the Okanagan



    
                 Bernie Solymar, EarthTramper Consulting Inc.
    Canadian Horticultural Council National Apple IFP Project Coordinator
    

    OTTAWA, April 13 /CNW Telbec/ - The Okanagan Valley in British Columbia
offers a unique climate - mild winters, hot and dry summers, and fertile soils
- an ideal scenario for apple production. The North-Central Okanagan growing
region in British Columbia is known for the production of high quality fruit,
due to its location, climate and progressive growers. The Okanagan North
Grower's Co-operative (now part of the Okanagan Tree Fruit Company) receives
over 60 million pounds of apples from 165 grower members annually, covering an
area of approximately 2500 acres.
    The absence of plum curculio, apple maggot, European apple sawfly or
significant apple scab pressure has allowed BC apple industry to advance their
Integrated Pest Management (IPM) programs beyond that of Eastern Canada
producers. The one major headache that Okanagan growers face is the codling
moth. The Okanagan Kootenay Sterile Insect Release Program (SIR), developed to
address this pest, operates throughout the Okanagan. SIR staff annually
conduct codling moth trap set-up and monitoring to detect wild moth captures,
and provide damage assessments for the orchards, including one pre-harvest
assessment of 1000 fruit.
    In 2005 the Okanagan Tree Fruit Company (OTFC) initiated trials to
demonstrate the use of reduced risk pesticides and other emerging technologies
as a way of improving on-farm practices. This project is a component of the
national Integrated Fruit Production (IFP) project coordinated by the Canadian
Horticultural Council (CHC). These on-going trials are being conducted in five
commercial apple orchards in the Okanagan Valley - 2 near Vernon, 2 in the
Winfield area, and 1 near Oyama. The participating orchards were chosen by
OTFC field staff based to the cooperative nature of the growers and to address
specific IPM issues of growers in those areas. Examples of some of these
on-going trials are:

    Mating disruption -

    A triple blend lure, consisting of codling moth, obliquebanded
leafroller, and budmoth pheromones (Isomate-CM/LR/BM, provided on an
experimental basis by Pacific BioControl Corporation) is being tested as an
effective alternative to conventional organophosphate insecticides to
complement the SIR program at one of the sites. In 2005 damage assessments
conducted by SIR in August showed levels of CM damage at 0.5% in the
conventional and mating disruption treated blocks and in 2006 0.0% damage in
the conventional blocks and 0.20% damage mating disruption treated blocks.

    Alternatives for codling moth and leafroller control -

    Intrepid, Confirm, Success 480, Assail and Virosoft are being tested as
alternatives to organophosphate insecticides. Intrepid and Confirm 2F were
used in a couple of the trial blocks, and were as effective as Guthion.
Intrepid is 10 times more potent than Confirm, and has ovicidal properties,
meaning it can be applied early than the normal CM/LR timing. Success 480, is
registered for leafroller larvae control only. Success is the main control
spray used for the leafroller complex from petal fall into the summer.
Virosoft, applied every 10-12 days, showed promise for codling moth control at
one site. The product (a granulosis virus specific to codling moth larvae) was
applied on its own, in order to prevent any tank mix problems. In general,
despite being used in a high-pressure orchard situation, the grower was very
pleased with the results in the trial blocks, and will continue to use the
product for the last year of the trial. Assail is one of the products
recommended in an integrated spray program for codling moth, with the added
bonus of getting leafhoppers and aphids as well. In the Okanagan there have
been, however, incidences of mite flare-ups with the repeated use of this
product.

    Weed management -

    Ignite has been used in the Okanagan for only a couple of years, despite
being registered years ago. As part of the national IFP trial, Ignite is being
compared to Gramaxone and Roundup in regards to efficacy on orchard weeds and
for rotational purposes. The two co-operators who used Ignite were happy with
the results, and when compared to Gramoxone or Round Up, found it more
effective on tougher weeds, like bindweed and mallow. One grower also noted
that Ignite was less volatile than Gramoxone, with less exposure to fumes. It
was also noted that Round Up controlled the re-growth of weeds longer than
Ignite.
    The use of compost and mulch in the Okanagan is not as widespread amongst
conventional growers, although organic producers use them extensively. The
project looked at the use of waste wood products (provided at no charge by a
local landscape company) and shredded paper (from the local recycling depot)
for weed suppression and moisture retention. Both products provided good weed
suppression. Generally growers feel mulching is too costly and time consuming,
but by making them aware that there is a local source, the trial has
demonstrated with some planning and a free source of material, the technique
can be cost effective. Several additional aspects to this technology will need
study - investigating mulch spreaders that make the application quick and easy
and the other possible benefits for paper mulch, including light reflection,
increasing the size and colour of the fruit, and increasing soil microbial
activity.
    In general, orchards throughout the Okanagan are moving towards a more
complete Integrated Fruit Production program. These trials, along with the
dissemination of results during summer orchard tours and winter meeting for
growers, provided by packing house field staff, is helping make the move to
IFP a more informed and confident one.

    The Canadian Horticultural Council (CHC) is a voluntary, not-for-profit,
national association representing the horticulture industry across the
country. The CHC is committed to advancing the growth and economic viability
of horticulture by encouraging cooperation and understanding to build national
consensus on key issues (including research and technology, trade and industry
standards, and financial and labour issues) in order to deliver unified and
clear representation to governments and other national and international
parties. Members of CHC include provincial and national horticultural
commodity organizations representing more than 20,000 producers in Canada, as
well as allied and service organizations, provincial governments and
individual producers. More information on the organization can be found on
their website at <a href="http://www.hortcouncil.ca">www.hortcouncil.ca</a>




For further information:

For further information: on the CHC: Anne Fowlie, Executive
Vice-President, (613) 226-4880, ext. 211; Information on the National Apple
IFP Project: Amy Argentino, Project Coordinator, (613) 226-4880, ext. 208

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