Bayfield, WI is known throughout the Upper Midwest for its many fruit farms and gorgeous Lake Superior vistas. The fruit growing region was once dominated by large apple orchards, but over time, the apple acreage has declined and been replaced by second home development. Currently, the fruit growing region is a mix of medium sized fruit orchards (10-100 acres) surrounded by residential properties, many with small blocks of unmanaged apple trees remaining from the old orchards.
The Eco-Apple project encourages commercial apple growers in Wisconsin to reduce their use of high-risk pesticides by implementing integrated pest management. Begun in 2000 as a collaborative between the Wisconsin Apple Growers Association, the Center for Integrated Pest Management and UW Extension, the project aims to support area apple growers by offering education and assisting with the implementation of Integrated Pest Management (IPM). In Bayfield County, 11 local growers are currently involved with this project.
Untended apple trees, including abandoned commercial apple orchards and backyard apple trees, present a significant barrier to effective IPM in Bayfield County. Unmanaged orchards and trees provide a safe haven for various apple pests, namely codling moth, apple maggot, plum curculio, and apple scab. Trap counts have shown that pest populations in our managed orchards tend to be highest in areas adjacent to abandoned orchards. These pest populations require pesticide use and make it difficult to utilize the lower-risk pest control measures of IPM such as pheromone mating disruption.
The removal of abandoned orchards and trees will help reduce the volume and toxicity of pesticide used annually in our commercial orchards and has the potential to make organic fruit production more viable in our region.
Many of the unmanaged orchards in the area belong to residents on fixed incomes that cannot afford the high cost of orchard removal and tree disposal. The current cost-sharing program for abandoned orchard removal offered by NRCS through the EQIP program is not available in our state. Even so, this cumbersome federal program requires contracts and does not focus efforts on education, making it an unlikely option for abandoned orchard owners in Bayfield County.
In addition, many of the commercial apple growers have blocks of old diseased trees that, if replaced, would reduce the disease and pest populations in the entire orchard.
Some municipalities have ordinances prohibiting unmanaged fruit trees, and in fact, the State of Wisconsin, requires that apple pests be managed. However, the “stick” approach is not particularly effective and is not conducive to positive neighborly relations.
As an alternative to the “stick” approach we implemented this project to educate and assist our neighbors in removing their abandoned apple trees.
PROJECT DESCRIPTION AND RESULTS
We began in early spring of 2008 working with Bayfield County UW Extension to use GIS mapping to identify all blocks of abandoned orchards located near commercial apple farms. The blocks were then prioritized into three groups for removal based on their proximity to blocks of commercial apple trees.
A brochure was created explaining the program and sent to all landowners and growers that had blocks of abandoned trees that existed within the three identified tiers.
In July of 2008 100% cost sharing grant funds were used to remove 110 ‘Wealthy’ trees on 3-acres of the, then for sale, Betzold Farm. These trees were located within 500 ft of the Bayfield Apple Company, and had the highest priority for removal. A sign was placed at the edge of the block to explain to passing motorists the reason for the orchard removal.
Star Ridge farm received 50% cost sharing funds for the removal of 40 abandoned trees in 2008 and an additional 100% cost-sharing to remove nearly 7 acres of abandoned trees in 2009. Star Ridge farm is located about 1500 feet from Blue Vista Farm, a commercial apple and berry farm. In addition, Star Ridge is working to develop their own organic orchard. During the summer of 2009, twenty abandoned apple trees immediately adjacent to Blue Vista Farm were removed from a private residential property and replaced with native conifer and deciduous trees and shrubs. The twenty trees were clearly causing plum curculio and codling moth damage across the road at Blue Vista.
During the summer of 2008 a presentation was made to the Bayfield Town Board to discuss abandoned orchards within the township.
Field days were held on June, 20th 2008 at Blue Vista Farm and on September 19th at the Bayfield Apple Company to explain to area residents apple IPM practices.
Updates on the abandoned orchard removal were presented at the All Network Eco-Apple Project meeting in Madison, in November of 2008 and at the Wisconsin Fresh Fruit and Veggie Conference in the Wisconsin Dells on January 4th and 5th of 2009 by Jason Fischbach with Bayfield County UW-Extension.
Throughout the 2008 growing season pest trapping and monitoring was carried out in commercial orchards and along adjacent unmanaged blocks to document pest populations of: apple maggot, codling moth, plum curculio and spotted tentiform leafminer.
During the summer of 2009, with funding from an EPA grant, we were able to implement a codling moth mating disruption trial at three orchards. Two of the orchards were adjacent to abandoned blocks of apple trees that were removed in 2008 or 2009. The trial was conducted in cooperation with Jason Fischbach, the Agriculture Agent with UW-Extension. A Research Bulletin was published by Jason explaining the methods and results of the trial. As the trapping data in the Bulletin explains, the removal of the abandoned apple trees made use of mating disruption possible. As a result, the trial was expanded in 2010 to include six orchards in the region.
The project has achieved three important goals. The field days and publications have helped increase awareness about the efforts Bayfield apple growers are taking to reduce the toxicity of their pest management programs. Secondly, the program has enlisted the support of neighbors in the effort to reduce pesticide use in the region, to everyone’s benefit. Thirdly, removal of the abandoned apple trees has reduced pest pressures and allowed us to do a more effective job managing pests.
The outreach for this project was done in close cooperation with Jason Fischbach with UW-Extension and the Lake Superior Eco-Apple Network. A brochure was created and distributed to neighbors discussing the program and two field days were held during the summer of 2008 to talk about abandoned apples and pest management in general. A poster was developed and displayed at the orchards to help communicate the importance of pest management and the efforts to reduce toxicity of pest management programs. Jason gave two presentations about the project to statewide audiences. Finally, the Research Bulletin discussing the codling moth trial was distributed to apple growers and residents throughout the region.
The program worked well for us. The reporting requirements are not overly burdensome and the program is very helpful for on-farm research.
The project was carried out as budgeted in the original proposal with some minor adjustments. Less was spent than budgeted for tree removal and was spent to purchase replacement trees for one landowner.