Pennsylvania Regional Organic Fruit Industry Transition

Final Report for LNE06-248

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2006: $99,208.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2009
Region: Northeast
State: Pennsylvania
Project Leader:
Dr. Greg Krawczyk
PSU, Department of Entomology, FREC
Co-Leaders:
James Travis
Penn State University Fruit Research and Extension
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Project Information

Summary:

This project was initiated by request from growers for the exploring the possibility for organic transition within the commercial fruit industry in Pennsylvania. In response to this request, the Pennsylvania Regional Organic Fruit Industry Transition (PROFIT) team was initiated to improve the sustainability and profitability of small family apple farms through the implementation of sustainable and organic production practices and by differentiating apple products as certified organic. Key components of activities included: a) a case studies of the transition to organic production in demonstration/ research orchards managed by an ‘Orchard Management Transition Team’ including researchers and organic grower practitioners; b) scientific testing and evaluations of new and experimental tools and methods approved for organic production utilizing certified organic apple orchard located at the PSU FREC; c) development of an educational model for networking and information sharing among fruit industry, organic growers and the ‘Orchard Management Transition Team’ made up of local conventional IPM growers, experienced organic growers, apple processor, university researchers and extension educators.

Multiple outreach activities such as Grower Field Days and multiple hands-on grower meetings covered both conventional and organic insect, disease and weed management, as well as tree training and organic fruit thinning demonstrations. More than 500 growers interested in practical organic and/or alternative pest management practices attended the organic meetings. Other participants included crop consultants, students and university research and extension personnel.

Despite some challenges related to individual elements of the organic system, the results of this project demonstrated that high quality organic apples can be grown in the eastern United States with existing and alternative management tools currently available for organic fruit production. Also, the economic data collected from our PSU FREC organic blocks documented that yearly net profit is possible as early as in the 4th year after planting of new organic orchard.

Introduction:

In the last decade increased attention has been focused on the sustainability of organic and integrated pest management (IPM) food production systems in comparison to conventional pest management systems relying solely on synthetic chemical inputs. In conventional pesticide programs, pesticides have generally been chosen based on their efficacy or cost rather than on their potential environmental impact. Practioners of IPM also consider pesticide effects on known beneficial arthropods such as mite predators and use various pest monitoring techniques and economic thresholds to reduce the number of applications of conventional pesticides, but mostly for economic reasons. Some growers, however, and an increasing proportion of the public feel that only natural pesticides should be used in agricultural production systems because they are naturally occuring and are perceived to be less harmful to the environment.

Earlier in this decade the Pennsylvania tree fruit industry was at a point of transition. Although history, production region, family farms and research and education programs always favored fruit production in Pennsylvania, several outside factors have combined to make the business of fruit production more difficult and less profitable over the last 10 years. Cultural practices and pest control methods utilized over the last 40 years started to be replaced by new organic and alternative approaches to growing fruit and managing pests that were profitable for the growers, fresh fruit packers and processors while at the same time being environmentally sound and focused on meeting consumers’ expectations for food safety and quality. In 2004, an organic apple demonstration orchard was established at PSU Fruit Research and Extension Center in Biglerville, PA to provide researchers and growers with the opportunity to observe best organic practices for local, eastern US organic apple production. The first certified organic fruit from this orchard was produced and sold in 2006. The organic apple production project was named Pennsylvania Regional Organic Fruit Industry Transition (PROFIT).

Two apple cultivars, ‘GoldRush’ and ‘Enterprise,’ were selected for the 2 acre organic demonstration orchard based on their resistance to diseases and potential as processing or fresh market varieties. Disease resistant crops can lead to a significant reduction in pesticide applications (i.e. fungicides) in both conventionally managed orchards and those managed organically.

Management of more than two dozen arthropod pests in apple orchards in the eastern United States is a complex and difficult task, and IPM programs for these crops are perhaps the most complex of all cropping systems. For Pennsylvania commercial fruit growers, the most important insects are a complex of direct pests whose larvae feed internally within fruit (internal feeders), and include the codling moth, Cydia pomonella, Oriental fruit moth, Grapholita molesta, apple maggot, Rhagoletis pomonella, and plum curculio, Conotrachelus nenuphar. In addition, at least two species of leafrollers (obliquebanded leafroller, Choristoneura rosaceana, and tufted apple bud moth Platynota idaeusalis), along with the tarnished plant bug, Lygus lineolaris, and various stink bug species (Hemiptera: Pentatomidae) also feed directly on fruit.

There are also many indirect arthropod pests that feed on the bark or foliage. These groups of pests include a complex of aphids, leafhoppers, leafminers, mites, and sesiid borers. This indirect damage can cause significant losses in crop value by reducing fruit size, quality, tree vigor and, under certain conditions, even the death of trees.

For almost 40 years, organophosphate (OP), carbamates and pyrethroids insecticides have been the cornerstone of conventional apple insect management programs however in recent years there have been a number of new, pest control tools that have become available to the organic tree fruit industry that have shown promise as alternatives to conventional insecticides. The naturalyte insecticide, spinosad (Entrust ®) provided excellent control of leafrollers and leafminers. Azadirachtin (Aza-Direct®) derived from the neem tree provides good control of apple aphid, spotted tentiform leafiner and suppression of codling moth and oriental fruit moth. Kaolin (Surround®) is a specialized mineral for use as an insecticide on many fruit crops. Surround has demonstrated activity against leafhoppers, plum curculio, apple maggot and Japanese beetle. Codling moth granulosis virus (CpGV) (Cyd-X®) provides excellent control of codling moth and possibly some suppression of Oriental fruit moth. Also, a number of horticultural oils: Spray oil 653-0055® and Organic JMS Stylet oil® are very effective in controlling mites and aphids on tree fruit.

Pheromone-based mating disruption is another promising technique for managing lepidopteran pests. Pheromone deployment for pest control in fruit crops currently relies upon evaporation from polymers (ropes) impregnated or filled with pheromone. These hand-applied dispensers must be placed within orchards at relatively high densities per unit area. Mating disruption has become a commercially acceptable option for control of some lepidopteran pests in orchards, especially for codling moth and Oriental fruit moth.

Coordinated research on pest and disease management as well as crop load management was initiated to support PROFIT and to generate information for the development of commercial recommendations for organic apple producers. Although some individual aspects of practical production of organic fruit were available previously, at the time of initiation of this project no practical set of recommendations existed for a successful, commercial scale transition from conventional into organic orchard.

Performance Target:

The main objective of this project was to provide practical and feasible information and recommendations related to organic apple production and possible organic transition to majority of Pennsylvania fruit growers. The performance target expected that from over 500 apples growers exposed to the program, at least 250 fresh and processing apple growers will increase their use of sustainable pest management and production methods and about 30 will start an organic transition on a portion or their farm. And although the last number of 30 growers starting the organic transition was not reached mainly due to changes on fruit market and challenges related to the control of secondary pests, the remaining project objectives and performance targets were not only accomplished but actually exceeded. Sustainable insect pest management tools such as mating disruption or codling moth controlling virus (CpGV) became standard practices in many commercial PA orchards. Also, increased planting of disease resistant apple cultivars eliminated the need for frequent use of conventional fungicides. In addition, the process of transition to organic production provided an increased, positive focus for the whole fruit industry on sustainable and organic practices.

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand
  • Noemi Halbrendt
  • Matthew Harsh
  • James Schupp

Research

Materials and methods:

The observations and experiments related to the organic transition process and efficacy of organic tools were conducted in three transitional organic orchards located on commercial farms in Pennsylvania and organically certified block located at te PSU FREC in Biglerville, PA.

Two main entomological aspects of organic apple production were evaluated in comparison to a conventionally managed orchard in this project: (1) efficacy of an organic arthropod pest management program and, (2) influence of OMRI approved pesticides of all types (including fruit thinners) on beneficial arthropods.

The following insect pest control tactics were used in programs designed for organic apples: (1) OMRI approved insecticides (i.e., spinosad, azadirachtin,, oils, kaolin clay,); and (2) mating disruption. These tactics were integrated into specific pest management programs designed to be most appropriate for the observed insect pest complex. The range of potential tactics applied during each season was elected based on site-specific sampling observations.

All organic transitional and conventional blocks were extensively monitored to determine the need and timing for control tactics against insect and mite pests throughout the season. Pheromone traps for monitoring various lepidopteran species were deployed at each site before the beginning of flight activity for each species and monitored on a weekly basis during the entire season. European apple sawfly was monitored using white sticky traps placed in the orchard before the pink stage of development. Plum curculio was monitored using pyramid traps and branch traps. The San Jose scale was monitored using black sticky tape placed in the orchard in late May. Seasonal and harvest fruit evaluations were conducted in all monitored orchards to assess the efficacy of employed practices.

The disease control programs were based on a spray program consisting of NOP / OMRI / PCO (National Organic Program / Organic Material Review Institute / Pennsylvania Certified Organic) approved organic pesticides and herbicides. Starting from the 2006 growing season, combination of copper, sulfur, lime sulfur and JMS Stylet oil were applied early in the season to protect the trees from diseases. To generate apple disease management data for the demo block and growers, evaluation of various chemical and cultural management tactics were conducted.

The crop load management trials were conducted during the 2006 and 2007 seasons utilizing only organically-acceptable materials possibly effecting fruit thinning: lime sulfur, JMS Stylet oil and Crocker’s Fish oil. Following treatments were evaluated during this part of our studies: (1) Hand thinned control; (2) JMS Stylet oil plus Lime Sulfur (LS) followed by hand thinning; and (3) Crocker’s Fish oil plus Lime Sulfur, followed by hand thinning. Oils were applied at 2% and Lime Sulfur at 2.5% by spray truck at 100 GPA. These treatments were applied twice, at petal fall and PF+ 5 days to 7 tree plots. Treatments were applied to plots in both the Surround- and non-Surround-treated plots, with 4 replications in both. Fruit set and yield data was collected from the center 3 trees of each plot, while the time required for hand thinning was collected from all 7 trees in the treatment plot.

Research results and discussion:

Efficacy of insect pest and disease management programs and their effects on biological control agents were evaluated through the season with the special emphasis on the predatory mites and aphid natural enemies. Although the complete list changed slightly from season to season, overall more than 10 insect species were monitored in organic settings during each of the seasons: codling moth (CM), Oriental fruit moth (OFM), lesser apple worm (LAW) Grapholita prunivora, tufted apple bud moth (TABM), obliquebanded leafroller (OBLR), variegated leafroller (VLR) Platynota flavedana, fruit tree leafroller (FTLR) Archips argyspila, eyespotted bud moth (ESBM) Spilonotta ocellana, spotted tentiform leafminer (STLM) Phylonorycter blancardella, dogwood borer (DWB) Synanthedon scitula, and San Jose scale (SJS) Quadraspidiotus periculus. The populations of apple maggot and plum curculio were also monitored in each organic block using traps baited with species specific attractants.

Throughout the period of the project no excessive numbers of monitored species were observed in any of the organically treated orchards. The only unexpected situation was related to internal fruit feeders. Despite of the presence of CM and OFM mating disruption products some individual moths of both species were collected in pheromone traps, especially during later part of the season. In order to prevent fruit injuries, additional applications of CpGV were necessary during each year of the project. The combination of CM/OFM MD and CpGV maintained the CM and OFM caused injuries at below 10 percent during each year of the project.

The leafroller management options were evaluated by comparing the efficacy of spinosad (Entrust) and Bacillius thuringiensis (Dipel). The early season pests (aphids, sting bugs, tarnished plan bug etc.) were controlled by multiple applications of azadirachtin (Aza-Direct) and kaolin clay (Surround), with each of the product being applied to a half of the orchard. To avoid the excessive kaolin residue on fruit during the harvest, the Surround applications were terminated by mid June except for one additional application of Surround in mid-July to control troublesome levels of Japanese beetle adults.

During the 2006 season, due to a high pressure from Japanese beetles, Popilia japonica, a superimposed, replicated trial was conducted to evaluate the activity of three organically approved compounds (kaolin clay Surround ™, natural pyrethrum Pyganic™ and azadirachtin AzaDirect™). Replicated studies reveled that kaolin clay was the most effective compound available for the control of Japanese beetle. Fortunately, the Japanese beetle problem was observed only during the 2006 season and no more treatments were necessary during later years of the project.

During each year of the project except for the application of oil (Organic JMS Stylet Oil) during the dormant season, no special treatment was necessary to manage European red mite, Panonychus ulmi and aphid populations in organic orchard. Regular, in season mite and mite predator observations consistently revealed steady although low presence of phytophagous mites such as Amlyseius fallacis, Typhlodromus pyri and Zetzelia mali.

Various disease control treatments were also extensively evaluated in experimental orchards during the project. While the standard procedures for control of apple scab, powdery mildew and apple cedar rust were based on multiple in season applications of sulfur and lime sulfur, the evaluation of new, experimental products had to be conducted outside of certified organic blocks. Examples of such studies are presented below. In 2006, disease management studies have focused on the efficacy of sulfur and lime sulfur applied alone, in combination or in rotation with other organic or alternative fungicides to evaluate for effectiveness on apples (Fig. 1). Six of the treatment programs (Trts. 3-5, 7-9) reduced the incidence of scab on shoots and fruit compared to the untreated trees (Fig. 1). Citrex (not yet labeled for organic – Trt. 2) and EF 400 (Trt. 6) did not control scab. Scab on shoots and fruit were significantly reduced when Citrex was tank mixed with Micro Sulf at a low rate (Trt. 3), or when EF 400 was rotated with Micro Sulf at a recommended rate (Trt. 7). Sulfur applied alone, Sulfur combined with Citrex, and Lime Sulfur plus Vigor Cal programs provided comparable control on scab incidence on shoots and scab incidence and severity on fruits. Slight phytotoxicity due to Sulfur applied to young trees at high temperatures was observed but was reduced when Sulfur was tank mixed or rotated with Citrex or Vigor Cal. All treatment programs with sulfur and lime sulfur reduced the incidence of scab on shoots and fruit as well as powdery mildew and cedar apple rust compared to the untreated trees. (Figure 1)

In 2008, organic fungicide programs with sulfur, and lime sulfur as early season sprays, two formulations of copper/biological control agents and oxidate were evaluated for control of powdery mildew and cedar apple rust (Tab.1, 2, 3 and 4). The test was conducted at the Penn State Fruit Research and Extension Center high density research orchard on scab resistant “GoldRush’ and ‘Crimson Crisp’ apple cultivars.

Programs with early season sulfur and lime sulfur provided the best control on the incidence and severity of powdery mildew on GoldRush but only trt. 1 provided sufficient powdery mildew control on Crimson Crisp. None of the fungicide programs showed good control on cedar apple rust. Gold Rush (23% incidence on shoots) appeared to be more resistant to powdery mildew compared to Crimson Crisp (42% incidence on shoots, while Crimson Crisp (85% highest incidence on shoots) was more resistant to apple cedar rust compared to GoldRush (98 % incidence on shoots) (Tables 1-4).

The crop load management treatments utilizing lime sulfur and two OMRI approved oils conducted during the 2006 and 2007 seasons also provided indications for possible reduction of labor time required to manage crop load in organically treated orchards. Despite cool weather during the time of treatment, Stylet oil and LS thinned trees reduced the time required to hand thin trees. The effects of Fish oil/ LS were mild in 2006; however both thinners increased production of large fruit by 8%. There were no treatment trends for pack-out or fruit finish. The primary causes of grade-out were, in order of importance: (1) sunburn; (2) cracking; and (3) injury caused by cedar apple rust. The presence of kaolin clay on half of the thinning treatment plots made no difference in the tree response to the treatments.

Weed management alternatives were evaluated as well during the project and demonstrated in the orchard including; hand hoeing, weed mowing and “mechanical hoeing”, i.e., Weed BadgerTM , propane weed burner, and ground covers such as biodegradable fabric and aged wood chips. The use of organic herbicides containing vinegar/acetic acid was evaluated bur not effective. A new organic contact herbicide (Green Match) was found effective to control broad range of weeds.

Overall, the results of this project despite some challenges related to individual elements of the system (cedar apple rust incidences, Japanese beetle occurrence, or not sufficient efficacy of mating disruption materials intended for the control of codling moth) demonstrated that high quality organic apples can be grown in the eastern United States with existing and alternative management tools currently available for organic fruit production.

Participation Summary

Education

Educational approach:

Grower oriented outreach and education activities were conducted with over 500 grower participants in Pennsylvania alone. Following specific activities were undertaken as part of outreach activities:

a) monthly and bi-monthly meetings with transitional and organic growers during the early part of the 2007-2009 growing seasons dedicated for discussion of current issues related to organic production system;

b) educational presentations during meetings organized at the PSU FREC facility hosting both certified and transitional organic orchards (12 July and 13 September 2007, 9 Sept 2008, 22 July and 17 September 2009, 15 September 2010) and various group of visitors from other government and non –government agencies, and local stakeholders (a total of 628 growers, researchers, extension educators, administrators, students and crop consultants participated);

c) growers from 4 Mid-Atlantic States were introduced to the concept of organic apple production at a Mid-Atlantic Fruit and Vegetable convention held in Hershey, PA in February of 2007-2009;

d) team members participated in multiple national and international conferences presenting highlights of the results of the project 2006-2010; and

e) growers learned about the project PROFIT from the PSU website where PROFIT project were posted at www.http://fpath.cas.psu.edu/RESEARCH/PROFITdemoorchard.htm and from Penn State Sustainable Ag Working Group website at http://sawg.cas.psu.edu/Projects.html.

The Grower Field Days and Crop Protection Field Days hosted at PSU FREC facility covered both conventional and integrated insect, disease and weed management, as well as tree training and fruit thinning demonstration and presentation where the Organic Apple Demonstration Orchard was highlighted. The project team also conducted multiple hands-on grower meetings with discussions on organic apple production which were well attended and included presentations by local fruit growers who are practicing organic and/or alternative pest control, crop consultants, students and Penn State research and extension personnel.

Presentations to growers and other researchers also occurred at annual meetings of fruit growers, during extension field days, and through news media reports. Scientific presentations reporting results from the project were presented at meetings of the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM), the American Phytopathological Society, Entomological Society of America and others.

Some of the publications based on data obtained during the project years 2006-2010 are listed below:

Krawczyk, G., J.W. Travis, J. Schupp and N. O. Halbrendt. 2009. Organic apple production in Eastern US – Pennsylvania perspective. Proceedings of the New England Vegetable and Fruit Conference and Trade Show: 79-81. Manchester, NH. Dec 2009. http://www.newenglandvfc.org/pdf_proceedings/2009/OAP_EUS.pdf
Krawczyk, G., J. Schupp, J. W. Travis, & N. Halbrendt. 2008. Challenges in Organic Apple Production in Eastern United States. 16th IFOAM Organic World Congress, Book of Abstracts: 89-90. Modena, Italy. 16-20 June, 2008.
Travis, J. W., N. O. Halbrendt, B. Lehman, and B. Jarjour. 2007. Organic alternatives for control of sooty blotch, flyspeck and rots on ‘Rome Beauty’, ‘Golden Delicious’, and ‘Red Delicious’ apples, 2006. Plant Disease Management Reports 1:PF012
Travis, J. W., N. O. Halbrendt, B. Lehman, and B. Jarjour. 2007. Organic control of apple scab, 2006. Plant Disease Management Reports 1:PF013
Travis, J. W., N. O. Halbrendt, B. Lehman, and B. Jarjour. 2008. Evaluation of reduced-cost and organic programs against apple scab, 2007. Plant Disease Management Reports 2:PF003.
Travis, J. W., N. O. Halbrendt, B. Lehman, and B. Jarjour. 2008. Evaluation of organic and reduced programs on sooty blotch, flyspeck and rots, 2007. Plant Disease Management Reports 2:PF002
Ngugi, H.K., N.O. Halbrendt, and J.W. Travis. 2009. Evaluation of antibiotics and biological control products for control of fire blight, 2008. Plant Disease Management Reports 3:PF001
Travis, J. W., N. O. Halbrendt, H. K. Ngugi, and B. Jarjour. 2009. Evaluation of reduced fungicide resistance risk, organic and conventional fungicide programs for control of scab and summer diseases on Golden Delicious apple, 2008. Plant Disease Management Reports 3:PF035.
Halbrendt, N.O., J. W. Travis, and B. Jarjour. 2010. Evaluation of organic fungicide programs for apple scab, powdery mildew, and cedar apple rust, 2009. Plant Disease Management Reports 4:PF011.

Presentations during professional meetings (examples):
Krawczyk, G.* 2009. What current practices qualify as organic methods. 2009 Mid-Atlantic Fruit and Vegetable Convention. Hershey, PA. 3-5 Feb.
Krawczyk, G.,* J.W. Travis, J. Schupp and N. O. Halbrendt. 2009. Organic apple production in Eastern US – Pennsylvania perspective. New England Vegetable and Fruit Conference and Trade Show. Manchester, NH. Dec 2009.
Krawczyk, G.,* J. Schupp, J. W. Travis, & N. Halbrendt. 2008. Challenges in Organic Apple Production in Eastern United States. 16th IFOAM Organic World Congress, Book of Abstracts: 89-90. Modena, Italy. 16-20 June, 2008.
Krawczyk, G.* 2007. Organic methods to manage insects. Mid-Atlantic Fruit and Vegetable Convention. January 2007. Hershey, PA.
Krawczyk, G.* and L. A. Hull. 2007. Insect pest control in organic apple orchard in Pennsylvania. Annual Meeting of the Eastern Branch Entomological Society of America. Harrisburg, PA. March 17-20, 2007.

Additional Project Outcomes

Project outcomes:

Impacts of Results/Outcomes

During the duration of the project, a continuous communication was maintained among research team and organic producers interested/participating directly in the project. Our research and extension team members coordinated organic production discussion sessions, field days, orchard visits and extended technical and consultative services in organic pest management and cultural practices, certification process and marketing organic fruit to growers that were interested to establish a new organic orchard or transition a conventional orchard to organic production.

During the last year of the project the PROFIT Task Force met again to discuss accomplishments and future direction. The organic transition program received overall positive evaluation and feedback from participants of the meeting. The industry based PROFIT advisory group strongly recommended the continuation of the project and supported the continuous development and evaluation of organic methods applicable to apple production in our region. There was agreement to focus on advancing new organic practices, marketing, economics, long-term orchard sustainability, continue support of grower transition to organic. The result of this PROFIT meeting also initiated and encouraged researchers to formulate an organic grant proposal to be submitted for the USDA NIFA Organic funding.

Some of the mentioned outcomes accomplished during this project include: (a) about 40 acres of new PA grower organic apple orchards were certified organic in 2008 harvest season; (b) approximately 10 acres are in transition and 10 acre were planted in spring of 2010; (c) the number of growers considering organic production is increasing each year and IPM growers continue to increase the implementation of organic practices; (d) extension recommendations for organic disease and insect management to assist organic and transitional grower achieve productive apple are now based on the real orchard experience either from organic research plots or observations conducted during “case studies” interaction with organic producers; and (e) the project was able to generate information and experience on organic production that is useful for dissemination to growers who are interested in organic production.

Economic Analysis

A partial economic analysis revealed a mixed picture of economic feasibility of organic apple production. In organically managed orchards on average the cost of production usually is higher than cost of production in conventional orchard (e.g., mostly due to higher cost of available pesticides, higher labor and energy inputs). Also, organic orchards usually produce less fruit of the highest quality and often the yield is lower than in standard blocks. Despite those pitfalls, the economic data collected from our PSU FREC organic blocks documented net profit of $1,342-$1,638 per acre already in the 4th year after planting. The deciding profitability factors are closely associated with the price grower can get for fruit. During the 2008 season to break even the costs of production for organic GoldRush apples destined for processing, an orchard needed to produce at least 470 bushel of fruit per acre (at $6.29 per bushel; standard price for organic fruit for juice paid by local processor, still more than 50 % higher than for conventional processing fruit); at the same time if fruit can be sold on fresh market (at $20.00 per bushel) the needed orchard yield was only 113 bushels per acre. Also, the 3-year transitional period from conventional to organic site, with no advantage of organic pricing for fruit, resulted in negative income during each three years of the transition period.

Generally, in both conventional and organic production systems, more fruit of higher quality will generate higher income for the producer. And while it is difficult to justify production of organic fruit for processing industry, as long as fruit are sold for the fresh market the organic production is at least equally or in most cases more economical than conventional. The higher expenses associated with organic production per unit of fruit are usually compensated by higher prices for organic produces.

Farmer Adoption

The initiation of organic fruit research at the PSU FREC orchards encouraged commercial growers to either transition of existing orchards into organic plots or planting of new sites destined from the beginning as organic sites. During the period of the project a number of new operations starting organic production or organic transition were observed. The following examples are listing of operations directly associated with the project:

a) commercial apple grower in Lancaster county, PA planted of 12 acres of new organic orchard;

b) a commercial fruit grower from Berks County planted 5 acres of new organic orchard;

c) a commercial fruit grower from Allegheny County transitioned 2 acres of old orchards into organic block and planted 4 acres of new organic orchard next to the transitioned block;

d) mature apple orchard (30 acres) in Adams county, PA of scab susceptible cultivars received its organic certification in September for the 2008 harvest;

e) 5 acre apple orchard in Adams County was established in 2008 for organic cider;

f) 20 acre organic apple orchard was established in Fairfield, PA in spring of 2010.

In addition, the area for organic research at the PSU FREC orchards increased to 4.5 acres. Based on our personal communications, we are also aware of new organic orchards planted in neighboring states of New Jersey, Maryland and Virginia. Unfortunately, we were not able to collect organic transition/adoption data related to small scale adopters or homeowners but based on the number of individual contacts (phone calls, e-mail , discussion during the meetings etc…) we can estimate also a significant increase in organic fruit acreage among this group of stakeholders. Close cooperation with organic orchards existing before the start of the project resulted in significant level of adoption of new technologies by this group of experienced growers as well.

In 2009, the Management Team directed the project to also emphasize fresh organic apple production for local market outlets in nearby urban areas like Philadelphia and Washington DC where the demand for locally grown organic fruit is high but the supply availability is limited.

Assessment of Project Approach and Areas of Further Study:

Areas needing additional study

Although the organic transition program received overall positive evaluation and feedback from participants of our advisory group, the participants strongly recommended the continuation of this project and supported the continuous development and evaluation of organic methods applicable to apple production in our region. There was agreement that strong further research is needed to focus on continuous advancing new organic management practices, marketing, economics, long-term orchard sustainability and providing stable support of growers attempting transition to organic methods.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.