Developing Integrated Pest Management Protocols for Northeast Organic Apple Production

Final Report for ONE10-117

Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2010: $14,210.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2010
Region: Northeast
State: New York
Project Leader:
Peter Jentsch
Poma Tech Inc.
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Project Information

Evaluation of Surround WP, Isomate Twin Ties, Cyd-X, Entrust + GF-120, and ‘Curve Balls’ Employed in Two Hudson Valley Organic Orchard Pest Management Programs in 2010.

During the 2010 fruit growing season, in collaboration with USDA-ARS Appalachian Fruit Research Station (Tracy Leskey / Starker Wright) and Geneva Experiment Station (Harvey Reissig) we evaluated similar pest management programs on two uniquely different organic apple orchard systems owned by Steve Clark of Clarks Farms in Modena, NY and Fabio Chizzola of Windward Orchard in Accord, NY. The insect pest management programs employed Surround WP (50 lbs./A at TC, P, PF, 1C), Isomate twin ties for mating disruption of Oriental fruit moth (OFM): Grapholitha molesta (Busck) and Codling moth (CM): Cydia pomonella (Linnaeus), (applied at 1st pheromone trap catch at 200 ties./A), Cyd-X (4 oz./A @ 4 applications 10d intervals for each of 2 codling moth generations beginning at 1st hatch or 250DD50), the use of Entrust and GF-120 combinations for Obliquebanded leafroller (OBLR): Choristoneura rosaceana (Harris) and Apple Maggot (AM): Rhagoletis pomonella (Walsh) in conjunction with baited red spheres (aptly named ‘Curve Balls’), a trap and kill alternative technology to control damage on apple, employed in pest control strategies. Apple tree fruit phenology was two to three weeks ahead of insect development leading to significantly lower levels of European apple sawfly (EAS): Hoplocampa testudinea (Klug) and plum curculio (PC): Conotrachelus nenuphar (Herbst) injury in the mid-Hudson Valley. In Milton, NY, significantly lower levels of insect damage was observed in season long management of disease resistant varieties on dwarfing M-9 rootstock using a high density slender spindle planting system. However, in Accord, NY, employing standard trees approximately 18-24’ high on a 25’ x 25’ spacing using similar rates and timings of the same pest management programs, demonstrated significantly higher levels of insect damage occurred from PC occurred. Excellent control was achieved from fruit managed in the high-density block at Clarks Farms in Modena, with management providing over 89% clean fruit across the orchard. However, 86% fruit damage was observed in Accord. Differences in application coverage, tree size and spacing and insect population density played important roles in observed differences in insect damage between farms.


Employing Optimum Timing and Methodology for Use of New Organic Technologies

Apples are an intensively managed perennial crop. In most commercial apple production, a broad range of synthetic pesticides are applied repeatedly throughout the growing season to manage the complex of insects and diseases affecting apple. Challenges in Northeastern fruit production can be attributed to the abundant species of pest insect and diseases that thrive under New York conditions where orchards receive more than 40 inches of yearly rainfall. The resulting pest pressure is a major reason for the small acreage of organic apples found in New York State as compared to organic production in the Pacific Northwest, California and many other fruit production regions where growers can avoid pests by producing apples in arid climates. Additional factors contributing to low levels of organic production in NY include the cost of organic production materials that can exceed by three fold those of commercial production, rising application costs for higher numbers of seasonal applications compared to conventional production, reduced efficacies of available organic pest management materials, and the smaller fruit size and total yield that results from the effects of organic chemical thinners. The organic pome fruit producers in the Hudson Valley region have maintained profitability through low volume market niches in and around the major metropolitan markets. These markets provide higher returns than conventional markets, thereby allowing growers to withstand lower yields, higher pest damage levels, smaller fruit size, superficial summer diseases and late season internal fruit injury from insects. For local organic markets to sustain profits and build consumer demand, fruit yield and quality must improve beyond these present conditions. Although organic production complexities are formidable given climatic conditions in New York, organic pome fruit producers in the Hudson Valley region have maintained profitability by marketing to metropolitan consumers who have confidence in the USDA organic standards and the ‘buy local’ philosophy. The goal of this project aimed to increase yield of organic apple orchards via improved methods for optimizing crop load, and by significantly reducing insect pest pressure through the use of pheromone mating disruption technologies and internal lepidoptera management using species specific granulosis virus for managing the emerging larval population, proper timing, dilution and stratification of insect barrier film prior to insect emergence and migration, and employment of trap and kill technologies to manage a late season pest.

Project Objectives:
Identical Organic Strategies, Different Marketing Approaches

The objective of this study was to evaluate the efficacy of a diverse and comprehensive, OMRI approved pest management program and an experimental method likely to be approved for organic apple production, used to control late season apple maggot damage. In collaboration with USDA-ARS Appalachian Fruit Research Station (Tracy Leskey / Starker Wright) and Geneva Experiment Station (Harvey Reissig) these evaluations were made over the past 3 years and continued on in this trial to determine the efficacy of modification made to the ‘Curve Ball’. Evaluations of two distinctly different organic orchards: one being a 5-acre high-density block of mixed varieties of disease resistant NOFA certified apple and the other, a newly renovated transition orchard of disease susceptible varieties on standard seedling stock using traditional spacings. These sites were chosen for their stark differences in design, historically high PC and AM population damage levels, and marketing dynamics.


Click linked name(s) to expand/collapse or show everyone's info
  • Fabio Chizzola
  • Steve Clark


Materials and methods:
Improving the pest management system.

Milton, NY: The mixed variety block containing scab resistant varieties included Honeycrisp, Liberty and Golden Supreme, Red Free varieties. Two rows of mixed Cortland and Red Delicious are also included in the organic block. Tree phenology beginning with green tip (GT) on 20 March, 1/2” Green on 2 April, tight cluster (TC) on 6 April, Pink (P) on 10 April, King Bloom on 20 April, petal fall (PF) on 28 May @ 80% PF of ‘McIntosh. Actual PF applications on 30 May, 1C on 11 May, 2C on 2 June, 3C on 11 June, 4C on 24 June, 5C on 16 July, 6C on 31 July. 1st generation of CM using 250DD50 for larval emergence on 2 June; 2nd application for 1st Gen. CM using 360DD50 on 11 June; a single 2nd Gen. CM application on 16 July after 250DD50 from 1st adult pheromone trap capture. The 1st AM adult fly caught on 21 June with threshold occurring on 15 July.

Trees on the M.9 rootstock were approximately 12 ft high, 12’ wide, and planted to a commercial spacing of 7’ x 20’ to 520 trees/A. The treatment applications were made using a tractor mounted conventional airblast sprayer made at 100 GPA, 160 psi at 3.2 mph, using Surround WP at 50 lbs./A applied at TC, P, PF, 1C; Isomate twin ties for mating disruption of Oriental fruit moth (OFM): Grapholitha molesta (Busck) and Codling moth (CM): Cydia pomonella (Linnaeus), were applied at 1st pheromone trap catch using 200 ties./A, Cyd-X applied at 2C-5C using 4 oz./A @ 3 applications and a single application at 5C for the 2nd generation of codling moth beginning at 1st hatch or 250DD50, the use of Entrust and GF-120 combinations for Obliquebanded leafroller (OBLR): Choristoneura rosaceana (Harris) and Apple Maggot (AM): Rhagoletis pomonella (Walsh) in conjunction with baited red spheres (aptly named ‘Curve Balls’), a trap and kill alternative technology to control damage on apple, employed in pest control strategies at threshold of AM at 5-6C. The latter part of the season we used a split block design employing Curve Balls at 1 sphere per tree in the eastern 1/2 of the block while Entrust and GF-120 combinations were employed in the alternate western portion of the block.

The Curve Ball are baited red spheres in which the insecticide Entrust (spinosad) is impregnated into a wire mesh paraffin wax and sugar base cap, hung to densities of 1 per 100 fruit. Spheres were applied to 7 rows within the block along with volatile attractant to increase attractiveness. Each split block was separated by a boarder row of untreated apple.

Accord: This mixed variety block of three acres containing seedling scab susceptible varieties included McIntosh, Cortland and Red Delicious, averaging 18 - 24'in height and planted to a traditional spacing of 25’ x 25’ with approximately 50 trees/A given the missing trees in the block. The treatment applications were made using a tractor mounted conventional airblast sprayer made at 150 GPA, 180 psi at 2 mph. The timing for the Accord farm was slightly different from Milton as higher levels of PC damage were observed. The interval from PF to 2C was tightened to 10 day intervals to attempt to reduce damage from EAS and PC. Surround WP at 25 lbs./A was applied in 2 applications at TC, P, and at to 50 lbs./A at PF, 1-2C. However, poor agitation and inadequate coverage from a low output fan and pump did not provide the developing fruit with a sufficient dilution of kaolin clay to cover fruit and keep PC from damaging nearly 100% of the developing fruitlets. In part this was due to the height of the tree, relative to the dispersal of kaolin droplets, and relative low levels of fruit per tree relative to very high levels of PC adults. Mating disruption was initiated however, given the significant fruit loss shortly after fruit set, Cyd-X was not applied. Curve Ball control strategies were initiated at the first AM fly capture at 3-6C. Entrust alone was applied at 3 oz./A at 340DD43 for Obliquebanded leaf roller control.

Research results and discussion:

The 2010 petal fall date was the earliest on record at the Hudson Valley Laboratory occurring on the 28th of April, 15 days earlier than the mean. The degree day accumulations for that date were also lower than previously recorded for petal fall with 305 degree days base 43; 177 days earlier than the mean and 92 DD earlier than the previous low accumulation which occurred in 2007.

Pre-bloom insect populations were delayed in their occurrence with low population pressure from rosy apple aphid (RAA): Dysaphis plantaginea (Passerini), tarnished plant bug (TPB): Lygus lineolaris (P. de B.), and OBLR. Post bloom insect occurrence was dominated by TPB. EAS, which oviposit on flower clusters, occurred primarily in late blooming varieties with very low levels of damage this season. Very low levels of plum curculio were observed in late migration predominately on mid and late flowering varieties. The low incidence of EAS and PC, coupled with the low levels of apple scab, allowed for high numbers of abandoned fruit to remain on the trees this summer. This will provide high inoculum levels of internal lep and AM to over winter this season

Early season insect pressure being quite low led some growers to reduce 1st and 2nd cover applications of insecticides. This provided the internal lepidopteran complex (OFM and CM) opportunity to damage apple, observed primarily in the eastern Hudson Valley region. Frass appeared somewhat later than predicted during mid to late June given the early fruit maturation. Relatively high levels of the internal lepidopteran complex (15.3% for 1st generation; greater than 28% for 1st and 2nd generation combined at harvest) were observed in untreated controls (Rogers McIntosh 1st gen. only; red delicious 2nd gen. at harvest) by the end of this season.

Growers monitored Obliquebanded leafroller closely this season in many Hudson Valley orchards. Applications were made using DD based insect phenology predictions for early emergence. In general, very low damage levels of OBLR observed this season. Apple maggot density was relative depending on scattered rainfall patterns throughout the region. Very high populations were noted in the northern Hudson Valley where rainfall provided ideal emergence conditions, while few flies were observed in weekly counts to the south. In general, the insects observed slipping through the cracks this season were San Jose scale (SJS): Quadraspidiotus perniciosus (Comstock), the Stink bug complex (SB): Green stink bug, Acrosternum hilare (Say); brown stink bug, Euschistus servus (Say), CM, and AM (in northern Hudson Valley orchards). We noted that 50% SB damage observed in a block of golden delicious in a southern Hudson Valley orchard, leading to the abandonment of the block. Higher numbers of Brown Marmorated Stink Bug, Halyomorpha halys, (BMSB) have been observed throughout the southern Hudson Valley this fall. Fruit in research blocks are showing earlier SB feeding damage that may be caused by BMSB yet all three species including dusky brown and green SB have been noted on fruit throughout the very dry late season.

In this first year of evaluating a comprehensive organic program we were able to determine the efficacy of stratified OMRI certified insect pest management tools in two very different orchard environments. However, it must be said that one years data does not imply sustainable effectiveness of any given program and as such, multiple years of testing should be required with similar results prior to investing in a said program.

Milton: That being stated, the use of these products appeared to most effective in a high density planting system in high yielding systems where excellent coverage of fruit can be obtained and high volume of fruit ‘dilutes’ the levels of insect damage, thereby reducing the overall percent damage levels. Surround in pre-bloom applications was ‘stratified’ onto developing foliage and fruit prior to PC emergence. The material performed well in systems with high holding capacity of dense foliage for repellency and greater re-distribution during rain events. The combination of Isomate OFM/CM twin ties and Cyd-X significantly reduced the internal lepidopteran population from the previous seasons damage of 41% CM in the 1st generation to over 80% damage by the 2nd generation at harvest. Natural population levels of apple maggot were much lower than the previous year, most likely due to extended drought conditions in the lower Hudson Valley, thus reducing the overall AM population and damage levels to fruit at harvest. Curve ball trap density using 1 trap per tree gave acceptable organic control of apple maggot, slightly less control than did the Entrust / GF120 combination treated fruit applied during the peak AM emergence. At this stage of development it is difficult to say that the GF120 and Entrust would have provided economic savings above the cost of the Curve ball, yet if OBLR or other leafroller (LR) are present to cause significant damage to fruit, then there is added benefit for its use in LR management.

Research conclusions:
Improving Planting Systems to Invest in Economic Sustainability

2010 was the most productive and profitable year the Clark organic orchard has had to date. Steve Clark had not only the highest yield per acre but the highest level of clean fruit and using the Union Square markets in New York City, was able to carry more volume this season while the market provided high pricing for premier varieties such as Honeycrisp and Golden Supreme. Steve Clark was pleasantly surprised at these results and will continue to use multiple pre-bloom applications to obtain the stratification of clay on his trees to keep PC from becoming established in the orchard. He plans on continuing to use mating disruption and codling moth virus to maintain low levels of internal lepidoptera and is uncertain about which direction to go regarding apple maggot. Although Surround WP works well against AM, the residue at harvest is a real disadvantage, requiring a considerable amount of work to remove.

WestWind orchard has already decided to transition his large trees to pick your own with minimal management while establishing a high density planting of newly developed disease resistant varieties on the precocious G11 fireblight resistant rootstock. His goal is to maintain the aesthetic charm of his old orchard for marketability and community education, make the investment in a high volume handgun sprayer for high dilute and high pressure applications to manage these beautiful mature trees while optimizing pest management efforts on the new orchard, establishing and sell fruit from scab resistant trees. He estimates that he will produce over 1000 bu./year by the 4th year, allowing him to pay off his investment and maintain large, high yielding fruit.

Participation Summary

Education & Outreach Activities and Participation Summary

Participation Summary:

Education/outreach description:
Organic Workshop Outreach

The data collected from this study will be presented at the upcoming Cornell Organic Apple Production Workshop conducted at the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Saratoga County conference center at 50 West High Street, Ballston Spa, NY 12020, on March 11, 2011.

The video of Prospect Hill Orchard farmer Pam Clark Torres discussing the aspects of producing and marketing organic fruit will be presented.

Project Outcomes

Project outcomes:
Achieving Profitability in Organic Tree Fruit Production Begins and Ends With Sustained Investment and Commitment

The ability for a tree fruit producer to maintain sound fruit harvested and stored is essential for prolonged season long profitability. Fruit stored with surface damage from insect damage is prone to rots and decay organism breakdown in cold storage. In our society the requirement for aesthetically pleasing fruit puts considerable pressure on organic producers to grow a near perfect blemish free crop. Yet, the diversity of the insect pest complex and the amount of season long pressure on tree fruit grown in the Northeast is formidable. Tree fruit grown in the Pacific Northwest and Chile have two or three insects that cause economic damage while no less than 15 primary fruit feeding pests in NY can cause economic losses to the fruit alone while foliar feeding and trunk boring pests can cause considerable declines in yield and tree longevity. Organic material costs for insecticides and fungicides are two to three times those of commercial materials, requiring the return to be high enough to cover costs of materials and additional applications required to achieve comparable results.

In previous studies conducted at Cornell University’s Hudson Valley Laboratory in 2006, a conventional pest management program was compared to organic production program in which economic evaluations were made. In a standard conventional program pesticides plus application costs totaled $650/A as compared with $1,173/A for a organic program. Total yield per acre (including fruit damaged by pests) was 209, 409, and 861 bushels per acre for the unsprayed, organic, and standard treatments, respectively. The yield per program combined with pest control costs were $2.98 per bushel for fruit from the organic block compared with $0.76 per bushel for the standard conventional pest management program. This study did show that pest-free apples can be produced organically in New York, but organic producers will likely need at least a 400% sales premium compared with standard growers, due to the high costs and reduced yields associated with organic pest control. Costs for the various pesticides used in this study were typical of what medium-sized apple growers might have paid for these products. The cost of pesticides alone was $350/A for the standard plots compared to $793/A for the organic program. However, the organic blocks were sprayed 19 times compared to only 15 times for the standard block. If application costs (equipment plus labor) are calculated at $20 per acre per application, then total pest control costs were 80% higher for the organic program than for the standard program.

Our study in 2010 employed multiple approaches to insect pest management were evaluated and in this economic evaluation we looked only at the insecticide and application costs. The Milton farm employed two ‘split blocks’, east and west. The east block employed considerably fewer airblast applications. However the Curve Ball, used for apple maggot management, reduced the overall application costs yet added material and hand labor costs whereas the west block added two additional sprays adding to application costs.

We evaluated the economics of the Milton orchard as fruit yield was excessively damaged by insects in the Accord orchard. The east block consisted of (5) Surround WP applications at TC, P, PF, 1-2C (50#/A at $0.95/lb at $237.50/A), CM mating disruption conducted shortly after fruit set at 200 Isomate twin ties per acre (200#/A at $0.40/tie totaling $80.00/A); (5) Cyd-X applications beginning at 250DD50 with 4 total applications for the 1st CM generation and a single application at the onset of 2nd generation (4oz./A at $15.67/oz at $313.33/A); 1 Curve Ball per tree (estimated to cost $2.00 per CB at 520 trees/A = $1040.00/A). Insecticide costs in the east block totaled $1,850.83/A. Additional application costs for airblast of insecticides ( 10 @ $50.00/A=$500.00) and hand labor (200 Isomate twin ties per acre at 1.5 man hour / A; 1 Curve Ball per tree at 520 trees / A at 3 man hour = 4.5 hours @ $11.00/hr = $49.50/A) Total insect pest management costs / A = $2400.33/A.

The west block also consisted of (5) Surround WP applications at TC, P, PF, 1-2C (50#/A at $0.95/lb at $237.50/A), CM mating disruption conducted shortly after fruit set at 200 Isomate twin ties per acre (200#/A at $0.40/tie totaling $260.00/A); (5) Cyd-X applications beginning at 250DD50 with 4 total applications for the 1st CM generation and a single application at the onset of 2nd generation (4oz./A at $15.67/oz at $313.33/A); (2) Entrust / GF120 applications (Entrust at 4 oz./A @ $75.00/A + GF120 at 10.0oz./A @ $75.00/A; = $150.00) Total insecticide costs in the west block totaled $960.83/A. Additional application costs for airblast of insecticides ( 12 @ $50.00/A=$600.00). Total insect pest management costs / A = $1560.83/A.

Yield estimates in both blocks varied considerably due to crop load varietial differences between the two blocks. If we use the total yield of the 5 acre block, averaging 1.2 bushels per tree at 520 trees per acre, the block averaged 624 bu/A costing $1.75/bu. for harvest and storage adding an additional $1,092.00/A in costs. Using an average of 85% insect injury, the packout was approximately 60% including culls from disease (black rot, white rot, apple scab, cedar apple rust (11%), undersize fruit, bird damage (2%), hail or stink bug, frost injury (10%), mechanical injury (6%), bruising, malformations, and stem punctures. Total non-categorized premium fruit net yielded 374.4 bu./A (42 lb./bu = 15724.8 lbs). Market value of locally grown organic fruit in the NY City GreenMarkets (Tucker Square, 66th Street and Columbus; Tribeca, Greenwich St. & Chambers St.) averaged $2.50/lb in 2010. Subtracting the harvest and storage costs ($1092/A) and not accounting for transportation, handling and labor, potential returns for this crop would gross $38,220.00/A. Subtracting the insecticide production cost of $2,400.33/A for the east block would gross $35819.67. Subtracting the insecticide production cost of $1560.83/A for the west block would gross $36659.17/A.

Farmer Adoption

Costs / Benefits

Given the dramatic results we observed this season, the equality of the fruit and significant reduction in damage related to insect pests, the value of this program can not be dismissed. However, its difficult to know what the outcome of any given year of farming will produce. The likelihood of adopting management practices, especially costly pest management strategies such as those we implemented in 2010, is probable if successive years produce consistent repeatable results. Given the complexity of this years program, and costs associated with each component, it is likely that implementation will occur in steps with the increase of Surround WP during the pre-bloom stage and mating disruption being adopted next year. If increases in codling moth and apple maggot damage occur next year, implementation of Entrust/GF120 will most likely be adopted to further augment the program. The results from this study, shared at the upcoming workshop, will most likely be used by growers wanting to adopt organic strategies as these are sound recommendations, many of which to be echoed by other presenters at the meeting.

Assessment of Project Approach and Areas of Further Study:

Areas needing additional study

Multiple Years of Sound Research

The 2010 growing was relatively dry, providing higher than normal levels of insecticide residual of all treatments. The science behind these studies requires repeated and replicated trials, during multiple years to discern the real results, given the variables that accompany changes in environmental conditions from year to year. In providing a second year of study to confirm the results we observed in 2010 AND replicating the yield and efficacy results in repeatable trials in 2011, the likely of adoption would be appreciably higher. The use of combining mating disruption with CMGV and efficacy of Surround WP under drought conditions, the efficacy of ‘Curve Ball’ trap and kill without ample rainfall to ‘recharge’ the insecticide on the spheres, may not provide growers with the potential outcome these technologies may have had under more humid or ‘normal’ growing conditions. The data from Modena look almost too good ... but I'm reasonably confident that the results we observed in 2010 are repeatable even under more severe environmental conditions with appropriate adjustments to the program as needed after rain events.

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.