It takes a Village to Grow An Eco-Apple: A Program for the Targeted and Neighborly Removal of Abandoned Apple Orchards in the Fruit Growing Region of Bayfield County, WI.
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% of 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. Star Ridge farm is located about 1500 ft from Blue Vista farm, a commercial apple and berry farm.
During the summer 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 apple IPM practices to area residents.
Updates on the abandoned orchard removal were presented at the All Network Eco-Apple Project meeting in Madison, WI 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.
In 2008 approximately three acres of abandoned apple trees were removed. These were removed using a combination of 100% and 50% cost sharing dollars from the grant.
The trees that were removed from the Betzold Farm had gone un-sprayed and un-pruned for at least three years and were causing a very serious codling moth problem for the Bayfield Apple Company, and adjacent commercial orchard. Codling moth, apple maggot and spotted tentiform leafminer (STLM) traps were all hung and monitored in the adjacent commercial block of trees at the Bayfield Apple Company. The data collected from the apple maggot and STLM traps did not indicate the presence of significant pest pressure from the block of abandoned trees. The impact this abandoned block was having on codling moth populations at adjoining blocks managed by the Bayfield Apple Company was astonishing. The codling moth count for the trap immediately next to the abandoned block for the year was 696 moths. The highest count for any other trap in Bayfield Apple Company was 103. Next year, the trap count adjacent to the now removed abandoned orchard should be significantly lower.
Currently scheduled for the summer of 2009 an additional seven acres of abandoned trees is under contract for removal at Star Ridge Farm.
Three other commercial growers have expressed interest in having old blocks of orchards removed from their property. Work is underway to have those trees removed.
Pest scouting and data collection in commercial orchards and along abandoned blocks will continue through the 2009 growing season.
Bayfield County UW Extension Agent, Jason Fischbach and his IPM assistant are working with the Bayfield County Highway Department to identify and remove small clusters of trees located along County Highway J. This road meanders through the fruit growing region and has right of ways along six commercial apple orchards.
Additionally, a few high priority small blocks of apple trees owned by seasonal landowners will be targeted for removal this spring.
On June 20, the first of two IPM field days was held at my farm, Blue Vista Farm. About a dozen, mostly out of town visitors, came to the event where discussions were led on the basic practices of IPM. Jason Fischbach of UW Extension, Peter Werts the IPM assistant, Tom Galazen of North Wind Organic farm and myself, led a diverse discussion on apple production topics including: conventional vs. organic pest management, insect and fungal pests of apple, pruning fruit trees, and orchard floor management. While the field day was successful in communicating and interfacing with the public, we felt that we missed our target demographic of local home and landowners in the region, especially those living near existing orchards. Even with advertisements and a press release, the field day only attracted 14 people.
On September 19, the second of two field days was held at Bayfield Apple Company. Due most likely to it being apple season, the field day was very well attended with 49 participants – mostly local residents from the Ashland, Washburn and Bayfield Area. Most importantly, many of the participants were from the Bayfield fruit growing region. The main premise of this field day was the same as our first one, with our goal being to educate the public on the basics of IPM. A majority of the participants all had some apple trees on their property and from the feedback received, the participants indicated that the event was very successful in providing them with simple and sound methods of backyard IPM strategies. The field day focused on the major pests of apples and demonstrated safe and effective ways to monitor populations and control them.
During the summer a presentation was made to the eight members of the Bayfield Town Board by Jason Fischbach of UW Extension and his IPM assistant to discuss the abandoned apple tree removal project and to request support from the Town for removal of abandoned apple trees along Town road right of ways adjacent to commercial orchards.
Updates on the abandoned orchard removal were presented at the All Network Eco-Apple Project meeting in Madison, WI in November of 2008 by Jason Fischbach of UW Extension. In attendance at this meeting were 35 people: growers from across the state of Wisconsin, along with representatives from the Center for Integrated Agriculture Systems (CIAS), Wisconsin Department of Ag Trade and Consumer Protection (WDATCP), and other tree fruit consultants. A similar update was also presented to 89 growers at the Wisconsin Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Conference in the Wisconsin Dells on January 4th and 5th of 2009. The Fruit Growers News, a nationwide industry publication, will be running a story on the program.