Critical Organic Apple & Pear Challenges Addressed by TOC Research

8/3/2013

The Organic Center (TOC) is launching a project this summer to prevent a potential catastrophe looming over organic apple and pear production in the U.S. It is working to provide the farming community critically needed information on how to prevent a condition from decimating apple and pear orchards. The issue at hand is fire blight. It is a serious problem for organic apples and pears, and as of October 2014, American farmers will no longer be allowed to use one of the key control agents, oxytetracycline, to prevent this disease. Fire blight doesn't just destroy the fruit; it has the potential to kill the entire tree. To make matters worse, it is highly contagious among trees and orchards, so the potential for damage is enormous.

Fire blight could have huge ramifications on the future organic apple and pear market, which is estimated to be over $300 million dollars at retail. Washington state currently has over 15,000 acres dedicated to organic apple and pear orchards.

Recent polls conducted by David Granatstein, sustainable agriculture specialist at Washington State University, show that 70 to 90 percent of all organic apple and pear producers may switch to nonorganic management if an alternative control is not available by the time oxytetracycline use expires.

To address the issue of non-antibiotic alternatives for fire blight control, The Organic Center is funding a project, in collaboration with Granatstein and Harold Ostenson, to research integrative antibiotic-free management strategies. Due to the size, scope and importance of the project, TOC is looking for financial assistance in funding. The project will be published as a report written by farmers for farmers, reviewing methods for controlling fire blight holistically, and covering other pertinent issues. This will provide a critically needed bridge to cover the gap created by the 2014 expiration of oxytetracycline.

"This project will play a vital role in ensuring apple and pear growers are able to continue their organic operations without losing trees to fire blight," said Jessica Shade of TOC. She added that the project has already received great initial support from the following companies: Albert's Organics, Better Life, Bridges Produce, Caito Foods, Castellini Co., Columbia Valley Fruit, Crosset Co., Earl's Organics, Goodness Greeness, Indianapolis Fruit, Oneonta Star Ranch, Organically Grown Co., Pro-Organics, Sonoma Produce, Sun City Produce, Stemilt, W.R. Vernon Produce, and Zirkle Fruit. The project is expected to be completed in time for the 2014 growing season.

For more information:
Jessica Shade
The Organic Center
Tel: +1 202-403-8517
jshade@organic-center.org