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January 2006 Just Piced Newsletter, Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service

January 2006 Just Piced Newsletter, Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service

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In Our First Issue of 2006
 A project of the Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service
Funded by the USDA Risk Management Agency
 Just Picked
Newsletter of theUpper Midwest OrganicTree Fruit Growers Network
 Volume 2, Issue 1, January 2006
Deirdre Birmingham, Network Coordinator
7258 Kelly RdMineral Point, WI 53565608-967-2362deirdreb@mindspring.com www.mosesorganic.org/treefruit/intro.htmNewsletter Layout by Jody Padgham, MOSES
   
--Deirdre Birmingham, Network Coordinator 
2 Jeanette Yaklin and County Line Orchard4 Maury Wills on Trellising vs. Staking6 Great Lakes Fruit and Vegetable Expo Report 8 Michael Phillips Comes to the Midwest 9 Organic Farmers Action Network10 Grafting and Pruning Opportunities11 Research Updates12 Network Web Page14 Calendar
Upper Midwest Organic Tree Fruit Network 
Jeanette Yaklin and County Line Orchard – Lapeer, Michigan
If you got the November issue of the
 Fruit Growers  News 
, you may have read a bit about Jeanette Yaklinand her journey to certifying her orchard as organ-ic. She is still on that journey as she enters her thirdyear of transitioning her eight-acre orchard in east-ern Michigan.But Jeanette did not make a cold-turkey switch. Andshe did not do it alone. As an experienced crop scout,serving most of the orchards in eastern Michiganstarting in 1993, she had learned a lotfrom the orchard growers, MichiganState University, and their efforts toreduce pesticide applications. Shehad gradually cut her conventionalsprays to just two: her first spray of the season at petal-fall and her lastspray of the season, which was forapple maggot. Her client and nowmentor, Jim Koan, had been “nag-ging” her to make that final leap,since she was so close with only twosprays remaining. Jim is starting hislast year of gradually transitioninghis 100-acre orchard to organic, asdescribed in our last issue. (See JustPicked, Vol. 1, Issue 5 on our website). Jeanette started scouting for Jim Koan about ten yearsago, before he started converting to organic. Jim gotinvolved in a codling moth control experiment intro-duced by David Epstein of Michigan State Universityin the mid-1990s. Jim did not have a crop scout butneeded one to participate in the experiment. Jea-nette has worked with him ever since, watching Jimmake the transition Jeanette has maintained her position as a crop scoutrather than a certified crop consultant. She wouldrather give growers information they use to maketheir decisions on spraying rather than tell them whatto spray and when. She takes her job very seriously.For most of her clients, their fruit is their livelihood.They make decisions that affect their crops basedon her information. “No one,” she says, “is sprayingroutinely anymore, such as every ten days becausethey’ve always done it this way.” Sometimes she’darrive and “the grower has the water in the sprayerready to go having heard news of an insect pest ap-proaching.She would scout and when she foundnothing to warrant spraying, if they seemed skepticalshe would take the grower in her car to show them.With a note of satisfaction, she’d notice them dump-ing the water from the sprayer as she left. Jeanette watched Jim struggle to control scab andknew there would be a steep learning curve to goingorganic. The materials allowed in organic systemstend to not have the residual effects that other ma-terials do. Sulfur, for example, is not water-fast andmust be reapplied when rainis significant. Two insectsin particular, would be diffi-cult to manage: plum curcu-lio, which she termed “pub-lic enemy #1” and codlingmoth. Jim tried mating dis-ruption for the first coupleyears to address codlingmoth. But when starting touse this technology, there isa time lag with more dam-age incurred before the im-pact of the mating disruptersis seen. Jeanette figured if she could cut her two remainingconventional sprays, she would save time and money.But she learned that the opposite was true. She isspending more time on sprays since the organicallyapproved materials have less residual effect.I asked her to describe how she controls the othermajor insect pests. She responded honestly notingthe issues involved. “For apple maggots I bait andtrap the perimeter. For plum curculio, I use Surround[a kaolin clay based product] to cover the trees as well as bait and traps. I use mating disruption forcodling moth as well as granulosis virus. My orchardpresents problems because it is long and narrow. Ihave a difficult time with mating disruption becauseof the lack of density. I have large gaps in my trees, which makes it difficult to achieve the proper satu-ration of pheromone. I only do mating disruption inthe middle of my block. Both ends of the block aretreated differently. “She emphasized that one “has to be prepared whentransitioning to organic to see more damage beforethings get figured out.“I just hope the transition
Upper Midwest Organic Tree Fruit Network 
losses are worth it,she reflected. I think her fruitcustomers are already bearing that out, as we willsee later.One thing Jeanette observed while scouting diverseorchards is the difference between orchards thatsprayed herbicides in the tree rows and those thatdid not. The latter had better predator insect popula-tions due to the habitat created by “the weeds.“Poi-soning the ground seemed to result in more broadleaf  weeds, and thus more insect pests such as tarnishedplant bug and sawfly,explained Jeanette. Since Jea-nette finds that broad-leaf plants give more habitatto pest insects than to predator and parasitic insects,she maintains an orchard grass cover under her treesand never uses herbicides. The predators, such aspredatory mites, live in the ground cover and leaf litter. She also keeps the ground covered to controlerosion on her sloping orchard ground. Her orchardgrass is weed-whipped in the spring and fall to avoidmice damage and to improve air circulation aroundthe trees. “The aisles are not mowed until right afterbloom, otherwise tarnished plant bugs will move outof the vegetation and into the trees. You are prettybusy with scab sprays anyway,” she explained. Shemows once a month after that until the grass growthslows as drier weather sets in. She resumes mowingat harvest time.She is looking at adding trees, but is waiting for JimKoan to share results from his experiments with va-rieties that include scab-resistant varieties. Gettingscab sprays done, and, importantly, at the right time,competes with Jeanette’s work as a crop scout, from which she is currently making more money than fromher apples. Furthermore, her crop scouting busi-ness continues to increase as the other scout in thearea gradually retires. The income gap could narrow,however, if Jeanette is able to get a premium for herapples once they are certified.Her clients come from near and far. “They are so hap-py,” said Jeanette, “to find someone growing applesorganically.She explains to customers that her cer-tification will come when she completes her transi-tion phase. While she is 10 miles from Flint, Michigan,customers also drive from cities over an hour awaybecause she grows her apples organically. They en- joy her tree-ripened fruit so much, that they ask her“Why can’t we get apples like this in our grocerystores?” Since they can’t, they keep coming back.While her customers are willing to accept someblemishes, Jeanette is concerned with quality con-trol. While she allows a few customers to pick applesin the orchard, she wants to sort the fruit to be surecustomers are not going home with any insects. She will demonstrate to her customers which blemishesare actually just scars, affecting only the skin, versusinsect damage. She sells about 300 bushels of applesas fresh market apples, selling about 2700 bushelsof fruit to farmers who press for juice. She keepsanother 50 bushels for her family and animals. Shemust move all her fruit in the fall since she does nothave cold storage. Once certified organic, she hopesto sell blemished fruit to Jim Koan who sells pasteur-ized, sweet cider. Jim also ferments some of his juiceto real (hard) cider. Another aspect of her business is offering schooltours. While word-of-mouth among teachers hasspread the popularity of these tours, she is consid-ering starting a little advertising. Primarily kinder-garten, 1st and 2nd graders come to pick a few ap-ples, ride the hay wagon, and see the farm animals. Jeanette has a couple horses, chickens, dogs, all of  which eat apples daily. A friend brings sheep over todemonstrate shearing of their wool. Jeanette prefersolder students because with them she can describesome of the science of raising her fruit organically,something she is passionate about.I asked about her soil management practices, andfound that this is an unresolved concern. She needsto do more research. Jeanette believes that theapples keep longer if the soil and trees have beenproperly fertilized. She has not used inorganic fertil-izer since she started managing the orchard in 1996.She has done soil and leaf analyses from which Bio- Ag of Michigan recommended she apply particulartrace minerals to the soil every year to fill nutrient

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