Columbia Gorge Fruit Growers

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The following is an excerpt from the CGFG's Best Management Practices Project Handbook:

Introduction
Tree fruit growers face numerous and often conflicting pressures when it comes to pest management. Producing high quality pest free fruit is obviously of paramount importance; however growers must also seriously consider the cost of production as well as potential adverse impacts of pest management programs on neighboring land uses and natural resources. In the Hood River Valley, fruit growers are faced with the challenges of avoiding pesticide contamination of surface water and the progressive restrictions on the use of OP insecticides.

The Areawide II and Best Management Practices projects are separate projects, but they have complementary goals of helping growers respond to these challenges. In the Hood River Valley, these projects have worked together towards achieving those goals. This Handbook is a joint effort of the two projects. The Handbook is intended to provide a practical guide to implementing best management practices for pesticide use for tree fruit growers in the Hood River Valley and elsewhere.

Many of the BMPs outlined in this Handbook were included in the set of best spray practices developed in response to detections of organophosphate insecticides exceeding Oregon water quality standards in Neal Creek during the 1999 season. We have expanded the concept of Best Management Practice beyond the suggested best spray practices to include Integrated Pest Management (IPM) practices such as pest and disease development models, pheromone mating disruption, and chemical alternatives to OP insecticides. These practices provide fruit growers with tools they can use to prevent contamination of surface water and reduce the use of OPs.

Section 1 of the Handbook provides an introduction to the CGFG's Best Management Practices and Areawide II projects. Section 2 provides a summary of the pesticide monitoring programs that have been conducted in the Valley, framing one of the challenges that fruit growers face in relation to pesticide use. In Section 3, Best Management Practices are defined and the Best Spray Practices are illustrated. Section 4 provides an illustrated guide to accessing and using insect and disease development models via the internet. Section 5 provides detailed information on chemical alternatives to OP insecticides including pre- and post bloom scenarios for non-OP control programs. Successful implementation of pheromone mating disruption for codling moth control is the focus of Section 6. And Sections 7 and 8 include other pertinent resources and information related to BMPs.

Hood River Grower-Shipper Association's Best Management Practices Project
Hood River Grower-Shipper Association’s Best Management Practices Project is a two-year project designed to facilitate the adoption of best management practices for a tree fruit production throughout the Hood River Valley. The BMP Project grant is funded through a cooperative effort of the American Farmland Trust and the US Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Pesticide Programs, with local funds provided by the Hood River Grower-Shipper Association. The goals of the project include:

  • providing tree fruit growers in the Hood River Valley with essential information about recommended management practices related to pesticide use
  • reducing the amount of organophosphate insecticides used in the Hood River Valley
  • protecting and enhancing the quality of natural resources, especially local waterways

Essentially, the Best Management Practices (BMP) Project provides local growers with a centralized source of information related to pesticide application practices and the impacts of pesticide use on the surrounding ecosystem. Through outreach and education efforts, the BMP Project will enable growers to make well informed decisions regarding the implementation of recommended pesticide management practices. The success of the project will be measured by the increased knowledge of local growers about BMPs, the extent to which local growers implement BMPs over the next two years, and the reduction in organophosphate pesticide use in the Hood River Valley.

Concerns over the impacts of organophosphate pesticides on water quality and human health have prompted scrutiny from regulatory agencies, including the US Environmental Protection Agency and the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality. Water quality monitoring conducted by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality and Oregon State University detected levels of organophosphate pesticides (both Guthion and Lorsban) in waterways in the Hood River Valley. Additionally, because of the negative impacts of OPs on human health and aquatic systems, the United States Environmental Protection Agency is currently reconsidering allowable uses of OPs. Already, the EPA has disallowed some applications of OPs previously available in food production.

While economical and effective alternatives to OPs are currently available on the market, OPs provide an important safety net to growers in critical stages of fruit production. By following recommended pest management practices, including reducing OP use and following best spray guidelines, growers can significantly reduce the impacts of OPs on the surrounding environment. In turn, the regulatory scrutiny of OPs may be diminished and OPs will more likely remain available to tree fruit growers.

The general interest in maintaining and enhancing local water quality, and a desire to keep local growers ahead of the regulatory curve, prompted CGFG to apply for the BMP Project grant. By being proactive and adopting the recommended management practices, growers can potentially:

  • avoid future restrictions and regulations on pest control tools
  • reduce dependence on OP's
  • positively impact the local ecosystem, and
  • enhance the reputation of growers as good environmental stewards
  • CGFG’s BMP Project will provide local growers with the resources needed to move toward widespread implementation of best management practices.

The Areawide II Pest Management Project
The Areawide II Pest Management Project is a research and demonstration project being conducted in Oregon, Washington, and California. The project was initiated in 2001 with funding from the Cooperative State Research Education and Extension Service (CSREES) Initiative for Future Agriculture and Food Systems (IFAFS) and FQPA Risk Avoidance and Mitigation for Major Food Crop Systems (RAMP). The overall project goal is to: build a multi-tactic pheromone-based pest management system for western orchards.

The project reaches across commodity lines to include apple, pear, and walnut. These crops have codling moth in common as a key insect pest. A major focus for each crop is extending the use of pheromone mating disruption for control of codling moth. Studies are being conducted to:

  • evaluate new insecticides as OP replacements for supplemental control in codling moth mating disruption programs
  • evaluate alternative pheromone delivery systems
  • assess the impact of insecticides on natural enemies
  • manage intra- and extra-orchard habitat to enhance biological control
  • evaluate non-pheromone monitoring methods

In addition to the research programs being conducted, education and outreach programs are important components of the overall project

Areawide II Project Implementation in Oregon
In Oregon, the Areawide II project is being carried out in the Medford and Hood River fruit growing districts. Several project components overlap between the two districts. In Hood River, studies are being carried out at the OSU Mid-Columbia Research and Extension Center and in grower cooperator orchards, which also serve as project demonstration sites.

Hood River Demonstration Orchards
Demonstration orchards serve dual purposes: they provide large plot comparisons (approx. 20 acres each) of conventional and alternative control programs, and serve as demonstration orchards for conducting education and outreach activities. The common theme is the use of pheromone mating disruption as the primary codling moth control. The need for supplemental control is determined by extensive monitoring

In the Hood River demonstration blocks, pest management programs integrating mating disruption and selective OP alternatives have proven to be successful at controlling codling moth and minimizing the need for treating against secondary pests such as pear psylla.

Education and Outreach
Several major thrusts of the education and outreach program are carried out in collaboration with Phil VanBuskirk and Rick Hilton at the OSU Southern Oregon Research & Extension Center. These include:

  • introducing the Oregon Fruit Crops Pest Alert System - an Internet system for delivering near real time alerts on pest development
  • producing an orchard pest monitoring video
  • producing a Spanish language pest monitoring training manual
  • coordinating regional and local meetings, workshops, and field days, for growers and other industry members that focus on results from research trials and demonstration blocks to provide information supporting successful adoption of OP alternatives
  • posting periodic summaries of pertinent phenology models on the OSU-MCAREC (Mid-Columbia Agricultural Research and Extension Center) Website - http://oregonstate.edu/dept/mcarec/
  • disseminating information through Extension newsletters and local media - http://extension.oregonstate.edu/hoodriver/

An important aspect of the outreach portion of this project is educating the general public about efforts that fruit growers are making toward reducing their reliance on OPs. This has been done through local media and by distributing tri-fold pamphlets describing grower efforts to implement mating disruption and emphasizing the importance of controlling pests on backyard trees.

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