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Modifier eXtension Articles,News,Faqs,Events- organic production (anglais)

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Mis à jour : il y a 12 heures 44 min

January 2017

lun, 2017/07/24 - 11:59
New eOrganic Webinars

We're excited to bring you a new season of webinars on organic farming and research! Registration is open for our spring 2017 webinar series, and we hope you can join us for as many as possible! Click on the links to find out more about them and register.

  • February 1, 2017: Management of Spotted Wing Drosophila Using Organic Strategies
    • Members of a multi-state research project will provide a comprehensive update on organic management of spotted wing drosophila. It will cover findings of the research conducted during the first year of this project on organically approved strategies including: 1) behavioral strategies to improve monitoring (using more attractive baits and lures) and management (attract and kill approach); 2) cultural strategies to lower SWD populations in the field (canopy and floor management, and using exclusion netting); and 3) chemical strategies (using organically approved insecticides in combination with adjuvants and phagostimulants. Presenters are Ash Sial, UGA; Mary Rogers, UMN; Christelle Guedot, UWisc; Kelly Hamby, UMD;Rufus Isaacs, MSU; Tracy Leskey, USDA; Vaughn Walton, OSU.
       
  • February 7, 2017: Providing Habitat for Wild Bees on Organic Farms
    • This webinar will look at habitat augmentation techniques useful for both wild bee conservation and the promotion of pollination services, with special attention to native plant selection and installation, experimental ground nest preparation, and cavity-nest construction. Presenters are Elias Bloom and Rachel Olsson, Washington State University; Bridget McNassar, Oxbow Farm.
       
  • February 15, 2017: Integrated Clubroot Management for Brassica Crops
    • In this webinar we will explore the life-cycle of clubroot, environmental factors influence disease incidence and severity, prevention measures to minimize between field and in-field spread, and management strategies to reduce crop damage. Particular attention will be focused on soil pH management using lime. Presenters are Aaron Heinrich and Alex Stone, OSU.
       
  • March 7, 2017: Tomato Varietal Improvement
    • Participants will describe how to develop and select improved vegetable varieties using the breeding component of the Tomato Organic Management and Improvement (TOMI) project as an example. The goal of this project is to develop new tomato varieties that are resistant to the most problematic diseases facing organic tomato growers, and have the good fruit flavor that customers expect from heirloom varieties. Presenters are Julie Dawson, University of Wisconsin; Lori Hoagland and Dan Egel, Purdue; James Myers and Kara Young, Oregon State, Laurie McKenzie, Jared Zystro, Organic Seed Alliance.
       
  • March 30, 2017: Using Biofungicides, Biostimulants and Biofertilizers to Boost Crop Productivity and help Manage Vegetable Diseases
    • In this webinar, participants will describe the different types of products available in the marketplace today, provide an overview of recent studies evaluating their efficacy, and discuss strategies for identifying the most effective products and application practices. Presenters are Giuseppe Colla, Tuscia University, MariaTeresa Cardarelli, Italian Ministry of Agriculture, Dan Egel, Laurie Hoagland, Purdue University.
       
  • April 11, 2017: Use of High Glucosinolate Mustard as an Organic Biofumigant in Vegetable Crops
    • In this webinar, we’ll address the use of mustard cover crops that have been bred specifically to have high glucosinolate concentrations and act as a biofumigant in crops like potatoes, peppers, black beans, and strawberries. Presenters are Heather Darby and Abha Gupta, University of Vermont Extension; and Katie Campbell-Nelson, University of Massachusetts,
Recent Cucurbit Webinars

We recently ran a series of 3 cucurbit webinars from the Eastern Sustainable Organic Cucurbit Project-on viruses, downy mildew, and striped cucumber beetles. We recorded them all, and the first 2 are already in our archive--the third one will be available within the coming week! Find them all in our archive and on the eOrganic YouTube channel:

For additional information about cucumber beetles, read the eOrganic article on Managing Cucumber Beetles in Organic Farming by William Snyder of Washington State University.

Pollination Webinars from the Bee Health Community on eXtension

Meanwhile, our friends at the eXtension Bee Health Community of Practice have been busy organizing a webinar series on pollination. Applicable to both organic and conventional farmers, these webinars will provide an overview of pollination requirements and strategies to ensure the pollination of specialty crops. Farmers and gardeners rely on crop pollinators, including honey bees, alternative managed bees like the blue orchard bee, and wild bees. Pollination experts will discuss how to support these pollinators in almond, blueberry, tree fruit, pumpkin, and watermelon.

Find out more about the series and register at http://articles.extension.org/pages/74051 and read a flyer here

Spotted Wing Drosophila Research Update

Over the past year we've been including updates in this newsletter on an important multi-state research project on Spotted Wing Drosophila. Some of the many team members are presenting a webinar on February 1st, see above, but they have also been posting updates on their research at different locations around the country. This month, read about their experiments on SWD exclusion with netting and tunnels in Minnesota on fall-bearing raspberries, and in Arkansas on blackberries. Be sure to attend the upcoming webinar on SWD to hear more about this project! Find the project website with additional information at http://eorganic.info/node/12848.

In Good Tilth Winter Issue and Organicology

In Good Tilth Winter 2017issue has been published and the theme is Transition.This issue features a few different research projects on the topic, including the Tools for Transition project out of MN and the Organic Hotspots research from Penn State (and OTA) feature article on our partnership w/ OSU, with a section highlighting eOrganic.

Also, Tilth's biennial conference Organicology is coming up Feb. 2-4 in Portland, OR. The event draws about 1000 attendees over 3 days for keynotes, intensives, workshops, a trade show and celebration. Early registration rates end on January 20, so don’t delay signing up. eOrganic will have a table at the conference, so we hope to see you there!

OGRAIN workshop on Jan 21-22

Registration is now open for the 2017 Organic Grain Production and Marketing Seminar at the University of Wisconsin Madison. Two days of expert presentations, engaging panels, productive discussions, and plenty of time to meet other farmers interested in organic grain production in the Upper Midwest. Come get the tools, techniques, and network necessary to get started and succeed in producing and marketing organic grains.

  • Doing the numbers on transition with Paul Dietmann of Badgerland Financial
  • Organic weed management with Gary McDonald, cultivation expert
  • Organic certification with Jackie DeMinter of MOSA
  • Organic grain 101 with Carmen Fernholz, A-Frame Farm and University of MN
  • Beginning farmer panel
  • Organic grain marketing panel
  • Food-grade grain production with Dr. Julie Dawson (UW-Madison) and Gilbert Williams (Lonesome Stone Milling LLC)
  • Organic No-Till production with Dr. Erin Silva and a farmer panel
  • Finding the right rotation for you (workshop led by successful organic grain farmers)
  • And many more....

Register here: http://ograin.bpt.me/

More upcoming organic conferences--this is by no means a complete list!

 

This is an eOrganic article and was reviewed for compliance with National Organic Program regulations by members of the eOrganic community. Always check with your organic certification agency before adopting new practices or using new materials. For more information, refer to eOrganic's articles on organic certification.

eOrganic 21750

May 2017

lun, 2017/07/24 - 11:57
Upcoming Events

The Organic Confluences Summit: Making Research Count, organized by the Organic Center, is just around the corner on May 22-23, 2017. The conference, which will be held in Washington, DC, features speakers including farmers, policy makers, industry members, researchers, certifiers and more as they explore case studies of current and past research and communication pathways. They will also hold participant conversations to identify challenges and recommendations for research needs identification, research project design development, and results dissemination. Registration is still open here.

Market News Organic Reporting Webinar: The USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) invites you to a live, interactive webinar on Organic Reporting within multiple Market News divisions. Join them to learn about how the Specialty Crops, Dairy, Livestock, Poultry & Seed, and Cotton & Tobacco Market News programs provide you with free access to market information about organic products. The webinar  takes place on Thursday, May 18, 2017 at 2PM Eastern Time, and it will cover areas such as:

  • The scope of AMS’s Organic reporting capabilities
  • Our new Organic's landing page
  • The easy to use AMS Market News Portal for timely, accurate information
  • Highlighting the Organic Grain & Feedstuff report
  • How you can put Market News Organic reports to work for your business

Presenters are Kimberly Mercer, Assistant to the Director, Specialty Crops Market News Division; Eric Graf Senior Market News Reporter of the Dairy Program Market News Division; and Russell Avalos, Market News Reporter for the the Livestock, Poultry, and Grain Market News Division. Register here.

Oregon Tilth Webinar Series: Oregon Tilth is running a  webinar series this year in partnership with the NRCS. Upcoming topics in June include the results of an organic transition survey, Bee Better certification, and  innovative cover cropping techniques. Check out the entire series and register for the webinars here.

Comments Sought on the Organic Livestock and Poultry Rule

On January 19, 2017, the USDA published the final rule on animal welfare standards for organic livestock and poultry in the Federal Register. According to a press release, the rule would ensure consistent application of the USDA organic regulations for organic livestock and poultry operations and maintain confidence in organically labeled products. Based on recommendations from the National Organic Standards Board and stakeholder suggestions, the final rule:

  • Establishes minimum indoor and outdoor space requirements for poultry
  • Clarifies how producers and handlers must treat livestock and chickens for their health and welfare
  • Specifies which physical alterations are allowed and prohibited in organic livestock and poultry production.

Implementation of the rule has been delayed until November, 14th 2017, and the USDA recently announced that it is asking for comments on whether to implement the rule on the planned date, suspend the rule indefinitely and possibly change or withdraw it, delay the implementation further, or withdraw it altogether. Comments are being accepted until June 9, 2017 here.

Organic Farming Shows Continued Growth

Last month the USDA announced new data showing that the organic industry continues to grow domestically and globally, with 24,650 certified organic operations in the United States, and 37,032 around the world. The 2016 count of U.S. certified organic farms and businesses reflects a 13 percent increase between the end of 2015 and 2016, continuing the trend of double digit growth in the organic sector. The number of certified operations has increased since the count began in 2002 and this is the highest growth rate since 2008. Find out more here.

Also, to be counted in this year's Census of Agriculture, you can sign up to receive a mailed form until the end of June, 2017 at this link, where you can also fill it out electronically by scrolling down and clicking on the yellow button that says "Make Sure You Are Counted". This census is done every 5 years, and the National Agriculture Statistics service considers farms to be places where $1,000 or more of fruits, vegetables and some animals are raised and sold, or normally would have been sold, during the Census year.

eOrganic Mission

eOrganic is a web community where organic agriculture farmers, researchers, and educators network; exchange objective, research- and experience-based information; learn together; and communicate regionally, nationally, and internationally. If you have expertise in organic agriculture and would like to develop U.S. certified organic agriculture information, join us at http://eorganic.info.

eOrganic Resources

Find all eOrganic articles, videos and webinars at http://extension.org/organic_production

Connect with eOrganic on Facebook and Twitter, and subscribe to our YouTube channel!

Have a question about organic farming? Use the eXtension Ask an Expert service to connect with the eOrganic community!

eOrganic logo

 

 

 

 

This is an eOrganic article and was reviewed for compliance with National Organic Program regulations by members of the eOrganic community. Always check with your organic certification agency before adopting new practices or using new materials. For more information, refer to eOrganic's articles on organic certification.

eOrganic 22710

June 2017

lun, 2017/07/24 - 11:57
New eOrganic Video on Ancient Grains: Emmer, Einkorn and Spelt

Learn about growing and dehulling the "ancient" grains emmer, einkorn and spelt in this new video created by members of the NIFA OREI funded research project Value Added Grains for Local and Regional Food Systems. Learn about planting rates and nutrient requirements, as well as seeding and dehulling equipment. Watch the video here, and check out additional archived webinars about ancient grains on the eOrganic YouTube channel.

New Spotted Wing Drosophila Publications

New publications on the organic management of Spotted Wing Drosophila are available from a multi-state NIFA OREI research project that is researching ways to control this invasive pest. Many of these publications are open-access, so you can read them in full without a journal subscription. Learn about using high tunnels and exclusion netting to reduce SWD in raspberries,  the effect of non-nutritive sugars, the effect of border sprays and between-row tillage, and more here. Find the publications at https://eorganic.info/spottedwingorganic/resources.

New Soil Health, Weed Management and Conservation Tillage Guides

The Organic Farming Research Foundation offers three new and informative guides on soil health, weed management  and conservation tillage in organic farming systems. Topics covered include how to enhance soil organic matter, weed management tools that reduce the need for soil disturbance, and soil-friendly tillage practices. They also include reviews of USDA funded organic research, future research priorities, and scientific literature references. All three guides will download free of charge at this link, and additional guides on cover crops, plant breeding, water management and quality, and nutrient management will be available soon.

Farm Volunteers and Interns Guide

A new guide--published by Farm Commons, a non-profit that provides farmers and the agricultural community with legal education—provides insights and strategies to help farmers reduce liability risks related to interns and volunteers. “Managing the Risks of Interns and Volunteers,” is available for free download on the Farm Commons website at: https://farmcommons.org/resources-search. You will need to create an account first in order to download the guide. The Farm Commons site also has state-specific guides for Pennsylvania, Vermont, and New Hampshire that discuss intern and volunteer issues specific to those states.

Organic Seed Trials and Selection Webinar

The second webinar in this year's Organic Seed Production Webinar Series will take place on June 16th. This webinar will cover the basics of conducting on-farm variety trials including sourcing germplasm, field plot design, trial evaluation, and making sense of the data. Presenters will also cover basics of field selection or roguing to improve performance of open pollinated seed crops. Register once for this free webinar and you can attend any or all of the webinars in the series which take place once a month through October. The series is organized by the Organic Seed Alliance and the Multinational Exchange for Sustainable Agriculture. Register here.

New SARE Toolkit Helps Plan On-Farm Field Days

‘Tis the season for on-farm field days, demonstrations, and other farm events. To help researchers, educators, and farmers alike plan and conduct on-farm events, the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (SARE) has developed a new publication, the Farmer Field Day Toolkit. The Toolkit is an online, comprehensive resource of step-by-step instructions, timelines, and downloadable tools and templates for planning and hosting a successful event. Plus, users will learn the ins and outs of working with the media, creating press releases and PSAs, generating public interest, capturing the event with video and sharing it online. Learn more and/or download a free copy of the Farmer Field Day Toolkit at: http://www.sare.org/Grants/Farmer-Field-Day-Toolkit.

Farm Field Days

The farm field day season is underway, and many land grant universities and organic education and certification organizations offer a variety of opportunities to learn about organic farming in person. Here is a very small sampling of some of the many field days that are happening around the country:

Training Webinar for Organic Certified Handlers

On June 14, 2017 at 1-2PM Eastern Time, the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) National Organic Program (NOP) is holding a one-hour training webinar for organic handlers. The topic is Organic Integrity in the Supply Chain. Organic handlers play a vital role in the global organic control system, which includes strict production standards; accreditation of certifiers; certification of farmers, processors and handlers; and enforcement. AMS has identified violations of organic regulations involving shipments of soybeans and corn entering the U.S. and enforcement actions are underway. We are investigating other evidence related to other shipments of soybeans and corn. To help guard the integrity of organic imports, this training webinar focuses on the role of organic system plans and recordkeeping systems in ensuring organic integrity of imports, and highlights critical control points that will be audited during inspections. Register at: https://cc.readytalk.com/r/wdqfaqcl01c2&eom

eOrganic Mission

eOrganic is a web community where organic agriculture farmers, researchers, and educators network; exchange objective, research- and experience-based information; learn together; and communicate regionally, nationally, and internationally. If you have expertise in organic agriculture and would like to develop U.S. certified organic agriculture information, join us at http://eorganic.info.

eOrganic Resources

Find all eOrganic articles, videos and webinars at http://extension.org/organic_production

Connect with eOrganic on Facebook and Twitter, and subscribe to our YouTube channel!

Have a question about organic farming? Use the eXtension Ask an Expert service to connect with the eOrganic community!

 

eOrganic logo 

This is an eOrganic article and was reviewed for compliance with National Organic Program regulations by members of the eOrganic community. Always check with your organic certification agency before adopting new practices or using new materials. For more information, refer to eOrganic's articles on organic certification.

eOrganic 22815

July 2017

lun, 2017/07/24 - 11:54
New Fire Blight Management Article

This new eOrganic article contains the most up-to-date information on managing Fire Blight organically in the western U.S. Learn how to identify the disease, how it spreads on fruit trees, which cultivars of apple and pear are more or less susceptible, and how to manage the disease with an integrated program. This article was produced by members of a NIFA OREI funded research project entitled Implementation of Non-Antibiotic Programs for Fire Blight Control in Organic Apple and Pear in the Western United States. Read the article here.

New Video on Identifying Syrphid Fly Larvae

A new eOrganic video can help you identify syrphid flies and distinguish the larvae of these important aphid predators from caterpillars. It will also give you some tips on how to make your farm more hospitable to syrphids (also known as hoverflies), each of whom can consume hundreds of aphids. This video was created as part of the NIFA OREI funded project entitled Biodiversity and Natural Pest Suppression (BAN-PestS) led at Washington State University. Watch the video here.

New Webinar Explains Different Types of Corn

On September 27th at 10AM Pacific Time, eOrganic will host a webinar entitled Hybrid, F1, Double Cross, and Open-pollinated Corn: What Does it All Mean? Intended Audience: Anybody with an interest in different types of corn varieties and their relative merits. In the webinar, presenters Margaret Smith of Cornell and Richard Pratt of New Mexico State University will explain what different types of corn varieties are, how uniform or variable each type is, and highlight the relative advantages and disadvantages of the different variety types.This presentation is part of the NIFA OREI funded project Breeding Non-Commodity Corn for Organic Production Systems. Register for the webinar here.

Survey on Post-harvest Quality and Food Safety of Organic Produce

A group of researchers from Purdue and other U.S. universities is conducting a project to study best management practices for enhancing post-harvest quality and safety of organic produce/vegetables. The goal of this study is to identify the needs and issues associated with organic produce/vegetables and their quality and safety. Subsequently, this will help identify the research and extension priorities associated with safety and quality of organic produce. This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, grant project #1007457. This information will not only be useful to you and your business entity, it will also be useful to other organic stakeholders including researchers and policymakers. This study has been approved by Purdue’s Institutional Review Board. The entire survey is designed to take approximately 25 - 30 minutes. Your participation is strictly voluntary and your response to the survey will be anonymous. Responses to the survey will be aggregated to prevent the disclosure of organization or farm specific data. Please visit this link below or scan the QR code to go to the survey. If needed, you may also copy and paste the link in your web browser. https://purdue.qualtrics.com/SE/?SID=SV_01hJsknL95IIgM5

Submit Your Ideas for the Organic Seed Growers Conference Today

The Organic Seed Alliance invites you to help shape the 9th Organic Seed Growers Conference by providing proposals for content. This is your opportunity to share important research and ask timely questions related to organic seed. The conference is the largest organic seed event in the U.S. and provides two days of presentations, panel discussions, and networking events. We welcome your proposals for presentations, workshops, posters, panels, and roundtables. The deadline is today July 24, 2017. The conference will take place from February 14-17, 2018 in Corvallis, Oregon. Find out more information here.

Bee Better Certification Program

The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation has partnered with Oregon Tilth to develop and launch the Bee Better Certified™ program, a new certification program that enables agricultural producers to let consumers know they are farming in ways that benefit bees. Bee Better Certified™ works with farmers and food companies to conserve bees and other pollinators in agricultural lands. Our work advances more resilient pollinator populations and sustainable crop production. The Bee Better Certified seal identifies and celebrates farmers and businesses that adopt farm management practices that support pollinators, and gives consumers confidence that their purchasing decisions benefit pollinators and the farmers working to protect them.To find out more about this program, visit the Bee Better Certified website.

Organic Certification Cost Share Still Open

You can still apply for 2017 Organic Certification Cost Share funds until October 31, 2017 if your organic operation is in the United States and you applied for organic certification from October 1, 2016 and September 30, 2017, you may receive up to 75 percent of certification costs, not to exceed $750 per certification scope.Find out more about this program by contacting the responsible agency in your state which you can find here

NOSB Web Meeting on Hydroponics

The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) will meet via conference on August 14, 2017 from 1:00pm - 3:00pm Eastern to discuss hydroponics in organic food production. The NOSB will not be voting on a recommendation during this web conference. A transcript will be available approximately two weeks after the event. The NOSB is a federal advisory committee established by the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 and administered through the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS). The NOSB recommends whether substances should be allowed or prohibited in organic production, handling, and processing, and advises the Secretary of Agriculture on other aspects of the organic regulations.Register for the web meeting  at: https://cc.readytalk.com/r/3itgag2r7btt&eom

Recent Organic Research Articles

Kissing Kucek, L. et al. 2017. Evaluation of wheat and emmer varieties for artisanal baking, pasta making, and sensory quality. Journal of Cereal Science Volume 74, March 2017, pp. 19–27. Available online at https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jcs.2016.12.010.

Lehnhoff, E.; Z. Miller, Z., P. Miller, S. Johnson, T. Scott, P. Hatfield, F. D. Menalled. Organic Agriculture and the Quest for the Holy Grail in Water-Limited Ecosystems: Managing Weeds and Reducing Tillage Intensity. Agriculture 2017, 7, 33. Available online at: http://www.mdpi.com/2077-0472/7/4/33?utm_source=TrendMD&utm_medium=cpc&u...

Martina, L. S. Symanczik; P, Mäder, G. de Deyn,  and A. Gattinger. 2017. Organic farming enhances soil microbial abundance and activity: A meta-analysis and meta-regression. PLoS ONE, 12 (7), pp. 1-25. Available online at https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0180442

Silva, E.M.; K. Delate. 2017. A Decade of Progress in Organic Cover Crop-Based Reduced Tillage Practices in the Upper Midwestern USA. Agriculture 7, 44. Available online at: http://www.mdpi.com/2077-0472/7/5/44/htm

Organic Mission

eOrganic is a web community where organic agriculture farmers, researchers, and educators network; exchange objective, research- and experience-based information; learn together; and communicate regionally, nationally, and internationally. If you have expertise in organic agriculture and would like to develop U.S. certified organic agriculture information, join us at http://eorganic.info.

eOrganic Resources

Find all eOrganic articles, videos and webinars at http://extension.org/organic_production

Connect with eOrganic on Facebook and Twitter, and subscribe to our YouTube channel!

Have a question about organic farming? Use the eXtension Ask an Expert service to connect with the eOrganic community!

 eOrganic logo 

This is an eOrganic article and was reviewed for compliance with National Organic Program regulations by members of the eOrganic community. Always check with your organic certification agency before adopting new practices or using new materials. For more information, refer to eOrganic's articles on organic certification.

eOrganic 23113

Organic Fire Blight Management in the Western U.S.

ven, 2017/07/21 - 20:20

eOrganic authors:

Tianna DuPont, Washington State University

Ken Johnson, Oregon State University

Rachel Elkins, University of California

Tim Smith, Washington State University

David Granatstein, Washington State University

Overview

Fire blight is an important disease affecting pear and apple. Nationally, annual losses to fire blight and the costs of control are estimated at over $100 million (Norelli et al., 2003). While fire blight rarely kills an entire orchard in the western states, the disease and its control still cause significant economic losses. In the Pacific Northwest and northern California, there have been minor outbreaks annually since 1991 with at least some production districts experiencing major outbreaks every 3 to 4 years. Even minor disease outbreaks can be significant. For example, a 10% incidence of rootstock blight in a 4-year old apple orchard can result in losses up to $3,500 per acre (Norelli et al., 2003).

The fire blight pathogen, Erwinia amylovora, is native to North America. In the western United States, most common infections ordinarily occur on secondary blooms in May or June during the weeks following petal fall. Occasionally, however, the damage is done during primary bloom. Fire blight has always been a serious disease of pear, and the susceptibility of this species to fire blight is one of the reasons that United States pear production is concentrated in semi-arid regions of western states where dry summers lessen the impact of the disease. In apples, the danger of serious economic damage by fire blight has increased due to the adoption of high density orchard systems and widespread cultivation of susceptible scions on highly susceptible rootstocks.

Causal Organism

Fire blight is caused by Erwinia amylovora, a gram-negative, rod-shaped bacterium. It has appendages called flagella that allow it to swim in water. The bacterium grows by splitting its cells, and the rate of division is regulated by temperature. Cell division is minimal below 10°C (50°F), and relatively slow at air temperatures between 10°C and 20°C (50°F to 70°F). Above 20° C, the rate of cell division increases rapidly and is fastest at 27°C (80°F). Above 27°C, cell division slows and above 35°C (95°F), cell density on and in the plant can actually decline (Pusey and Curry, 2004). Colonies of pathogen cells on the host plant experience a wide range of temperatures each day, so the actual rate of colony growth varies from one moment to the next.

Signs and Symptoms Cankers

Areas of branch tissue diseased with fire blight are termed cankers. Generally, older cankers appear brown to black and dry. On older branches, the bark within the canker may be sunken. Cutting away the bark from the edge of an active canker reveals reddish flecking in the cambium and outer xylem adjacent to the canker margin. This flecking represents young infections expanding into the healthy tissues. As the canker expands, the diseased cambium dies, turns brown, and dries out (Teviotdale, 2011).

overwintering fire blight canker in pear

Figure 1. Overwintering fire blight canker in pear. Photo credit: Tianna DuPont, Washington State University Extension.

Flower Clusters

Flowers are frequently the first part of the plant infected by Erwinia amylovora. Generally, symptoms are first visible about two weeks after petal fall. Initially, the floral receptacle, ovary, and peduncles become water-soaked and dull grayish-green in appearance. Later, these tissues shrivel and turn brown to black. Similar symptoms often develop in the base of the blossom cluster and in young fruitlets as the infection spreads internally. During periods of high humidity, small droplets of bacterial ooze form infected tissue. Ooze droplets are initially creamy white, becoming amber- to red-tinted as they age (Johnson, 2000).

The characteristic “strike” symptoms that develop after floral infections may require up to 21 days to become noticeable. During this period of symptom development, the bacteria can move down and up the branch in xylem and phloem parenchyma cells, well ahead of the visible symptoms. 

Blossom symptoms 17 days after infection

Figure 2. Blossom symptoms 17 days after infection. Photo credit: Tianna DuPont, Washington State University Extension.

Shoots

The pathogen moves within the tree from flower infections to susceptible tissues such as nearby shoot tips. Succulent shoot tips may also be infected directly during hail storms or heavy rain. 

Diseased shoots wilt to form a symptom called shepherd's crook. Leaves on diseased shoots often blacken along the midrib and veins before becoming fully necrotic (blackened), and cling firmly to the host after death—a key diagnostic feature. Infections usually first appear on the 2-3 youngest, most tender non-expanded leaves near the shoot apex. These infections frequently progress down the limb, sometimes very quickly. Numerous diseased shoots give a tree a burnt, blighted appearance, hence the disease name.

Shepherds Crook, Ken Johnson OSU

Figure 3. Shepherd's crook symptom on shoot tips. Photo credit: Ken Johnson, Oregon State University.

Orchard with burnt appearance due to fire blight Tim Smith WSU

Figure 4. Orchard with burnt appearance due to severe fire blight. Photo credit: Tim Smith, Washington State University Extension.

Apple Rootstocks

Rootstock infections develop at the graft union as a result of internal movement of the pathogen through the tree from flower infections or, less commonly, from infections through water sprouts or burr knots. Bark of infected rootstocks may show water-soaking, a purplish to black discoloration, cracking, and signs of bacterial ooze. Red-brown to black streaking may be apparent in wood just under the bark. The timing of rootstock symptoms is typically mid- to late-season, but sometimes they develop in the spring of the following season. Symptoms of rootstock blight can be confused with Phytophthora collar rot. ELMA.26 and M.9 rootstock cultivars are highly susceptible to fire blight (Johnson, 2000).

Infection at graft union termed "rootstock blight" Tim Smith WSU extension

Figure 5. Infection at graft union termed rootstock blight. Photo credit: Tim Smith, Washington State University Extension.

Water soaking and bacterial ooze due to fire blight Tianna DuPont WSU Extension

Figure 6. Water-soaking and bacterial ooze as a result of fire blight in rootstock. Photo credit: Tianna DuPont, Washington State University Extension.

Red brown streaking fire blight Tianna Dupont WSU Extension
Figure 7. Red-brown streaking under the bark of diseased rootstock tissue. Photo credit: Tianna DuPont, Washington State University Extension.

The Disease Cycle Initial Source of Pathogen

Erwinia amylovora overwinters in cankers from the previous season. Pathogen cells survive primarily in canker margins where diseased bark tissue meets healthy tissue. In many of these cankers, the pathogen dies out over the winter, but in 20–50% of cankers, active cells of the pathogen survive until the next bloom period (van der Zwet and Beer, 1991). In spring, during periods of high humidity, the pathogen oozes out of the canker margins. A tiny droplet of this ooze (4 microliters) may contain 100 million to one billion cells (Slack et al., 2017)! Insects such as flies are attracted to this ooze as a food source (Ogawa and English, 1991), contributing to its spread.

Pathogen ooze from old cankers Tim Smith WSU Extension

Figure 8. Pathogen ooze from old cankers is attractive to insects, which vector the pathogen from old canker to flowers. Photo credit: Tim Smith, Washington State University Extension.

Dispersal of the Pathogen in Spring

Insects or windblown rain are the primary means by which the pathogen moves from old cankers to flowers. When insects visit oozing cankers and then feed on nectar in nearby flowers, they transfer the fire blight pathogen onto floral surfaces including the stigmas, which are nutrient-rich surfaces located at the top of the styles. In warm weather, pathogen cells reproduce rapidly on stigmas. Once a few blossoms are infested, honeybees, other insects, and rain can move the pathogen to additional flowers (Johnson et al., 1993; Pattemore et al., 2014). This stage of the disease cycle is termed the floral epiphytic phase, where epiphytic means bacteria living and growing on plant surfaces prior to infection.

Figure 9. Pathogen cells (1) multiply on the flower stigma (2) and if rain or dew occur are washed into the floral cup (3).

Infection of Flowers

Fire blight bacteria cells multiply on the stigma during the four to eight days the flower is open. If the weather is warm, the pathogen grows rapidly, forming a colony on the stigma. If the colony grows to greater than 100,000 cells, then the flower has a reasonable chance of being infected. In order for flowers to become infected, rain or dew must wash the pathogen cells from the floral stigma down the style into the floral nectary. The pathogen enters (infects) the flower near the base of the style by swimming through the small openings from which nectar is secreted. The infection begins in the developing fruitlet, and subsequently spreads down the petiole (stem) of the flower and into the cylinder of living cells (xylem and phloem parenchyma cells) located just between the bark and the wood of the tree, killing host tissues as it progresses (Momol et al., 1998).

Insects move the pathogen from flower to flower Tianna Dupont WSU Extension
Figure 10. Pollinating insects including bees move the pathogen from flower to flower. Photo credit: Tianna DuPont, Washington State University Extension.

Shoot Infections

Shoot blight infections generally occur later in the season, often during summer storms. Insects or windblown rain move pathogen cells from oozing cankers on trees within the orchard or from a neighboring orchard. Damage to young growth from hail, wind, or insects creates openings where bacteria can invade the plant (Biggs et al., 2008). Pathogen cells dispersed away from oozing cankers are viable for only a day or two and do not multiply again unless introduced to young tissues wounded by insects, wind, or hail. Occasionally, shoot infections also develop via internal movement of the pathogen through the xylem from a floral infection to the tip of a growing shoot.

Secondary Bloom

Secondary (rat tail) bloom refers to flowers that develop and open after the primary bloom. They are most abundant one to three weeks after full bloom, and are at high risk of developing fire blight. Late blooms are at high risk of infection because warm late-spring air temperatures are more conducive for bacterial growth and infection of flowers, and because the fire blight pressure in the orchard is higher. The intensity of secondary bloom varies from year to year and is difficult to manage horticulturally. Dwarfing rootstocks, in contrast to non-dwarfing rootstocks, tend to promote secondary flowering. Moreover, several widely-grown scion cultivars (e.g., Bartlett pear and Cripps Pink apple) can produce abundant secondary flowers.

Horticultural Risk Factors Tree Age

The younger the tree, the more damage that is likely to occur if it becomes diseased with fire blight. Cankers progress rapidly through young tissues and consequently, young trees. Once a branch is three to five years old, the rate of canker expansion slows.

Rootstock Blight

Young apple trees are also prone to the development of rootstock blight if the rootstock cultivar is highly susceptible to fire blight (e.g., M.9, EMLA 26) (Aldwinckle, 1998). Without causing symptoms, pathogen cells originating in cankers in upper limbs can move internally through the cambium and xylem to the graft union. If these dispersed cells are successful in re-initiating disease development at the graft union, rootstock blight occurs and kills the tree. Rootstock blight is most common up through the fifth leaf, and sometimes as late as the seventh leaf. After that, the frequency of this phase of the disease declines.

If the rootstock is no more susceptible than the scion variety (M.7, seedling), then rootstock blight symptoms are rare. An exception is Bud9 rootstock. In Bud9, fire blight generally does not develop at the graft union. However, Bud9 rootstock is susceptible when inoculated directly. This is a concern due to its prolific root suckering.

All ‘Geneva’ series rootstocks in commercial propagation, including those with dwarfing characters similar to M.9, are resistant to fire blight. Resistance in the rootstock is not transferred to the scion, however, and thus an infected scion cultivar on a Geneva rootstock can still be badly damaged by fire blight. However, damaged scions on resistant rootstock are much more likely to survive and regrow than die from a girdling rootstock infection. Rootstock blight is not a serious concern in pear.

Table 1. Rootstock Susceptibility to Fire Blight 

  Highly susceptible Moderately susceptible Moderately resistant Apple Alnarp Malling 7 EMLA Bemali Malling 9 Budagovsky 9 Budagovsky 490 Malling 26 Vineland 3 Geneva series Malling 27 Geneva 16 Malling 7 Mark Series   Robusta Ottawa   Vineland 1 Poland 2   Vineland 2 Poland 16   Vineland 5 Poland 22   Vineland 6 Vineyard 4   Vineland 7 Pear Provence quince   Pyrus betulaefolia ‘Old Home x Farmingdale’ Pyrus communis ‘Bartlett’   Pyrus calleryana Pyrus communis ‘Winter Nelis’   Pyrus communis ‘Old Home’     Pyrus communis ‘Old Home x Farmingdale’ Cultivar Susceptibility to Infection

Cultivar susceptibility to fire blight has a genetic component, but susceptibility is also linked to the flowering habit of the cultivar. However, there are no commercial cultivars of pear or apple that are immune to infection. Cultivars that bloom relatively early, or for short periods then quit for the season, frequently escape infection. Cultivars that bloom late, straggle out the primary bloom, or produce secondary (rat tail) flowers during late spring are infected more frequently (Ostenson and Granatstein, 2013).

Late "rat tail" blooms after primary blooms have formed fruitlets

Figure 11. Late ‘rat tail’ blooms after primary blooms have formed fruitlets. Photo credit: Tim Smith, Washington State University Extension.

Tree Vigor

Tree vigor is influenced by age, nutritional status, and crop load. For example, a young tree pruned heavily and supplied with lots of nitrogen to encourage vegetative growth is more likely to suffer extensive damage when diseased with fire blight than an older tree that is being managed to produce fruit. The common practice of pushing young trees with nitrogen fertilizer to “fill their space,” coupled with susceptible genetics, raises the risk for severe damage if fire blight occurs. It is important to note that moderating vigor will not prevent infection, but it will reduce damage done to the tree by expanding fire blight cankers.

Background Fire Blight Levels


A serious fire blight outbreak requires a nearby overwintering source of the pathogen, but this source does not have to be large and can be located in a neighboring orchard. For example, a single active, overwintering canker can produce enough pathogen cells to infest a one-acre area during primary bloom, even if the daily temperatures that promote pathogen growth on the flower stigmas are relatively cool (Thomson, 2000). Proximity to an overwintering canker increases the risk that new flowers will be infested with the pathogen and become diseased with fire blight. Incidence of the disease in the prior year is an important factor in assessing the risk of fire blight in the current year. During the summer, fire blight from current-season infections largely drives the risk of shoot infection and infections that occur as a result of storm damage.

Fire Blight Management Sanitation

Sanitation is an important aspect of fire blight management. Remove old cankers before the tree is shaped for structure in order to dispose of diseased prunings outside the orchard, eliminating them as an infection source in spring. Compared to pruning cuts made in summer, cuts in winter can be made closer to the visible canker edge because the pathogen is confined to the cankered area. Make the cut at the next horticulturally sensible site below the canker. Tools do not need to be sterilized when cutting on fully dormant trees. 
Some growers have effectively used blow torches (MAPP gas) to heat sterilize old cankers that were difficult to remove from the tree. When using a torch, the goal is to heat the cambium sufficiently to kill the bacterial cells. This temperature is approximately 140°F; i.e., when the tissue becomes too hot to touch. It is not necessary to completely blacken (char) the canker.

Late (delayed) dormant applications of fixed copper bactericides also provide a partial degree of orchard sanitation. The timing of a delayed dormant treatment is typically 2–4 weeks before bloom. The copper residue on the tree kills viable pathogen cells as they are released from old cankers, which slows the rate of buildup of the pathogen populations in flowers during bloom (Elkins et al., 2015).

During the spring and summer, it is advised to prune out fire blight infections as soon as they are observed, especially in younger trees. The observation of an active canker should also prompt inspections of other trees in the orchard. Pruning cuts to remove cankers in spring and summer should be made at 12–24 inches below the edge of the visible canker, with the longer distances used in younger trees with susceptible genetics. Removing a strike greatly reduces further damage to the tree, especially if the infection is removed at an early stage of development.

Orchard Environment

Heat drives the buildup of the pathogen population on flowers, and moisture triggers the infection event. Frequently, when a period of high temperature without rain occurs, new infections are limited to low areas (where dew is more likely to occur) in the orchard. These areas form dew earlier and for longer duration. As few as two hours of wetting by dew is sufficient to trigger infection if the temperatures preceding the wetting event were favorable for pathogen growth.

Anything that increases the relative humidity in an orchard (irrigation, frost control, dense as opposed to open tree architecture, cover crops, weed growth, wind breaks) increases the risk of a fire blight outbreak. It is particularly important to limit sprinkler irrigation when flowers are open, which has been shown to be an important trigger of blight outbreaks. Several studies have shown that pear and apples trees are not impacted or stressed by reducing the frequency of irrigation during the bloom and post-bloom periods. A little soil drying is actually beneficial, assuming trees are then well-watered during the more stressful summer period. It is unlikely that the trees can be overly stressed during the few days of peak fire blight risk at full bloom to petal fall and warm temperatures. Keep the intervals between irrigation as long as possible, and let the soil surface dry.

Removal of Flowers

Most fire blight outbreaks begin from flower infections. In a new orchard, the chance of infection is greatly reduced by removing blossoms (by hand or lime-sulfur thinning). Hand removal of flowers may take 2-3 hours per acre on first- or second-year trees. This expense needs to be weighed against spraying the orchard (perhaps multiple times) and the costs of labor and tree replacement if an outbreak occurs. Many organic growers successfully use the blossom removal method to prevent fire blight from developing in secondary blooms on their young pears and apples.

Predicting Risk

Fire blight outbreaks occur when open flowers experience summer-like weather. Daily high temperatures of 70–90°F promote rapid pathogen growth on floral stigmas, and flower-to-flower dispersal by insects. When warm days occur consecutively, the danger of infection increases. When temperatures are favorable for pathogen growth, their populations can double every 20–30 minutes. With sufficient numbers of pathogen cells (> 100,000 per flower), infections can occur within minutes. Moisture from rain or dew immediately after a warm period enhances the likelihood of infection.

Weather-based risk models can predict potential fire blight infection risk. Examples include ‘Cougar Blight’ (widely used in Washington and Oregon), ‘Zoller’ (California), and ‘MaryBlyt’ (eastern U.S.). These models track heat unit accumulation above a critical temperature (60–65°F) over periods of several days to make an infection risk determination. Moisture events and the presence of fire blight in or near the orchard are also considered in the assignment of an infection risk category; e.g., low, moderate, high, extreme, and exceptional risk. Many growers and advisers find the weather models most useful for determining spray intervals (tightening or expanding) and planning when to spray, especially when used in conjunction with forecasts of temperature.

After bloom, as the season progresses, air temperatures are nearly always conducive to pathogen growth and infection (Fig. 12), but fewer open flowers are present. During this period, it is important to continue monitoring weather forecasts for potential strong winds, rain, and hail events. Prior to and directly after storms is an important time to protect young trees and be prepared to monitor orchards and prune out new infections after storms occur.

Figure 12: Fire blight populations in flowers tend to be higher near petal fall than early bloom because of the time it takes for pathogen reproduction and dispersal, and because of higher temperatures late in bloom. Pathogen inoculum availability makes rat tail flowers particularly prone to infection. Data in above chart from Elkins et al. (2015).

Integrated Control for Protection of Susceptible Trees

Most pear cultivars and many of the consumer-popular apple cultivars are susceptible to fire blight, and consequently require a spray program to protect the trees in addition to cultural management described above. In general, spray programs for organic orchards are more intensive than contrasting programs for conventional orchards because organic growers are prohibited from using antibiotics to suppress infection. Integrated, non-antibiotic fire blight programs use the disease cycle to time the sequence of materials to target phases of pathogen activity during the season.

Use the Disease Cycle to Inform Choice of Material

A disease cycle depicts the life cycle of a pathogen and contains clues to management. We can use it to guide ways to interrupt the life cycle, and slow or stop the pathogen from proliferating in an orchard. The simplified fire blight disease cycle (Fig. 13) shows that the pathogen overwinters in old cankers. Then insects or wind/rain move the pathogen to the flowers where pathogen cells multiply and spread to the next flower at a rate determined by temperature. Oozing infections in flowers then provide inoculum for secondary infection of late bloom, shoots, and rootstocks. This disease cycle also shows approximate timings of non-antibiotic materials and how they can be integrated and sequenced to achieve effective disease suppression.

 

Figure 13. The fire blight disease cycle showing timing for integrated control. Figure credit: Tianna DuPont.

Choose the Most Effective Materials at Each Timing

Delayed dormant (2–4 weeks before bloom): Application of a fixed-copper bactericide provides a partial degree of orchard sanitation by killing pathogen cells as they are released from overwintering cankers. This reduces the primary inoculum and delays the pathogen's colonization of the flowers. A delayed dormant application of a fixed copper is recommended only if fire blight was present in the previous orchard season.

Early bloom: For apples in semi-arid production regions, lime sulfur is commonly sprayed in early bloom to thin flowers and manage fruit load. Lime sulfur used for thinning is also bactericidal and protects trees during the early bloom period. Biologicals such as Blossom Protect™ are also applied during early bloom. Blossom Protect™ is a living yeast that colonizes both the stigma and the nectary, competing with the fire blight pathogen for nutrients and space. In this competitive environment, the pathogen is less likely to attain a population size sufficient to cause infection. In general, the decision to use a biological material such as Blossom Protect™ is strategic and made independent of weather-based risk determinations. It should be applied after the last lime-sulfur thinning spray (a 1-day interval is sufficient).

Full bloom to petal fall: In the latter half of bloom, Bacillus-based biorationals (e.g. Serenade® Opti) and soluble coppers (e.g., Cueva®, Previsto®) are used to protect the flowers from infection. They are best used during this period because they establish a protective residue on the surface of the nectary. In contrast, during early bloom when stigmas need to be protected, these materials do not penetrate sufficiently into the nutrient-filled cavities of the stigmas to suppress pathogen buildup on this tissue. Disease risk models such as Cougar Blight are most useful during the full bloom to petal fall period to aid decisions on when and how often to spray. Generally, soluble copper materials show higher efficacy than Bacillus-based biorationals, but the soluble coppers pose a greater risk of causing fruit russeting, the severity of which is dependent on cultivar-sensitivity and the presence of moisture during or just after spraying.

The above sequence of non-antibiotic materials (lime sulfur, then yeast, then non-antibiotic chemical) is termed integrated control. While a given material alone may not be sufficient to manage fire blight in the orchard, a combination of materials at the right timings can provide control similar to or better than antibiotics.

IMPORTANT: Before using any pest control product in your organic farming system:

  • Read the label to be sure that the product is labeled for the crop and pest you intend to control, and make sure it is legal to use in the state, county, or other location where it will be applied.
  • Read and understand the safety precautions and application restrictions.
  • Make sure that the brand name product is listed in your Organic System Plan and approved by your USDA-approved certifier. If you are trying to deal with an unanticipated pest problem, get approval from your certifier before using a product that is not listed in your plan—doing otherwise may put your certification at risk.
  • Note that, although OMRI and WSDA lists are good places to identify potentially useful products, all products that you use must be approved by your certifier. For more information on how to determine whether a pest control product can be used on your farm, see the related article, Can I Use This Input On My Organic Farm?

 

Figure 14. Examples of integrated control programs. Blossom Protect™ followed by non-antibiotic chemical materials provided a high level of control.

Why Is It Important to Follow an Integrated Program?

In conventional systems, antibiotic-based fire blight management can rely more heavily on weather-based risk models to determine the need for sprays. In organic programs, where biological materials are important components, spray applications based only on the model warnings will likely be too late to achieve effective control. In order to be competitive, biologicals need to grow their populations on the flowers before fire blight pathogen cells arrive in order to be competitive. This may take two to four days. Additionally, by integrating multiple preventative materials we are able to target the pathogen at each stage of its life cycle and gain overall better control.

How Does an Integrated Program Vary Among Western States?

Lime sulfur for crop load thinning has become common practice in semi-arid regions of central Washington. Its use, however, is less common in other states and is not used in pears. Although growers at higher elevations (Idaho, Utah) do chemically thin flowers and some use lime sulfur, some have been concerned about frost events after bloom begins, and are therefore reluctant to chemically burn off the flowers that open later in bloom. In more humid regions, the degree of burn that results from a lime sulfur application is less predictable (more variable), and thus it has received less adoption in these areas.

The length of the bloom period varies from region to region, with fire blight being more difficult to control when the bloom period is long. In California, for example, because the trees receive fewer chilling hours in winter than trees grown farther north, the bloom tends to be longer with a straggly and untidy ending to the period of open flowers. Long bloom periods are especially prone to infection because the fire blight pathogen can build to very high populations when given this additional time.

Areas with higher humidity, such as the primary pear-growing areas of Oregon, have a higher likelihood of fruit russetting than drier regions of central Washington. Consequently, soluble coppers should be applied when conditions promote drying of the material. Moreover, at least in one case, the yeast material, Blossom Protect™, has also been implicated as a cause of fruit russetting in a high humidity environment. As a general rule, russet risk is higher in smooth skin pears than in apples. And, in higher humidity areas, more reliance needs to be placed on fruit-safe materials. Bloomtime® Biological is a fruit-safe biological that can be substituted for Blossom Protect™ during the early bloom period. It affects pathogen growth on the stigma, but does not interrupt the infection in the nectary. In the latter half of bloom, Bacillus-based biopesticides (i.e. Serenade® Opti) are considered russet safe alternatives to soluble coppers. A drawback of Bacillus-based biopesticides is that the effective residual (days of protection after application) is only 2–4 days compared to 4–6 days for soluble coppers.

Tips For Use of Blossom Protect™
  • Apply to every row. Research has found better colonization of flowers by A. pullulans when it has been spray-applied to the whole tree. Yeasts that colonize pome flowers do not appear to spread flower-to-flower as well as bacteria.
  • Apply early. Applications during early bloom (30–70%) allow sufficient time for the yeast population to grow, which leads to more effective control.
  • Use buffer. Applications with the companion material, Buffer Protect™, have shown significantly better control than with Blossom Protect™ alone.
  • Reapply after lime-sulfur. Lime sulfur applications are both anti-bacterial and anti-yeast and will affect the populations of an applied biological. Reapply after lime sulfur treatment, or wait to use Blossom Protect™ until after lime sulfur.
Example Organic Spray Program

(Johnson and Temple, 2013; Johnson et al., 2014)

  1. Delayed Dormant (just prior to green tip): Fixed copper sanitation if fire blight was in orchard last year (4–6 lb/A).
  2. Early bloom apple (crop load thinning): Lime sulfur during early bloom applied for crop load thinning is a strong anti-microbial. The lime sulfur percentage (2-10%) is based on the specific crop thinning goal. Reapply biological if lime sulfur goes on after the biological.
  3. Early bloom pear and apple: Blossom Protect™: One full application (every row) at maximum label rate, or if blight was in orchard last year, two full applications. In apple, apply Blossom Protect™ immediately after the second lime sulfur thinning spray. In smooth-skinned pears in wetter areas, russet risk from Blossom Protect™ might be unacceptably high. Bloomtime® Biological is an alternative, fruit-safe biological material. Note: biologicals, unlike antibiotics, should be applied preventatively. They need time to build their populations on the flowers. Waiting for the model to predict a high risk of infection is likely too late.
  4. Full bloom to petal fall:Spray treatments during this period can be guided by weather-based infection risk models (i.e. ‘Cougar Blight’ Washington and Oregon, and ‘Zoller’, California). Depending on the cultivar russet risk and the model:
    • Serenade® Opti every 2–4 days (most fruit-safe)
    • Or for improved control, mix Serenade® Opti with Cueva® (2–3 qt/A), or use Cueva® (3–4 qt/A) or Previsto® (3–4 qt/A) every 4–6 days. (The latter option is least fruit-safe for russet). Rates on the higher end of labeled rates have been most successful in field trials.
Consideration of Russet Risk

A drawback of non-antibiotic materials for fire blight control is that slow drying conditions after treatment can increase the risk of fruit russetting, which is a superficial damage to the skin of the developing fruit. This damage can reduce marketable grade of mature fruit. The period of highest russeting sensitivity is during the month following petal fall when fruit size is expanding rapidly (and thus fruit cuticles are very thin). Notably, soluble coppers and the yeast material, Blossom Protect™, have increased russet severity in some situations. Generally, a russet-tolerant apple cultivar grown in an arid environment is less prone to russet injury than a sensitive pear in a wet climate (Johnson, 2016). In most of central Washington, for example, the arid climate greatly reduces the risk of fruit russeting, and consequently Blossom Protect™ has shown a negligible russet risk in this area. Soluble coppers (i.e. Cueva® and Previsto®) carry a somewhat higher russet risk. A key to using these materials during periods of high russet sensitivity is to make spray application under weather conditions that promote rapid drying of the materials on the tree.

Smooth-skinned pears are much easier to russet than apples. Pear cultivars range in sensitivity to russet from Comice and d'Anjou (very sensitive) to Bartlett (moderately sensitive) to Gem (resistant). Sensitive apple varieties include Golden Delicious, Opal, Fuji, and Jonathan. 

Russet Risk Potential

Figure 15. Russet Risk of Possible Fire Blight Materials.

Specific Chemical and Biopesticide Materials

In the last few decades, numerous non-antibiotic products have been developed, registered with the EPA, NOP-approved, and marketed to orchardists for fire blight control (Table 2). The chart below shows materials that have received considerable research evaluation, and generally provided consistent and positive fire blight suppression.

Table 2. Materials Registered, Marketed and Approved for Organic Fire Blight Control 

Biologicals Active Ingredient Product effectiveness BlightBan® A506 freeze-dried Pseudomonas fluorescens A506 poor to fair Bloomtime® Biological freeze-dried Pantoea agglomerans E325 poor to good Blossom Protect™ dried spores of Aureobasidium pullulans ApCF10 and ApCf40 good to very good  Biorationals     Serenade® Opti    Anti-microbial molecules produced by fermentation of: Bacillus subtilis QST 713  fair to very good Others Bacillus spp. fair to good Soluble coppers     Cueva® copper soap copper octanoate, 1.8% metallic Cu, pH 7.0 good to very good Previsto® Copper-ammonium-alginate complex, 2.9% metallic Cu, pH 10.6 very good to excellent Fixed coppers     Several, e.g. Badge® X2 Copper oxychloride 25% and copper hydroxide, 28% metallic copper, pH 7.6 good when used for pre-bloom sanitation

Biologicals are preparations of living microorganisms (gram negative bacteria and yeasts) that produce colonies on the stigmas and nectary surfaces when applied to open flowers. These microorganisms are most appropriate during early bloom to slow the pathogen buildup during the epiphytic phase. Insects continue to move them to flowers that were not open at the time of treatment.

Copper materials vary in the form and amount of metallic copper (the active ingredient). Fixed-copper products have a longer residual time and are generally used for delayed dormant (green tip) and summer shoot blight protection in young, non-bearing orchards. In fixed coppers, most of the copper is insoluble with copper ions released slowly over time. Application of low-pH materials (e.g., Buffer Protect™) to trees treated recently with a fixed copper can cause a large release of copper ions and increase the potential for phytotoxicity (Rosenberger, 2011).

Soluble coppers. Newer copper formulations are designed to reduce copper phytotoxicity and fruit russeting potential by introducing far fewer copper ions to the plant surface and adding safeners that also reduce injury potential. Examples are Cueva® (copper octanoate)—a salt of copper and a fatty acid (copper soap)—and Previsto®—copper ions in a matrix with alginate (polymer from seaweed) designed to reduce risk of injury to developing fruitlets. Both Cueva® and Previsto® have shown little phytotoxicity in semi-arid Washington trials, but have shown some risk of russeting in wetter areas of Oregon and California. Cueva® is compatible in tank-mixes with Bacillus-based biopesticides, while Previsto® is not, due to its high pH.

Biorational is a term applied to Bacillus-based biopesticides, of which Serenade® Opti has the longest track record. Biorationals are considered to be non-russeting, fruit-safe materials. These biopesticides are made by fermenting strains of Bacillus spp. The activity against fire blight bacteria comes mostly from anti-microbial molecules produced by these bacteria during fermentation, in contrast to biologicals such as Bloomtime® Biological or Blossom Protect™, which colonize the flowers. Most of these products have both anti-bacterial and anti-fungal activity.

References and Citations


 

 

This is an eOrganic article and was reviewed for compliance with National Organic Program regulations by members of the eOrganic community. Always check with your organic certification agency before adopting new practices or using new materials. For more information, refer to eOrganic's articles on organic certification.

eOrganic 22646

Hybrid, F1, Double Cross, and Open-pollinated Corn: What Does it All Mean?

ven, 2017/07/21 - 11:38

Join eOrganic on September 27th, 2017 for a webinar about different types of corn: Hybrid, F1, Double Cross, and Open-pollinated Corn: What Does it All Mean? The intended audience is anybody with an interest in different types of corn varieties and their relative merits. In the webinar, corn breeders Margaret Smith of Cornell University and Richard Pratt of New Mexico State University will explain what different types of corn varieties are, how uniform or variable each type is, and highlight the relative advantages and disadvantages of the different variety types. This webinar is part of the NIFA OREI funded research project Breeding Non-Commodity Corn for Organic Production Systems.

The webinar takes place at 10PM Pacific, 11 Mountain, 12 Central, 1 Eastern Time. Advance registration is required.

Register now at https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/7529761675392126977

System Requirements

View detailed system requirements here. Please connect to the webinar 10 minutes in advance, as the webinar program will require you to download software. To test your connection in advance, go here. You can either listen via your computer speakers or call in by phone (toll call). Java needs to be installed and working on your computer to join the webinar. If you are running Mac OSU with Safari, please test your Java at http://java.com/en/download/testjava.jsp prior to joining the webinar, and if it isn't working, try Firefox or Chrome.

This is an eOrganic article and was reviewed for compliance with National Organic Program regulations by members of the eOrganic community. Always check with your organic certification agency before adopting new practices or using new materials. For more information, refer to eOrganic's articles on organic certification.

eOrganic 23193

Video: Identifying Syrphid Fly Larvae: Important Beneficial Insects in Controlling Aphids

jeu, 2017/07/13 - 16:20

eOrganic author:

Carmen Blubaugh, Washington State University

This eOrganic video was created by members of a project of the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (NIFA OREI) entitled Biodiversity and Natural Pest Suppression (BAN-PestS). 

Video Transcript

Syrphid flies, also known as hover flies, are beneficial insects. The adult fly lays its eggs on leaves near aphid colonies. As adults, they are important pollinators feeding on a wide range of flowers. In their larval stage, they prey on aphids. Each larva that hatches can consume hundreds of aphids. Syrphid fly larvae are aggressive aphid predators. They are commonly considered to be the most important aphid predator in vegetable crops.

Identifying Syrphid Flies

There are many species of syrphids. The adult flies are usually yellow and black and thus resemble bees. However, like other flies, they only have one set of wings. As their namesake indicates, they can often be seen hovering above flowers or aphid colonies. The eggs resemble a grain of rice and are often laid singly on leaves.

The larvae are frequently confused with common caterpillar pests that feed on vegetable crops. Being able to distinguish between the caterpillar pest and the beneficial syrphid fly larvae is crucial as you make decisions about pest management on your farm. Luckily, there are a few simple features that will allow you to distinguish between syrphid fly larvae and caterpillars. The first thing to look for is whether or not the insect has legs. Syrphid fly larvae do not have legs and move in an undulating manner. Caterpillars have legs. If you are unsure if an insect has legs, try getting the insect to move. The legs will be apparent on a moving caterpillar.

Syrphid fly larvae have nondescript heads, no eyes, and no chewing mouthparts. Caterpillar pests have distinguishable heads with chewing mouthparts. Impressively, these blind legless syrphid fly larvae manage to consume entire aphid colonies. These are valuable creatures to respect and support on your farm.

Promoting Syrphid Flies on Your Farm

You can make your farm more hospitable for syrphid flies by planting flowers that provide nectar for adult flies, such as sweet alyssum. Studies in apple orchards and collards have shown that planting sweet alyssum greatly increased the population of syrphid flies, leading to reduced aphid infestations (Gontijo, Beers, & Snyder, 2013; Ribeiro & Gontijo, 2017). Research out of California has looked at how to most efficiently intercrop sweet alyssum to attract aphid predators to lettuce fields. Their work indicates that as few as 1 to 2 alyssum transplants per 50 lettuce transplants is sufficient (Brennan, 2015). 

Syrphid flies are an important aphid predator and pollinator to promote on your farm. Knowing a few identifying characteristics—no legs, eyes or chewing mouth parts—can help you distinguish these beneficial insects from caterpillar pests. Being able to identify these insects will assist you in making pest management decisions that support these important predators and pollinators.

Follow this link to find a user-friendly flier that will help you distinguish between specific syrphid species. https://calcorenetwork.sites.ucsc.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/249/2015/10/SYRPHID-FLYER.pdf

References and Citations

This is an eOrganic article and was reviewed for compliance with National Organic Program regulations by members of the eOrganic community. Always check with your organic certification agency before adopting new practices or using new materials. For more information, refer to eOrganic's articles on organic certification.

eOrganic 22763

Video: Scouting Vegetable Crops: An Introduction for Farmers

lun, 2017/06/12 - 18:35

eOrganic author:

Carmen Blubaugh, Washington State University

This eOrganic video on scouting vegetable crops was created by members of a project of the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (NIFA OREI) entitled Biodiversity and Natural Pest Suppression (BAN-PestS). 

Video Transcript Introduction

What was the last crop you lost to a pest? When did you realize you had a problem? Many times we don’t know there is a problem until we are up close and personal with a crop. All too often that is at harvest.

Scouting is the routine monitoring of pest pressure in a crop. A scouting routine can help you identify problems in your field before they get out of control. In this video we will scout for cabbage aphid in brassica crops in the Pacific Northwest. However, the scouting principles and tips can apply to any crop or region.

What is Scouting?

Scouting is a systematic way to assess the health of your crop and threat of pest outbreaks without examining every plant. Scouting relies on sampling a subset of the field to collect data you can use to make informed management decisions. Scouting can reduce your inputs and crop losses, saving you money.

There are various tools used in scouting. The tool you will use depends on the crop and pest. Many pests must be trapped to monitor while others, such as cabbage aphid, can be observed on the crop without trapping. In this video we focus on visual observation, but many of the principles of scouting we cover will apply regardless of the scouting tool used.

To begin a scouting routine, start by researching the pests you are likely to observe and the corresponding beneficial insects. This information will help you identify which scouting tools are appropriate and when to begin scouting. Numerous extension resources are available that describe the community of pests associated with a particular crop in your area.

Scouting 101: Before Entering the Field

When you arrive at the field, commit your attention to scouting. Focus is required to capture signs of pests. First, make observations about the entire field. Look for areas that appear stunted or have a color variation. Notice any unique geographic features, such as a depression. These areas may have higher pest pressure. You will want to visit these areas.

Select a path through the field that will allow you to collect a random yet representative sample. One method is to travel through the field in a "w" pattern, selecting plants to sample randomly along that path. Adjust your path through the field to ensure you visit areas you have identified to be at higher risk for pest infestations. Record your path through the field so that on your next visit you can scout a different route. Each scouting trip, you will select a different random sample. On each scouting trip you may want to visit areas you suspect to have growing pest populations in addition to your random sample.

In the Field

When you reach your first sample, assess the plant overall and then start looking at the individual leaves. Look at both young and old leaves, and don’t forget to search both sides of the leaf. You will want to remove a few leaves for closer observation. Now look at any buds, flowers, or fruit. Depending on the potential pest, you may even use your harvest knife to cut open the stalk or unearth the plant so you can see the roots.

Record your observations and a numeric assessment of the pest. For example, a numeric assessment of cabbage aphid pressure is the average number of aphids per leaf. Select three leaves from different parts of the plant and record the number of aphids and aphid predators per leaf. Repeat for ten plants.

You will follow the same procedure each time you scout, but vary your path through the field and which plants you sample. Standardizing your collection method is necessary to accurately track pest pressure over time.

Calculate the average number of aphids and predators per leaf. Reviewing these averages from visit to visit allows you to determine whether or not the pest pressure is increasing, or if beneficial insects are effectively managing the pest. This information will allow you to determine if and when you need to take action to control the pest, in other words, your action threshold.

Your action threshold is the point at which you’ll experience economic loss if control measures are not pursued. Your action threshold depends on the cost of controlling the pest, the effectiveness of your control measure, the value of your particular crop, and the potential for the pest to cause damage that will impact your ability to sell the crop. These factors vary for different crops. For instance, tolerance for aphids may be higher on kale than broccoli since aphids can get into broccoli heads where they are protected from insecticide applications.

Action thresholds also change over time, as markets fluctuate. Ask your local extension educator for help identifying a recently published action threshold for your region and crop. Keep in mind that action thresholds are usually calculated without considering biological control by beneficial insects, and you may want to adjust your action threshold if you observe high rates of natural pest suppression.

Developing your Scouting Routine

Farming is a demanding occupation. To make sure scouting gets done, it is best to make scouting a habit. For instance, you could dedicate lunchtime Tuesday to scouting a few fields. Keeping a bucket of scouting tools easily accessible can help facilitate regular scouting. Must-have scouting tools include a pencil, paper, clipboard, tally counter, and camera.

Pest emergence and growth are each temperature-dependent, and vary with each crop. Check local extension resources to determine approximately when pests in your crop system emerge, and initiate your scouting routine accordingly.

Scouting is an important practice to do on your farm that will definitely pay off. Check out the Pacific Northwest Insect Management Handbook for up-to-date information on crop specific pests. There, you’ll find examples of action thresholds, local emergence times and other resources to help you prepare for and avoid pest outbreaks on your farm.
 

This is an eOrganic article and was reviewed for compliance with National Organic Program regulations by members of the eOrganic community. Always check with your organic certification agency before adopting new practices or using new materials. For more information, refer to eOrganic's articles on organic certification.

eOrganic 22209

Video: Growing and Dehulling the Ancient Grains Einkorn, Emmer and Spelt

ven, 2017/05/26 - 15:20

This eOrganic video was created by members of a project of the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (NIFA OREI) entitled Value Added Grains for Local and Regional Food Systems. Information was provided by Elizabeth Dyck of the Organic Growers Research and Information Sharing Network (OGRIN), Frank Kutka of the Northern Plains Sustainable Ag Society (NPSAS), and Steve Zwinger of North Dakota State University.

Video Transcript

The ancient hulled wheats spelt, emmer, and einkorn are sought by consumers and chefs alike for their distinct flavor, nutritional properties, and the intrigue of eating a meal that has sustained humans since ancient times.

Einkorn, emmer, and spelt differ from modern wheat in that they largely do not thresh free of their hulls in the combining process. An additional step called dehulling is needed to remove hulls.

Chapter 1: Why Grow These Ancient Hulled Wheats?

Through direct marketing, farmers are able to sell wheat kernels and flours from these hulled wheats at a high price per pound to chefs, bakers, and consumers. Additionally, hulled wheat still in the hull can be marketed as animal feed, while empty hulls can be sold as animal bedding.

The hulled wheats also have characteristics that make them highly compatible with sustainable and organic production.

The hulled wheats have traditionally been grown under lower fertility conditions than modern wheat. In fact, high nitrogen fertility can cause lodging in these crops. Although more research is needed, a good rule of thumb is to plant einkorn and emmer with no more than 50%–75% of the nitrogen required for modern wheat. Winter spelt can be fertilized as winter modern wheat without the additional spring topdressing.

The hulled wheats also show tolerance to environmental stresses. Winter spelt has shown cold tolerance, and some einkorn varieties have salinity tolerance. Emmer tends to be more drought tolerant than modern wheat, and spring emmer more competitive against weeds. Emmer germplasm also contains many genes that are valuable in breeding for disease resistance.

In terms of production, spelt yields in the hull are comparable to or slightly lower than that of modern wheat. Recent research on spring emmer and einkorn suggests that yields can vary by location and management. In North Dakota, research shows that spring emmer and einkorn yields in the hull can be higher than modern spring wheat yields. In contrast, in research trials conducted in New York and Pennsylvania, yield of spring emmer and einkorn in the hull varied from 35%–93% of modern spring wheat.

Chapter 2: How to Grow Hulled Wheats

As with modern wheat, there are spring and winter varieties of spelt, emmer, and einkorn. A good starting point to grow hulled wheats is to use best management practices for modern wheat in your region, including good seedbed preparation, timely planting, and timely harvest to preserve grain quality. These hulled wheats tend to be taller and have higher rates of lodging than modern wheat. In addition to avoiding excessive nitrogen, to reduce lodging use lower planting rates for emmer and einkorn than for modern wheat.

Emmer and einkorn need to be planted in their hulls to get adequate germination. Spelt can be planted in or out of the hull. Research trials have shown a rate of 100 pounds per acre to be suitable for spring emmer and einkorn. Research is needed to determine rates for winter emmer and einkorn, although farmer experience suggests that even lower planting rates, such as 80 pounds per acre or lower, may be used. Spelt planting rate depends on whether it is planted in or out of the hull. For example, in Pennsylvania, farmers plant spelt at about 120 pounds per acre when dehulled, and about 150 pounds per acre when in the hull.

Chapter 3: Special Planting Considerations

Planting einkorn, emmer, and spelt in their hulls has challenges. The hulled seeds can clog seeding equipment, which results in skips in the field. This is due to the hairs and awns on the hulls, along with the larger size of the seed in the hull.

There are various ways to accommodate these seed characteristics in planting. Well-executed combining can remove most of the awns from the seeds. A debearder can be used to remove the hairs and awns and break up doubles before seeding. Seeding equipment may be modified to accommodate the seed characteristics, or the seed can be broadcast.

Certain varieties, such as winter emmer, have very large seeds. These larger seeds may require broadcast seeding or double planting.

Chapter 4: Dehulling Systems

A percent of the harvest of hulled wheats will dehull in the combine or thresher, but an additional dehulling and cleaning process is required to extract maximum yield and to create an edible and marketable product.

The ease of dehulling will vary depending on the species, variety, and growing conditions. For example, spelt tends to be easier to dehull than emmer or einkorn. The spelt variety Maverick is easier to dehull than others, such as Oberkulmer. Well-dried grain and low humidity are required for highest dehulling efficiency.

There are two main types of dehullers, impact and friction. In an impact dehuller, the hulled grain is thrown at high speed against a hard surface or impact ring. As the grain hits the surface, the kernel is separated from the hull. Several commercial impact dehullers are available.

In friction dehullers, the kernel is rubbed loose from the hull using one of several mechanisms. One method is to rub the grain against a rubber surface. Farmers have made very low-cost friction dehullers by replacing one or both of the metal plates in a burr mill with a rubber disk. Another farmer-built dehuller uses sections of combine rasp bars mounted on a drum to dehull grains. Yet another method of friction dehulling is to force the hulled grain through a mesh screen.

In addition to the dehuller an air column, or aspirator, is used to blow off empty hulls. A separator is used to sort dehulled kernels from those still in the hull. A commonly used separator is a gravity table. Both a separator and an aspirator are necessary to achieve a high-quality product. Some dehullers such as the Nigel Tudor model include an aspirator. The Horn friction dehuller includes both an aspirator and a gravity table.

The ancient hulled wheats, spelt, emmer, and einkorn are potentially high-value food crops that could fit well into an organic farming system. They require careful management and an extra processing step called dehulling to ready them for market.

To learn more about growing, processing, and marketing the ancient hulled wheats, visit these sites: http://www.ogrin.org, http://www.npsas.org, and https://www.grownyc.org/grains.

This is an eOrganic article and was reviewed for compliance with National Organic Program regulations by members of the eOrganic community. Always check with your organic certification agency before adopting new practices or using new materials. For more information, refer to eOrganic's articles on organic certification.

eOrganic 22170

Organic Seed Production Webinar Series 2016

mar, 2017/05/16 - 18:33

A six-webinar series on organic seed production provides training for seed growers and seed production interns. This series, offered by Organic Seed Alliance (OSA) and the Multinational Exchange for Sustainable Agriculture (MESA), covers a range of topics, from planting to harvest to the economics of seed production. The series was delivered as part of a seed internship program offered by OSA and MESA with support from the USDA Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program. The recordings are appropriate for farmers, interns, students, and other agricultural professionals. Watch the recordings and find additional resources from these presentations below.

New: View the webinars in Spanish here!  Find out about the MESA 2017 Seed Internship here.

1. June 21st: Introduction to the Organic Seed Webinar Series.
  • Which crops should I grow?
  • Field planning
  • Recordkeeping
  • Speakers: Micaela Colley, Organic Seed Alliance; Organic Seed Grower TBD
  • Slide handout

2. July 19th: Trials and Selection

Conducting on-farm variety trials is a valuable investment of time and resources to ensure you are planting the best crop, variety and stock seed source for production of your seed crop. Field selection or roguing of a seed crop throughout the production cycle can further refine and improve the quality and performance of a variety or population. This webinar will cover the basics of conducting on-farm variety trials including sourcing germplasm, field plot design, trial evaluation, and making sense of the data. Presenters will also cover basics of field selection or roguing to improve performance of open pollinated seed crops.

Slide handout

3. August 16th: Diseases and Pests

Management of disease and pests in seed crops can be even more critical than in food production. Seed crops may encounter disease and pests unique to the plant reproductive phase and avoidance of certain seed borne diseases is critical for seed quality. Seed crops are a long season crop, often growing over twice as long and twice the size of a food crop, requiring additional management practices to reduce pests and diseases. This webinar will cover basic field practices for avoiding diseases and pests in seed production and post harvest. Presenters will also provide guidance on prevention, testing and treatment for seed borne diseases in organic seed production.

Slide handout

4. September 20th: Seed Quality, Harvesting Techniques and Equipment

Deciding when and how to harvest seed can be one of the most tenuous steps that will ultimately impact the yield and quality of your seed crop. This webinar will cover basic principles for determining the optimum timing of harvest and guidance on how to harvest either by hand or with equipment. Presenters will also cover tips and tools for preliminary threshing and drying post harvest and addressing inclement weather during the harvest process.

Slide handout

5. October 18th: Cleaning and Recordkeeping

Cleaning seed can be either gratifying or frustrating depending on your knowledge, equipment, and space for handling seed. This workshop will cover the basics of cleaning wet and dry seed by hand or with small to large-scale equipment. Farmer participants will share their seed cleaning tricks, tools and facilities and engage in trouble shooting questions with participants. Tips and resources for record keeping will help ensure seed lots are in order at the end of the season and you can recall cleaning methods in future years. Speakers: Rowen White, Sierra Seed Coop; Laurie McKenzie, Organic Seed Alliance; Jared Zystro, Organic Seed Alliance.

Slide handout

6. November 15th: Seed Contracting, Economics and Policy

Good business relations and management skills are critical to the success of all seed operations whether selling direct market or wholesale. Seed for wholesale is normally grown under contract with a retail seed company that will then pack and sell seeds to farmers and gardeners. Success in wholesale contracts requires assessing the costs of production and rate of return as well as building a good relationship with the contracting seed company. Join this webinar to hear from seed company representatives and a seed grower about when and how to plan for contract production and how to assess profitability. Presenters will also share perspectives on the details to consider in a contract including terms for pricing, over-production, field roguing, and seed cleaning.

: Melanie Hernandez, High Mowing Organic Seeds; Ira Wallace, Southern Exposure Seed Exchange; Daniel Brisebois, Tourne-Sol Seed Cooperative; Micaela Colley and Steve Peters, Organic Seed Alliance

A series of recorded webinars on the economics of seed production from the 2016 Organic Seed Growers Conference are available on eOrganic. These webinars present advice and tools on assessing the economics of seed production from 3 different seed producing operations. We recommend watching these videos in advance of the Seed Contracting and Economics webinar to provide background on assessing pricing in wholesale contracts.

Additional Resources from the Organic Seed Alliance

 

This is an eOrganic article and was reviewed for compliance with National Organic Program regulations by members of the eOrganic community. Always check with your organic certification agency before adopting new practices or using new materials. For more information, refer to eOrganic's articles on organic certification.

eOrganic 18970

Organic Seed Production Six Webinar Series 2017

ven, 2017/05/12 - 13:29

For the second year in a row, the Organic Seed Alliance (OSA) and the Multinational Exchange for Sustainable Agriculture (MESA) are presenting a series of six webinars on organic seed production. The webinars cover everything from planting to harvest, to the economics of seed production. The series is part of an organic seed internship program organized by OSA and MESA, but the free webinars are open to everyone. Advance registration is required--registering just once will allow you to attend all the webinars. The series will cover the same topics as the 2016 series, but whether or not you attended last year, you are welcome to join and type in questions for the presenters. Starting on May 16th, there will be one webinar on the third Tuesday of each month through October at 2PM Eastern, 1PM Central, 12PM Mountain and 11AM Pacific Time.

Register for the 2017 Organic Seed Production Webinar Series at:
https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/2788257417038326785

If you would prefer to watch the recordings from the 2016 series, they are available along with additional resources in at the following links:

Find out more about the organic seed internship program at https://learn.mesaprogram.org/courses/organic-seed-internship/

Schedule Tue, May 16, 2017: Introduction and Crop Planning
  • Which crops should I grow?
  • Field planning
  • Recordkeeping
Tue, Jun 20, 2017: Trials and Selection

Conducting on-farm variety trials is a valuable investment of time and resources to ensure you are planting the best crop, variety and stock seed source for production of your seed crop. Field selection or roguing of a seed crop throughout the production cycle can further refine and improve the quality and performance of a variety or population. This webinar will cover the basics of conducting on-farm variety trials including sourcing germplasm, field plot design, trial evaluation, and making sense of the data. Presenters will also cover basics of field selection or roguing to improve performance of open pollinated seed crops.

Tue, Jul 18, 2017: Diseases and Pests

Management of disease and pests in seed crops can be even more critical than in food production. Seed crops may encounter disease and pests unique to the plant reproductive phase and avoidance of certain seed borne diseases is critical for seed quality. Seed crops are a long season crop, often growing over twice as long and twice the size of a food crop, requiring additional management practices to reduce pests and diseases. This webinar will cover basic field practices for avoiding diseases and pests in seed production and post harvest. Presenters will also provide guidance on prevention, testing and treatment for seed borne diseases in organic seed production.

Tue, Aug 15, 2017: Seed Quality, Harvesting and Equipment

Deciding when and how to harvest seed can be one of the most tenuous steps that will ultimately impact the yield and quality of your seed crop. This webinar will cover basic principles for determining the optimum timing of harvest and guidance on how to harvest either by hand or with equipment. Presenters will also cover tips and tools for preliminary threshing and drying post harvest and addressing inclement weather during the harvest process.

Tue, Sep 19, 2017: Seed Cleaning and Recordkeeping

Cleaning seed can be either gratifying or frustrating depending on your knowledge, equipment, and space for handling seed. This workshop will cover the basics of cleaning wet and dry seed by hand or with small to large-scale equipment. Farmer participants will share their seed cleaning tricks, tools and facilities and engage in trouble shooting questions with participants. Tips and resources for record keeping will help ensure seed lots are in order at the end of the season and you can recall cleaning methods in future years.

Tue, Oct 17, 2017: Seed Contracting, Economics and Policy

Good business relations and management skills are critical to the success of all seed operations whether selling direct market or wholesale. Seed for wholesale is normally grown under contract with a retail seed company that will then pack and sell seeds to farmers and gardeners. Success in wholesale contracts requires assessing the costs of production and rate of return as well as building a good relationship with the contracting seed company. Join this webinar to hear from seed company representatives and a seed grower about when and how to plan for contract production and how to assess profitability. Presenters will also share perspectives on the details to consider in a contract including terms for pricing, over-production, field roguing, and seed cleaning.

Additional Resources

 

Funding for this program is provided by the USDA Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program.

This is an eOrganic article and was reviewed for compliance with National Organic Program regulations by members of the eOrganic community. Always check with your organic certification agency before adopting new practices or using new materials. For more information, refer to eOrganic's articles on organic certification.

eOrganic 22665

Producción Orgánica de Semillas

lun, 2017/04/24 - 14:13

Este seminario en línea es presentado por la Alianza por las Semillas Orgánicas (OSA) y el Programa para el Intercambio Multinacional por la Agricultura Sostenible (MESA).

Find the English version here.

Parte 1: Por dónde empezar

Presentación traducida al castellano del seminario en línea liderado por la Alianza por las Semillas Orgánicas, sobre la planificación para producir semillas orgánicas. Toca temas de la biología básica de las semillas y elementos técnicos para producir semilla orgánica exitosamente.

Parte 2: Ensayos y Selección

Presentación sobre ensayos y selección. Explica el porque es importante hacer ensayos con semillas, cómo hacerlos y qué tipo de información nos brinda.

Parte 3: Manejo de Plagas y Enfermedades en la producción de Semillas

Esta es la parte 3 de una serie de 6 seminarios en linea sobre producción orgánica de semillas. En el se discuten elementos sobre la prevención y manejo de plagas y enfermedades en la producción de semillas.

 

Parte 4: Calidad de las Semillas, Cosecha y Equipos en la Producción de Semillas Orgánicas

Esta es la parte 4 de una serie de 6 seminarios en línea sobre producción orgánica de semillas. En el se discuten elementos sobre el control de calidad, la cosecha y los equipos utilizados en la producción de semillas.

Parte 5: Limpieza de Semillas

Esta es la parte 5 de una serie de 6 seminarios en línea sobre producción orgánica de semillas. En el se discuten elementos sobre la limpieza y purificación de las semillas.

Parte 6: Aspectos Económicos de la Producción de Semillas y Contratación

Esta es la parte 6 de una serie de 6 seminarios en línea sobre producción orgánica de semillas. En el se discuten los aspectos económicos de la producción de semillas y elementos relacionados con la contratación en esta actividad.

 Recursos adicionales

This is an eOrganic article and was reviewed for compliance with National Organic Program regulations by members of the eOrganic community. Always check with your organic certification agency before adopting new practices or using new materials. For more information, refer to eOrganic's articles on organic certification.

eOrganic 22521

Identification, Diet, and Management of Chickadees and Warblers Common on Organic Farms

lun, 2017/04/24 - 13:33

eOrganic authors:

Olivia M. Smith, School of Biological Sciences, Washington State University

William E. Snyder Ph.D., Department of Entomology, Washington State University

Introduction

A growing body of experimental evidence suggests that birds play important roles as natural enemies in agricultural ecosystems. For example, a study conducted in Europe demonstrated the important services provided by Great Tits (Parus major) in apple orchards. Researchers experimentally added nest boxes to some plots and saw an increase in fruit yield from 4.7 to 7.8 kg per tree. Increased yield was attributed to predation of caterpillars by Great Tits (Mols et al., 2002). A review paper by Bael et al. (2008) found that across 48 studies examined, birds reduced arthropods and plant damage. Here we focus on identification, diet, and management of chickadees and warblers observed on West Coast vegetable farms and discuss their natural pest control services. This is the third article in a series about avian insectivores on farms. 

Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus)

Figure 1. Black-capped Chickadee. Photo credit: Mick Thompson, Black-capped Chickadee, CC Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0

Identification

As its common name implies, this chickadee has a black cap. It also has a black chin, white cheeks, a white breast and belly, buffy flanks, and grayish wings and tail. Chickadees have small bills. The entire length of the Black-capped Chickadee averages about 12.3–14.6 cm, and they weigh on average only 10–14 g (Fig. 1; Foote et al., 2010). The Black-capped Chickadee has complex vocal behaviors with 16 unique types of vocalizations (Smith, 1991). The whistled song is typically two clear tones with a higher-pitched fee note followed by a lower-pitched bee note. The Black-capped Chickadee also has a chick-a-dee call that is the namesake of the genus. Mountain Chickadees are similar in appearance but have an obvious white eyebrow called a supercilium, and are primarily found in higher altitude montane coniferous forests (Fig. 2; McCallum et al., 1999). 

Figure 2. Mountain Chickadee. Note the prominent white eyebrow called the supercilium. Photo credit: Julio Mulero, Mountain Chickadee, CC Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0

Diet

During the breeding season, the Black-capped Chickadee's diet is about 80–90% animal matter (primarily caterpillars), with the rest of the diet comprised of fruit and seeds. During the winter, the diet shifts to about 50% animal matter (primarily insects and spiders) and 50% plant matter (primarily seeds and berries) (Smith, 1991). The Black-capped Chickadee primarily forages on trees by gleaning insects off the bark and leaves, and rarely forages on the ground. Approximately 58% of arthropod prey are taken from bark and 38.2% are taken from leaves (n = 451, Robinson and Holmes, 1982). One study found that chickadees can use leaf damage cues to locate cryptic caterpillars (Heinrich and Collins, 1983). Chickadees are rarely found in vegetable fields, but are commonly found foraging in orchards. Caterpillars comprise the largest portion of the chickadee diet, with other insects, spiders, small snails, small slugs, and centipedes forming smaller components (Bent, 1946; Robinson and Holmes, 1982; Smith, 1991). The Black-capped Chickadee is known to take blueberries and blackberries as available (Foote et al., 2010).

Management

Results from the North American Breeding Bird Survey indicate a 0.59% range-wide increase from 1966-2012, but this species is declining in the Pacific Northwest (Sauer et al., 2014). The Black-capped Chickadee can be found in a wide variety of habitats as long as trees are present. Clearing trees for agriculture can create more forest edge, which is a preferred habitat for chickadees (Foote et al., 2010). Black-capped Chickadees are year-round residents, and providing supplemental food at feeders in the winter can improve survival rates (Brittingham and Temple, 1988). This species is able to excavate its own nest cavities in tree species such as birch and aspen, but can also use cavities excavated by other species (Mennill and Ratcliffe, 2004; Foote et al., 2010). Nest trees average 20.5 cm diameter at breast height (DBH) (Ramsay et al., 1999). Chickadees will nest in artificial nests when natural cavities are rare. Black-capped Chickadees are more likely to use artificial snags than nest boxes. Usage of both increase when cavities are filled with wood shavings (Cooper and Bonter, 2008). Invasive House Sparrows (Passer domesticus) can outcompete chickadees for nest cavities and boxes, so constructing boxes with entrance holes small enough to exclude House Sparrows is important (about 2.86–3.18 cm diameter). Instructions on nest construction and placement can be found here. Additionally, many businesses sell pre-made nest boxes. Instructions on deterrence and removal of House Sparrows can be found here.

Chestnut-backed Chickadee (Poecile rufescens)

Figure 3. Chestnut-backed Chickadee. Photo credit: Jerry McFarland, Chestnut-backed Chickadee, CC Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0

Identification

As its common name implies, the Chestnut-backed Chickadee has a chestnut back and flanks and a brown cap (Fig. 3). The entire length of the male Chestnut-backed Chickadee averages about 10.5–12.5 cm, while the average length of the female is about 10.0–11.4 cm. The average weight is only 8.5–12.6 g (Dahlsten et al. 2002), making it slightly smaller on average than the Black-capped Chickadee. It also lacks the whistled song present in the Black-capped Chickadee, but has a well-defined chick-a-dee call. The Chestnut-backed Chickadee's chick-a-dee call is higher, faster, shorter, and huskier than the Black-capped Chickadee's. The Chestnut-backed Chickadee is notable for its preference for coniferous forest habitat (Smith, 1991). The Chestnut-backed Chickadee tends to forage higher in trees and more often in conifers than the Black-capped Chickadee (Sturnman, 1968). 

Diet

Arthropods comprise approximately 65% of the annual diet, with leafhoppers, treehoppers, scales, spiders, wasps, and caterpillar larvae among preferred food items. Seeds and plant material (fruit pulp and other miscellaneous matter) make up the remaining 35% of the diet (Beal, 1907; Dixon, 1954). Nestlings are fed caterpillars, sawfly larvae, crickets, spiders, and flies (Kleintjes and Dahlsten, 1994). Chestnut-backed Chickadees are canopy foragers, primarily foraging on leaf surfaces—unlike bark-gleaning Black-capped Chickadees—and are often found in oak, fir, or pine (Dixon, 1954; Root, 1964; Sturnman, 1968; Brennan et al., 2000). Chestnut-backed Chickadees are frequently observed foraging in fence rows with conifers and forests adjacent to farms but rarely, if ever, forage among farmed areas. Chestnut-backed Chickadees may be extremely beneficial to the forestry industry through natural pest control services (Kleintjes and Dahlsten, 1994).

Management

Results from the North American Breeding Bird Survey indicate a 1.77% range-wide decline from 1966–2012, with a similar trend of decline (1.66%) in the Pacific Northwest (Sauer et al., 2014). Nesting requirements are similar to the Black-capped Chickadee (see above). Leaving snags and adding nest boxes can encourage nesting (Dahlsten et al., 2002). Visit nestwatch for detailed nest building and placement information.

Common Yellowthroat (Geothlypis tichas)

Figure 4. Male Common Yellowthroat. Photo credit: Dan Pancamo, Common Yellowthroat, CC Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0

Figure 5. Female Common Yellowthroat. Photo Credit: John Benson, Common Yellowthroat, CC Attribution 2.0

Identification

Male and female Common Yellowthroat are sexually dimorphic, meaning they do not look the same. The male has a black mask, a yellow throat, and an olive green back, nape, wings, and tail (Fig. 4). Males have a distinct wich-i-ty wich-i-ty wich-ity song which is variable by region, but always contains the wich component. The female is mostly dull olive-gray with a dull yellow throat (Fig. 5). The female could be easily confused with other small warblers such as the Orange-crowned Warbler or Nashville Warbler. The female is also similar to female American and Lesser Goldfinches, but warbler bills are less stocky and the Common Yellowthroat lacks the distinct wing bars present in the goldfinches. The entire length of the Common Yellowthroat averages about 11–13 cm, and they weigh on average only 9–10 g (Guzy and Ritchinson, 1999).

Diet

The Common Yellowthroat forages on the ground and in low vegetation for insects, making it a frequent and welcome visitor to crop fields and orchards. Adult Common Yellowthroat consume spiders, caterpillars, true bugs, flies, beetles, ants, and other various larvae (Rosenberg, 1982), but a detailed diet analysis study is lacking. Food brought to nestlings include moths, spiders, mayflies, caterpillars, damselflies, and beetles (Shaver, 1918).

Management

Results from the North American Breeding Bird Survey indicate a 0.96% range-wide decline from 1966–2012, but populations in the western portion of the range have shown increases during the same period (Sauer et al., 2014). Common Yellowthroats build open-cup nests on or near the ground, often supported by herbaceous plants, but sometimes by shrubs. Nests are often placed near wetlands, are built primarily of plant material, and average about 8.5 cm in diameter (Stewart, 1953). Common Yellowthroats are present in a variety of habitats, but promoting dense vegetation is recommended for attracting Common Yellowthroat (Guzy et al., 1999). Growers often promote vegetation around drainage ditches, add hedgerows, and restore wetlands—all of which attract Common Yellowthroats. A great resource for habitat recommendations is yardmap.org.

More Resources

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology (birds.cornell.edu) supports a great citizen scientist network with detailed information on nest construction and placement (nestwatch.org), recommendations on attracting species of interest (content.yardmap.org), and range information (ebird.org). The lab offers many opportunities for the public to get involved with scientific data collection through Project Feederwatch (feederwatch.org), eBird (eBird.org), and Nestwatch (nestwatch.org). Basic species information can be found at allaboutbirds.org, and the Merlin Bird ID app can aid in field identification.

This is the third article in a series about insectivorous birds on organic farms.

Swallows and Swifts

Western Bluebird

References
  • Bael, S.A.V., S. M. Philpott, R. Greenberg, P. Bichier, N. A. Barber, K. A. Mooney, and D. S. Gruner. 2008. Birds as predators in tropical agroforestry systems. Ecology 89:928–934. Available online at: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1890/06-1976.1/full (verified 13 April 2017).
  • Beal, E.E.L. 1907. Birds of California in relation to the fruit industry, Part I. Bulletin of the United States National Museum 30.
  • Bent, A. C. 1946. Life histories of North American jays, crows, and titmice, Part I. Bulletin of the United States National Museum 191.
  • Brennan, L. A., M. L. Morrison, and D. L. Dahlsten. 2000. Comparative foraging dynamics of Chestnut-backed and Mountain Chickadees in the Western Sierra Nevada. Northwestern Naturalist 81:129–147. Available online at: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3536824 (verified 6 January 2017).
  • Brittingham, M. C., and S. A. Temple. 1988. Impacts of supplemental feeding on survival rates of Black-capped Chickadees. Ecology 69:581–589. Available online at: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1941007 (verified 5 January 2017).
  • Cooper, C., and D. Bonter. Artificial nest site preferences of Black-capped Chickadees. Journal of Field Ornithology 79:193–197. Available online at: http://www.jstor.org/stable/27715259 (verified 5 January 2017).
  • Dahlsten, D. L., L. A. Brennan, D. A. McCallum, and S. L. Gaunt. 2002. Chestnut-backed Chickadee (Poecile rufescens). In P. Rodewald (ed.) The Birds of North America. Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY. Available online at: https://birdsna.org/Species-Account/bna/species/cbchi (verified 6 January 2017).
  • Dixon, K. L. 1954. Some ecological relations of chickadees and titmice in Central California. The Condor 56: 113–124. Available online at: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1364777 (verified 6 January 2017).
  • Foote, J. R., D. J. Mennill, L. M. Ratcliffe, and S. M. Smith. 2010. Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus). In P. Rodewald (ed.) The Birds of North America. Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY. Available online at: https://birdsna.org/Species-Account/bna/species/bkcchi (verified 5 January 2017).
  • Guzy, M. J., and G. Ritchinson. 1999. Common Yellowthroats (Geothlypis trichas). In P. Rodewald (ed.) The Birds of North America. Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY. Available online at: https://birdsna.org/Species-Account/bna/species/comyel (verified 7 January 2017).
  • Heinrich, B., and S. L. Collins. 1983. Caterpillar leaf damage, and the game of hide-and-seek with birds. Ecology 64:592–602. Available online at: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1939978 (verified 5 January 2017).
  • Kleintjes, P. K., and D. L. Dahlsten. 1994. Foraging behavior and nestling diet of Chestnut-backed Chickadees in Monterey Pine. The Condor 96:647–653. Available online at: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1369468 (verified 6 January 2017).
  • McCallum, D. A., R. Grundel, and D. L. Dahlsten. 1999. Mountain Chickadee (Poecile gambeli). In P. Rodewald (ed.) The Birds of North America. Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY. Available online at: https://birdsna.org/Species-Account/bna/species/mouchi (verified 5 January 2017).
  • Mennill, D. J., and L. M. Ratcliffe. 2004. Nest cavity orientation in Black-capped Chickadees Poecile atricapillus: Do the acoustic properties of cavities influence sound reception in the nest and extra-pair matings? Journal of Avian Biology 35:477–482. Available online at: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3677551 (verified 5 January 2017).
  • Mols, C. M., and M. E. Visser. 2002. Great Tits can reduce caterpillar damage in apple orchards. Journal of Applied Ecology 39:888–899. Available online at: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1046/j.1365-2664.2002.00761.x/full (verified 13 April 2017).
  • Ramsey, S. M., K. Otter, and L. M. Ratcliffe. 1999. Nest-site selection by female Black-capped Chicakdees: Settlement based on conspecific attraction? The Auk 3:604–617. Available online at: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4089322 (verified 5 January 2017).
  • Robinson, S. K., and R. T. Holmes. 1982. Foraging behavior of forest birds: The relationships among search tactics, diet, and habitat structure. Ecology 63:1918–1931. Available online at: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1940130 (verified 5 January 2017).
  • Root, R. B. 1964. Ecological interactions of the Chestnut-backed Chickadee following a range extension. The Condor 66:229–238. Available online at: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1365648 (verified 6 January 2017).
  • Rosenberg, K. V., R. D. Ohmart, and B. W. Anderson. 1982. Community organization of riparian breeding birds: Response to an annual resource peak. The Auk 2:260–274. Available online at: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4085973 (verified 6 January 2017).
  • Sauer, J. R., J. E. Hines, J. E. Fallon, K. L. Pardieck, D. J. Ziolkowski, Jr., and W. A. Link. 2014. The North American Breeding Bird Survey, results and analysis 1966–2013. Version 01.30.2015 USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Laurel, MD. Available online at: https://www.mbr-pwrc.usgs.gov/bbs/ (verified 6 January 2017).
  • Shaver, N. E. 1918. A nest study of the Maryland Yellow-throat. University of Iowa Studies of Natural History 8:1–12.
  • Smith, S. M. 1991. The Black-capped Chickadee: Behavioral ecology and natural history. Cornell University Press, Ithaca, NY.
  • Stewart, R. E. 1953. A life history study of the yellow-throat. The Wilson Bulletin 65:99–115.
  • Sturman, W. A. 1968. The foraging ecology of Parus atricapillus and P. rufescens in the breeding season, with comparisons with other species of Parus. The Condor 70:309–322. Available online at: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1365925 (verified 6 January 2017).

     

This is an eOrganic article and was reviewed for compliance with National Organic Program regulations by members of the eOrganic community. Always check with your organic certification agency before adopting new practices or using new materials. For more information, refer to eOrganic's articles on organic certification.

eOrganic 21871

Western Bluebird (Sialia mexicana) Identification, Diet, and Management for Organic Farmers

lun, 2017/04/24 - 13:16

eOrganic authors:

Olivia M. Smith, School of Biological Sciences, Washington State University

William E. Snyder Ph.D., Department of Entomology, Washington State University

Introduction

A growing body of experimental evidence suggests that birds play important roles as natural enemies in agricultural ecosystems. For example, a study conducted in Europe demonstrated the important services provided by Great Tits (Parus major) in apple orchards. Researchers experimentally added nest boxes to some plots and saw an increase in fruit yield from 4.7 to 7.8 kg per tree. Increased yield was attributed to predation of caterpillars by Great Tits (Mols et al., 2002). A review paper by Bael et al. (2008) found that across 48 studies examined, birds reduced arthropods and plant damage. Here we focus on identification, diet, and management of Western Bluebirds and their role in farming. In addition to the insects this species consumes, we make suggestions for how to manage bluebirds to maximize their benefits while minimizing their risks. This is the second article in a series about avian insectivores on farms. 

Identification

Figure 1. Western Bluebird male holding an insect. Photo credit: Nigel Winnu, Western Bluebird, CC Attribution 2.0

Figure 2. Western Bluebird female. Photo credit: Martin Jambon, Female Western Bluebird, CC Attribution 2.0 Generic

Western Bluebirds (Sialia mexicana) are in the thrush family along with the familiar American Robin (Turdus migratorius) and the possibly less familiar Swainson's Thrush (Catharus ustulatus). Western Bluebird males are strikingly blue on the head, neck, wings, and tail. A rust-orange belt crosses the breast, with a slightly duller blue on the belly than the wings (Fig. 1). The brilliant blue on males is replaced by a duller blue-gray on females and juveniles (Fig. 2). The similar Mountain Bluebird (Sialia currucoides) lacks the rusty breast and flank plumage of the Western Bluebird, and the Mountain Bluebird is more sky blue (Fig. 3). The Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis) is also similar in appearance to the Western Bluebird, but its rust color extends up the throat, and it lacks blue on the breast (Fig. 4). The Eastern Bluebird occurs further east than the Western Bluebird; however, the Western Bluebird has been expanding eastward over the last several decades and displacing Eastern Bluebirds due to greater aggression and high dispersal ability (see Fig. 5 for a range map; Duckworth and Badyaev, 2007). Another similar species is the Lazuli Bunting (Passerina amoena), but the Lazuli Bunting has prominent wing bars, a smaller body size, and a thicker bill (Fig. 6).

Figure 3. Mountain Bluebird. Photo credit: Nigel Winnu, Nigel Winnu, Mountain Bluebird, CC Attribution 2.0

Figure 4. Eastern Bluebird. Photo credit: Jeff Bryant, Eastern Bluebird, CC Attribution 2.0

 

Fig 5. Range map for the Western Bluebird from eBird. [Image provided by eBird (www.ebird.org) and created 10 January 2017]

Fig 6. Lazuli Bunting. Photo credit: Julio Mulero, Lazuli Bunting, CC Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0

Diet

Western Bluebirds are primarily insectivorous ground gleaners (De Graaf et al., 1985) and often forage off of perches. Grasshoppers and beetles may be the most important portion of the nestling bluebird diet (Beal, 1915; Herlugson, 1982). A study conducted in South-central Washington examined the diet of bluebird adults and chicks in the breeding season. The nestling diet was composed of 37.5% Coleoptera (beetles), 29.2% Hymenoptera (wasps, bees), 17.5% Hemiptera (true bugs including aphids and scales), 9.4% Orthoptera (grasshoppers), 2.5% Lepidoptera (caterpillars), and 1.0% Arachnida (spiders). Actual biomass of each taxa in the nestling diet differed slightly than the number of individuals consumed: 58.27% Orthoptera, 22.85% Homoptera, 10.42% Coleoptera, 4.45% Arachnida, 3.80% Lepidoptera, and 0.21% Hymenoptera. The adult diet differed slightly from the nestling diet. The primary constituents of the adult diet were beetles (68.2%) and caterpillars (12.2%). After nestlings hatched, the diet shifted to Coleoptera (37.5%), Hymenoptera (29.2%), and Hemiptera (15.6%) (Herlugson, 1982). Beal (1915) additionally found flies and snails in gut contents. A study using a novel technique called molecular scatology tested the DNA in Western Bluebird feces and found that Aedes mosquitos comprised the highest portion of the diet (present in 49.5% of samples). Ectoparasitic bird blowfly (Protocalliphora sp.) DNA was in 7% of adult and 11% of nestling samples. Herbivorous insects from the Hemiptera and Lepidoptera orders comprised 56% of the prey items in bluebird diets. Predatory insects and parasitoid insects were less than 3% of the diet, suggesting that Western Bluebirds offer substantial ecosystem services and little risk of consuming beneficial predatory arthropods (Jedlicka et al., 2017).

Western Bluebirds have been shown to provide ecosystem services in California organic vineyards. The study experimentally added nest boxes to some vineyard sites and compared avian species richness, Western Bluebird abundance, and beet armyworm (Spodoptera exigua) predation in sites with added nest boxes and without nest boxes. The study found that with addition of nest boxes, the average species richness of avian insectivores increased by over 50%. Further, density of insectivorous birds quadrupled, and Western Bluebird abundance increased tenfold. Omnivorous and granivorous bird species (potential pest species) abundance remained constant, suggesting low risk of addition of nest boxes. Plots with nest box addition had 2.4 times more live beet armyworm removal. Further, immediately below nest boxes, removal was 3.5 times higher than in the control (Jedlicka et al., 2011). This study suggests addition of nest boxes for insectivorous birds may be an important part of Integrated Pest Management.

Habitat during the Growing Season

Habitat usage varies throughout the range, but typical habitats are open coniferous and deciduous forests, forest edges, farms, and orchards. In the Willamette Valley, Western Bluebirds are common in open country with scattered trees and orchards, whereas in the eastern Cascades, they are more common in Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) and open pine forests (Gilligan et al., 1994). In southern California, Western Bluebirds are primarily found in open oak woodlands and coniferous forests, and rarely in areas with large row crop fields (Garrett and Dunn, 1981).

Management

Results from the North American Breeding Bird Survey indicate a 0.58% range-wide increase from 1966-2012 (Sauer et al., 2014); however, in the Northern Pacific Rainforest, there was a -1.25% decline from 1966-2012 (Sauer et al., 2014). Western Bluebirds are a State Monitor Species in Washington State (Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife; 2017) and are listed as Vulnerable in Oregon (Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, 2008). The most important likely contributors are loss of suitable nest sites and foraging areas due to logging, fire suppression, grazing, and urbanization (Herlugson, 1975; Brawn and Balda, 1988). The Western Bluebird is a secondary cavity nester, meaning it requires cavities excavated by other species, and relies on availability of snags, large living trees, or nest boxes (Guinan et al., 2008). Proposed measures include controlled and natural burning, prohibition of snag removal, and preservation of old, partially dead trees (Herlugson, 1975). An estimated 57% of the Washington Western Bluebird population lives on private land (Cassidy and Grue, 2000), suggesting the importance of private landowners providing suitable habitat for this species. Western Bluebirds compete with other native species like the Violet-green Swallow (Tachycineta thalassina) for nest sites, along with invasive House Sparrows (Passer domesticus) and European Starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) (Gillis, 1989). Instructions on deterrence and removal of invasive species can be found here. Bluebird nest-box trails have been implemented to add and monitor nest boxes (Fig. 7). Success is limited by competition with other bird species, but the numbers of nest boxes used by bluebirds has increased markedly since the program began (Guinan et al., 2008). Instructions on nest construction and placement can be found here.

Figure 7. Western Bluebird emerging from a Bluebird Trail nest box. Photo credit: Mick Thompson, Western Bluebird, CC Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0

More Resources

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology (birds.cornell.edu) supports a great citizen scientist network with detailed information on nest construction and placement (nestwatch.org), recommendations on attracting species of interest (content.yardmap.org), and range information (ebird.org). The lab offers many opportunities for the public to get involved with scientific data collection through Project Feederwatch (feederwatch.org), eBird (eBird.org), and Nestwatch (nestwatch.org). Basic species information can be found at allaboutbirds.org, and the Merlin Bird ID app can aid in field identification.

This is the second article in a series about insectivorous birds on organic farms. 

Swallows and Swifts

Chickadees and Warblers

References and Citations
  • Bael, S.A.V., S. M. Philpott, R. Greenberg, P. Bichier, N. A. Barber, K. A. Mooney, and D. S. Gruner. 2008. Birds as predators in tropical agroforestry systems. Ecology 89:928—934. Available online at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1890/06-1976.1 (verified 18 April 2017).
  • Beal, F.E.L. 1915. Food of the robins and bluebirds of the United States. Bulletin of the United States Department of Agriculture 171.
  • Brawn, J. D., and R. P. Balda. 1988. Population biology of cavity nesters in Northern Arizona: Do nest sites limit breeding densities? The Condor 90:61—71. Available online at: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1368434 (verified 10 January 2017).
  • Cassidy, K. M., and C. E. Grue. 2000. The role of private and public lands in conservation of at-risk vertebrates in Washington State. Wildlife Society Bulletin 28:1060—1076. Available online at: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3783867 (verified 10 January 2017).
  • De Graaf, R. M., N. G. Tilghman, and S. H. Anderson. 1985. Foraging guilds of North American birds. Environmental Management 9:493—536. Available online at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/BF01867324 (verified 10 January 2017).
  • Duckwork, R. A., and A. V. Badyaev. 2007. Coupling of dispersal and aggression facilitates the rapid expansion of a passerine bird. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 104:15017—15022. Available online at: http://www.pnas.org/content/104/38/15017 (verified 10 January 2017).
  • Garrett, K., and J. Dunn. 1981. Birds of southern California: Status and distribution. Los Angeles Audubon Society, Los Angeles, CA.
  • Gilligan, J., D. Rogers, M. Smith, and A. Contreras. 1994. Birds of Oregon: Status and distribution. Cinclus Publications, McMinnville, OR.
  • Gillis, E. 1989. Western Bluebirds, Tree Swallows, and Violet-green Swallows west of the Cascade Mountains in Oregon, Washington, and Vancouver Island, British Columbia. Sialia 11:127—130.
  • Guinan, J. A., P. A. Gowaty, and E. K. Eltzroth. 2008. Western Bluebird (Sialia Mexicana). In P. Rodewald (ed.) The Birds of North America. Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY. Available online at: https://birdsna.org/Species-Account/bna/species/wesblu (verified 10 January 2017).
  • Herlugson, C. J. 1975. Status and distribution of the Western Bluebird and the Mountain Bluebird in the state of Washington. Master's Thesis, Washington State University, Pullman, WA.
  • Herlugson, C. J. 1982. Food of adult and nestling Western and Mountain Bluebirds. The Murrelet 63:59—65. Available online at: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3533829 (verified 10 January 2017).
  • Jedlicka, J. A., R. Greenberg, and D. K. Letourneau. 2011. Avian conservation practices strengthen ecosystem services in California vineyards. PLoS ONE 6: e27347. Available online at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0027347 (verified 10 January 2017).
  • Jedlicka, J. A., A. E. Vo, and R.P.P. Almeida. 2017. Molecular scatology and high-throughput sequencing reveal predominately herbivorous insects in the diets of adult and nestling Western Bluebirds (Sialia mexicana) in California vineyards. The Auk 134:116—127. Available online at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1642/AUK-16-103.1 (verified 16 January 2017).
  • Mols, C. M., and M. E. Visser. 2002. Great Tits can reduce caterpillar damage in apple orchards. Journal of Applied Ecology 39:888—899. Available online at: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1046/j.1365-2664.2002.00761.x/full (verified 13 April 2017).
  • Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife [Online]. Wildlife Division/Conservation/Species/Sensitive species. Available at: http://www.dfw.state.or.us/wildlife/diversity/species/sensitive_species.asp (verified 19 April 2017).
  • Sauer, J. R., J. E. Hines, J. E. Fallon, K. L. Pardieck, D. J. Ziolkowski, Jr., and W. A. Link. 2014. The North American breeding bird survey, results and analysis 1966—2013. Version 01.30.2015 USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Laurel, MD. Available online at: https://www.mbr-pwrc.usgs.gov/bbs/ (verified 2 January 2017).
  • Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife [Online]. Washington State species of concern lists. Available at: http://wdfw.wa.gov/conservation/endangered/status/SM/ (verified 10 January 2017).

This is an eOrganic article and was reviewed for compliance with National Organic Program regulations by members of the eOrganic community. Always check with your organic certification agency before adopting new practices or using new materials. For more information, refer to eOrganic's articles on organic certification.

eOrganic 21870

Identification, Diet, and Management of Swallows and Swifts Common on Organic Farms

lun, 2017/04/24 - 13:15

eOrganic authors:

Olivia M. Smith, School of Biological Sciences, Washington State University

William E. Snyder Ph.D., Department of Entomology, Washington State University

Introduction

A growing body of experimental evidence suggests that birds play important roles as natural enemies in agricultural ecosystems. For example, a study conducted in Europe demonstrated the important services provided by Great Tits (Parus major) in apple orchards. Researchers experimentally added nest boxes to some plots and saw an increase in fruit yield from 4.7 to 7.8 kg per tree. Increased yield was attributed to predation of caterpillars by Great Tits (Mols et al., 2002). A review paper by Bael et al. (2008) found that across 48 studies examined, birds reduced arthropods and plant damage. Here we focus on identification, diet, and management of swallows and swifts observed on West Coast organic vegetable farms and discuss their natural pest control services. This is the first article in a series about avian insectivores on farms.  

Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica)

Figure 1. Adult Barn Swallow in flight. Note the long tail streamers which set it apart from other adult swallows. Photo credit: Denise Coyle, Barn Swallow.

Identification

Barn Swallows (Fig. 1) are the most abundant swallow species in the world (Fig. 2; Brown and Brown, 1999) and are present on many farms globally (Kragsten et al., 2009). They are most easily distinguished from other swallows by their long, forked tails which are used for stability during their daring aerial acrobatics (Norberg, 1994). These swallows have blue backs, buffy breasts and bellies, and orange throats and foreheads.

Figure 2. Range map for the Barn Swallow. [Image provided by eBird (www.ebird.org) and created 4 March 2017]

Diet

Barn Swallows primarily eat flying insects; in fact, approximately 99.8% of their diet is animal matter. Thermals and convection currents occasionally lift ground insects to an altitude where swallows can consume them (Brown and Brown, 1995). Barn Swallows may be able to significantly reduce crop pest insect populations. For example, a study conducted in Poland (Orlowski et al., 2014) analyzed Barn Swallow nestling faecal sacs and found that 17.8% of the nestling diet was oilseed rape pests, with an additional 5.3% being other arable crop pests. Flies are a preferred food, including horse flies, crane flies, and robber flies. Stinkbugs, leafhoppers, and plant lice are also common prey. Less commonly eaten are ants, bees, parasitic wasps, predaceous ground beetles, ladybird beetles, weevils, dung beetles, and dragonflies. Caterpillars are rarely consumed due to the Barn Swallow's aerial foraging strategy (Beal, 1918). Open areas such as pastures and plowed fields are preferred for foraging. Barn Swallows can often be observed dutifully foraging for pesky insects behind tractors as fields are plowed and planted.

Management

Barn Swallows are one of the few bird species that have benefited from European settlement (Brown and Brown, 1999), but results from the North American Breeding Bird Survey indicate a 1.1% range-wide decline in North American populations from 1966-2012 (Sauer et al., 2014). Similarly, Barn Swallow populations have declined in Europe. The declines are largely attributed to increased pesticide usage, reduction of livestock grazing, reduction of on-farm ponds, and reduction of semi-natural habitats on farmlands (hedgerows, etc.). These changes have resulted in decreased invertebrate abundance and diversity, reducing food availability for adult and nestling swallows (Evans and Robinson, 2004; Kragsten et al., 2009).

As their name implies, Barn Swallows often nest in groups in rafter beams of barns in open cup mud nests (Fig. 3). Some growers will add narrow wooden ledges to walls or under eaves to provide nesting space. Nest removal at the end of the breeding season can help prevent buildup of ectoparasites (Brown and Brown, 2015). Detailed instructions on building and placing nests for native species can be found at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's website nestwatch.org. However, care must be taken in nest placement because Barn Swallows can be pests when they nest above food processing areas and drop feces. Barn Swallows can vector verocytotoxin-producing Escherichia coli when living in close proximity to livestock operations, although previous studies suggest it is rare (< 2%; Nielsen et al., 2004). Barn Swallows may be exposed after consuming flies that have associated with livestock feces (Hancock et al., 1998). Many growers attempt to discourage nesting using metal spikes in open rafters. 

 

Figure 3. Barn Swallow open cup mud nest. Photo credit: Hans Schwarzkopf, Swallows

Cliff Swallow (Petrochelidon pyrrhonota)

Figure 4. Cliff Swallows nest building. Note the buffy forehead patch that distinguishes them from Barn Swallows. Also note the enclosed top on the finished nest on the left, a trait that distinguishes Cliff Swallow nests from open cup Barn Swallow nests. Photo credit: Ken Thomas, Cliff Swallows

Identification

Cliff Swallows are another widespread swallow species similar in appearance to Barn Swallows but lack long tail streamers (Fig. 4; Fig. 5). Cliff Swallows also have a distinct white forehead patch. Nests appear similar to the Barn Swallow but are enclosed rather than open cup (Fig. 3; Fig. 4). Nests are often placed in the eaves of barns. 

 

Figure 5. Range map for the Cliff Swallow. [Image provided by eBird (www.ebird.org) and created 4 March 2017]

Diet

The Cliff Swallow diet is almost entirely animal matter, with less than 1% comprised of vegetable matter. A study across the United States found that beetles were the most common food item of the Cliff Swallow, with 2.67% of the total diet being beneficial beetles such as the ladybird beetle. Like the Barn Swallow, ground beetles are typically not eaten due to the Cliff Swallow's aerial foraging habits. Other common prey include weevils, ants, bees, parasitic wasps, and flies (Beal, 1918). A diet analysis of nestlings found that grasshoppers were the primary food delivered to nestlings, but food came from 84 insect families. While Barn Swallows primarily catch single large-prey items at low altitudes (< 10 m), Cliff Swallows catch many small swarming insects at high altitudes (50 m) (Brown and Brown, 1996). Cliff Swallows commonly forage in open fields and pastures.

Management

Like the Barn Swallow, Cliff Swallows have largely benefited from European settlement (Brown and Brown, 1995), and results from the North American Breeding Bird Survey indicate a 0.4% range-wide increase from 1966-2012 (Sauer et al., 2014). Nest removal at the end of the breeding season can help prevent buildup of ectoparasites (Brown and Brown, 2015). Removal of nests in the fall can also prevent invasive House Sparrows from outcompeting Cliff Swallows. House Sparrows can roost in the nests throughout the winter and establish broods before Cliff Swallows return from migration. House Sparrow removal has been shown to be effective at increasing numbers of Cliff Swallows (Buss, 1942; Samuel, 1969; Krapu, 1986). Instructions on deterrence and removal of House Sparrows can be found here. Like the Barn Swallow, installing wooden ledges can help with nest stability.

Northern Rough-winged Swallow (Stelgidopteryx serripennis)

Figure 6. Northern Rough-winged Swallow. Note the buffy color on the flanks. Photo credit: Alan Schmierer, Northern Rough-winged Swallow, CC0 1.0 Universal

Identification

This swallow is a wide-ranging and fairly drab species that is often missed or confused with juveniles of other swallows (Fig. 6; Fig. 7). The plumage is brown on the head, nape, back, and tail and buffy white on the throat, breast, and belly. The most distinguishing feature from similar swallows is that the chest and sides have some brownish gray rather than being solid white. The species' common name comes from the rough edge on outer primary feathers (flight feathers) (De Jong, 1996). 

Figure 7. Range map for the Northern Rough-winged Swallow. [Image provided by eBird (www.ebird.org) and created 4 March 2017]

Diet

The Northern Rough-winged Swallow's diet is about 99% insect matter. A gut content analysis found flies comprised approximately 33% of the annual diet; beetles comprised 15% of the annual diet; true bugs such as stink bugs, tree hoppers, and leafhoppers comprised 15% of the annual diet; and ants comprised 12% of the annual diet. Caterpillars, moths, grasshoppers, dragonflies, and spiders comprised less than 5% of the annual diet each (Beal, 1918). The Northern Rough-winged Swallow forages at lower altitudes and above water more often than other swallow species (DeJong, 1996). 

Management

Results from the North American Breeding Bird Survey indicate a 0.4% range-wide decrease from 1966-2012, and declines were primarily in the northern and western parts of its range (Sauer et al., 2014). Northern Rough-winged Swallows occasionally nest in old Cliff Swallow nests but more often nest on bridges or in burrows in cliffs, ledges, and banks dug out by other species (Beal, 1918; DeJong, 1996). Like the Cliff and Barn Swallow, human development has increased usable nesting space. One study found that most Northern Rough-winged Swallow nests (54%, n = 224) were found in human created structures such as railroad cuts, landfills, and gravel pits (Campbell et al., 1997).

Violet-green Swallow (Tachycineta thalassina)

Figure 8. Violet-green Swallow. Note the white color that extends around the eye that distinguishes it from the similar Tree Swallow. Photo credit: Wolfgang Wander, Violet-green-swallow, CC BY-SA 3.0

Identification

As the name implies, Violet-green Swallows have green upper parts with violet upper-tail coverts and wings. They closely resemble the Tree Swallow, but the Violet-green Swallow has a shorter tail, white that extends around the eye, and a white patch on each side of the rump that is highly visible in flight (Fig. 8). The Violet-green Swallow is abundant in montane coniferous forests, and less widespread than the similar looking Tree Swallow (Fig. 9; Fig. 11; Brown et al., 2011).

Figure 9. Range map for the Violet-green Swallow. [Image provided by eBird (www.ebird.org) and created 4 March 2017]

Diet

The Violet-green Swallow almost exclusively eats flying insects. Common food items are leafhoppers, leaf bugs, flies, ants, wasps, bees, and beetles (Bent, 1942). True bugs and beetles are likely consumed primarily when convection currents bring them up into the Violet-green Swallow's foraging range (Brown et al., 2011).

Management

Results from the North American Breeding Bird Survey indicate a 0.4% range-wide decrease from 1966-2012 (Sauer et al., 2014). This species is a tree cavity nester, so conserving and restoring copses of trees will help provide for their nesting requirements. This species will also use nest boxes placed near fields, trees, or cliffs. Nesting locations are often a limiting resource, so providing nest boxes can be important for attracting cavity nesting insectivores. Instructions on building and placing swallow nest boxes can be found here and here. Additionally, many businesses sell pre-made boxes designed for swallows. Nest boxes should be cleaned out every year. Like with Cliff Swallows, introduced House Sparrows can outcompete Violet-green Swallows for nest space or destroy their eggs. Removal and deterrence of sparrows can aid in successful rearing of swallow chicks (Edson, 1943).

Tree Swallow (Tachycineta bicolor)

Figure 10. Tree Swallow. Note the more iridescent bluish hue and the bluish color that extends below the eye. Photo credit: Alan Schmierer, Tree Swallow, CC0 1.0 Universal

Identification

Tree Swallows are a widespread species with iridescent blue on their head, nape, back, tail coverts, and wing coverts (Fig. 10; Fig. 11). The wings fade into dark gray. The throat, breast, and belly are white. The tree swallow lacks the distinct white tail coverts of the Violet-green Swallow, and the white on the face ends below the eye. 

Figure 11. Range map for the Tree Swallow. [Image provided by eBird (www.ebird.org) and created 4 March 2017]

Diet

This species eats more vegetable matter than other swallow species. An early study conducted by Beal (1918) on swallow gut content found vegetable matter was about 20% of contents and was present in the diet throughout the breeding season. Diptera (flies) form the largest portion (about 40%) of the adult Tree Swallow diet, including crane flies, horse flies, and syrphid flies. Beetles comprised 14% of the diet. Dung beetles, weevils, ants, bees, parasitic wasps, dragonflies, and spiders comprised less than 5% of the diet. Tree Swallows also ate pests including aphids, stink bugs, tree hoppers, leafhoppers, plant lice, caterpillars, adult moths, and grasshoppers (Beal, 1918). A study investigating nestling diets found that boluses delivered to chicks were composed of 57% Diptera (flies), 15% Hymenoptera (bees and ants), 12% Hemiptera (true bugs), and 8% Coleoptera (beetles) (Johnson and Lombardo, 2000). Tree Swallows usually forage in open areas where flying insects are abundant and rarely glean insects off leaves (Winkler et al., 2011).

Management

Results from the North American Breeding Bird Survey indicate a 1.2% range-wide decline from 1966-2012 (Sauer et al., 2014). Availability of nests is thought to be a contributing factor (Winkler et al., 2011). Tree Swallows unsurprisingly nest in tree cavities. Like the Violet-green Swallow, they are secondary cavity nesters, meaning they rely on species such as woodpeckers to make the nests they use (Winkler et al., 2011). Tree Swallows will also nest in human-made nests and often nest in bluebird boxes (Fig. 12; Beal, 1918). Visit here or here for detailed instructions on placement and construction. Nests should be cleaned annually. 

Figure 12. Adult Tree Swallow peering out of nest. Photo credit: Ken Thomas, Tree Swallow

Vaux's Swift (Chaetura vauxi)

Figure 13. Vaux's Swift. Note the short tail and thin wings. Photo credit: Richard Crossley, Vaux's Swift from The Crossley ID Guide Eastern Birds, CC BY-SA 3.0

Identification

Though the Vaux's Swift is often confused for a swallow, it is taxonomically quite distinct. Swifts are in the order Caprimulgiformes with the nightjars, whereas swallows are in the order Passeriformes with the perching birds. The swifts were formerly placed in the same order as the hummingbirds, Apodiformes, which means “without feet,” based on similar morphology. As the taxonomic name implies, swifts have short legs with tiny feet, distinguishing them from the swallows. Swifts also have fast flapping speeds and more closely resemble bats in flight than swallows. The Vaux's Swift has drab gray/brown plumage and a very short tail (Fig. 13). Like the woodpeckers, swifts have stiff tails to aid in perching on vertical surfaces (Bull and Collins, 2007). The Vaux's Swift is found in Western North America (Fig. 14). 

Figure 14. Range map for the Vaux's Swift. [Image provided by eBird (www.ebird.org) and created 4 March 2017]

Diet

A study conducted by Bull and Beckwith (1993) analyzed food boluses delivered to nestling Vaux's Swifts and found the primary constituents were hoppers, aphids, whiteflies, flies, mayflies, ants, and parasitic wasps. One pair fed an average of 5,344 arthropods to their nestlings per day, totaling 154,976 arthropods during the nestling growth period! The study also used a technique called radio-telemetry to monitor Vaux's Swift foraging behavior and found Vaux's Swifts foraged primarily in forests and over water.

Management

Results from the North American Breeding Bird Survey indicate a 1.3% range-wide decline from 1966-2012 (Sauer et al., 2014). The Vaux's Swift is strongly associated with old growth forests (Manuwal and Huff, 1987). Vaux's Swifts are rarely observed on farms but have been observed foraging on farms with abundant surrounding forest. Hollow trees provide the majority of nest and roost sites, but chimneys may occasionally be used. Suitable cavities are created when one of several living tree species (Grand Fir [Abies grandis], Western Larch [Larix occidentalis], and Western red cedar [Thuja plicata]) with sufficient diameter at breast height have heart-rot fungi invade the heartwood. However, logging has resulted in a reduction in suitable trees for swifts, along with other notable species like the Spotted Owl (Strix occidentalis). Further, the number of chimneys have declined. Protection of forests and the use of nest boxes may aid in conservation. Bull (2003) describes here a nest box design that can be used.

More Resources

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology (birds.cornell.edu) supports a great citizen scientist network with detailed information on nest box construction and placement (nestwatch.org), recommendations on attracting species of interest (content.yardmap.org), and range information (ebird.org). The lab offers many opportunities for the public to get involved with scientific data collection through Project Feederwatch (feederwatch.org), eBird (eBird.org), and Nestwatch (nestwatch.org). Basic species information can be found at allaboutbirds.org, and the Merlin Bird ID app can aid in field identification.

This is the first article in a series about insectivorous birds on organic farms.

Western Bluebird

Chickadees and Warblers

References and Citations
  • Bael, S. A. V., S. M. Philpott, R. Greenberg, P. Bichier, N. A. Barber, K. A. Mooney, and D. S. Gruner. 2008. Birds as predators in tropical agroforestry systems. Ecology 89: 928-934. Available online at: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1890/06-1976.1/full (verified 13 April 2017).
  • Beal, F.E.L. 1918. Food habits of the swallows, a family of valuable native birds. Bulletin of the United States Department of Agriculture 619: 1-28.
  • Bent, A. C. 1942. Life histories of North American flycatchers, larks, swallows, and their allies. Bulletin of the United States National Museum 179.
  • Brown, C. R., and M. B. Brown. 1986. Ectoparasitism as a cost of coloniality in Cliff Swallows (Hirundo pyrrhonota). Ecology 67:1206-1218. Available online at: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.2307/1938676/full (verified 15 December 2016).
  • Brown, C. R., and M. B. Brown. 1996. Coloniality in the Cliff Swallow: The effect of group size on social behavior. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL, USA.
  • Brown, C. R., and M. B. Brown. 1999. Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica). In P. Rodewald (ed.) The Birds of North America. Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY. Available online at: https://birdsna.org/Species-Account/bna/species/barswa (verified 15 December 2016).
  • Brown, C. R., A. M. Knott, and E. J. Damrose. 2011. Violet-green Swallow (Tachycineta thalassina). In P. Rodewald (ed.) The Birds of North America. Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY. USA. Available online at: https://birdsna.org/Species-Account/bna/species/vigswa (verified 15 December 2016).
  • Brown, C. R., and M. B. Brown. 2015. Ectoparasitism shortens the breeding season in a colonial bird. Royal Society Open Science 2:1-7. Available online at: http://rsos.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/2/2/140508 (verified 15 December 2016).
  • Bull, E. L. 2003. Use of nest boxes by Vaux's Swifts. Journal of Field Ornithology 74:394-400. Available online at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1648/0273-8570-74.4.394 (verified 3 January 2017).
  • Bull, E. L., and R. C. Beckwith. 1993. Diet and foraging behavior of Vaux's Swifts in Northeastern Oregon. The Condor 95:1016-1023. Available online at: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1369437 (verified 3 January 2017).
  • Bull, E. L., and C. T. Collins. 2007. Vaux's Swift (Chaetura vauxi). In P. Rodewald (ed.) The Birds of North America. Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY. Available online at: https://birdsna.org/Species-Account/bna/species/vauswi (verified 3 January 2017).
  • Buss, I. O. 1942. A managed Cliff Swallow colony in southern Wisconsin. Wilson Bulletin 54:153-161. Available online at: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4157143 (verified 15 December 2016).
  • Campbell, R. W., N. K. Dawe, I. McTaggart-Cowan, J. M. Cooper, G. W. Kaiser, M.C.E. McNall, and G.E.J. Smith. 1997. The birds of British Columbia. Vol. 3. Passerines: Flycatchers through vireos. University of British Columbia Press, Vancouver, BC, Canada.
  • De Jong, M. J. 1996. Northern Rough-winged Swallow (Stelgidopteryx srripennis). In P. Rodewald (ed.) The Birds of North America. Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY. Available online at: birdsna.org/Species-Account/bna/species/nrwswa (verified 2 January 2017).
  • Edson, J. M. 1943. A study of the Violet-green Swallow. The Auk 60: 396-403. Available online at: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4079262 (verified 15 December 2016).
  • Evans, K. L., and R. A. Robinson. 2004. Barn Swallows and agriculture. British Birds 97:218-230. Available online at: https://britishbirds.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/article_files/V97/V97_N05/V97_N05_P218_230_A001.pdf (verified 4 March 2017).
  • Hancock, D. D., T. E. Besser, D. H. Rice, E. D. Ebel, D. E. Herriott, and L. V. Carpenter. 1998. Multiple sources of Escherichia coli O157 in feedlots and dairy farms in the Northwestern USA. Preventative Veterinary Medicine 35:11-19. Available online at: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0167587798000506 (Accessed 4 March 2017).
  • Johnson, M. E., and M. P. Lombardo. 2000. Nestling Tree Swallow (Tachycineta bicolor) diets in an upland old field in Western Michigan. The American Midland Naturalist 144:216-219. Available online at: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3083024 (verified 2 January 2017).
  • Kragsten, S., E. Reinstra, and E. Gertenaar. 2009. Breeding Barn Swallows (Hirundo rustica) on organic and conventional arable farms in the Netherlands. Jounral of Ornithology 150:515-518. Available online at: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10336-009-0383-5 (verified 4 March 2017).
  • Krapu, G. L. 1986. Patterns and causes of change in a Cliff Swallow colony during a 17-year period. Prairie Naturalist 18:109-114. Available online at: https://pubs.er.usgs.gov/publication/1001567 (verified 15 December 2016).
  • Manuwal, D. A., and M. H. Huff. 1987. Spring and winter bird populations in a Douglas-Fir forest sere. The Journal of Wildlife Management 51:586-595. Available online at: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3801273 (verified 3 January 2017).
  • Mols, C. M., and M. E. Visser. 2002. Great Tits can reduce caterpillar damage in apple orchards. Journal of Applied Ecology 39: 888—899. Available online at: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1046/j.1365-2664.2002.00761.x/full (verified 13 April 2017).
  • Nielson, E. M., M. N. Skov, J. J. Madsen, J. Lodal, J. B. Jespersen, and D. L. Baggesen. 2004. Vercytotoxin-producing Escherichia coli in wild birds and rodents in close proximity to farms. Applied Environmental Microbiology 70: 6944-6947. Available online at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC525191/ (verified 15 December 2016).
  • Norberg, R. A. 1994. Swallow tail streamer is a mechanical device for self-deflection of tail leading edge, enhancing aerodynamic efficiency and flight maneuverability. Proceedings: Biological Sciences 257: 227-233. Available online at: http://www.jstor.org/stable/50126 (verified 15 December 2016).
  • Orlowski, G., J. Karg, and G. Karg. 2014. Functional invertebrate prey groups reflect dietary responses to phenology and farming activity and pest control services in three sympatric species of aerially foraging insectivorous birds. PloS one 9: e114906. Available online at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0114906 (verified 4 March 2017).
  • Samuel, D. E. 1969. House Sparrow occupancy of Cliff Swallow nests. Wilson Bulletin: 81:103-104. Available online at: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4159816 (verified 15 December 2016).
  • Sauer, J. R., J. E. Hines, J. E. Fallon, K. L. Pardieck, D. J. Ziolkowski, Jr., and W. A. Link. 2014. The North American Breeding Bird Survey, Results and Analysis 1966-2013. Version 01.30.2015 USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Laurel, MD. Available online at: https://www.mbr-pwrc.usgs.gov/bbs/ (verified 2 January 2017).
  • Winkler, D. W., K. K. Hallinger, D. R. Ardia, R. J. Robertson, B. J. Sutchbury, and R. R. Cohen. 2011. Tree Swallow (Tachycineta bicolor). In P. Rodewald (ed.) The Birds of North America. Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY. Available online at: https://birdsna.org/Species-Account/bna/species/treswa (verified 2 January 2017).

     

 

This is an eOrganic article and was reviewed for compliance with National Organic Program regulations by members of the eOrganic community. Always check with your organic certification agency before adopting new practices or using new materials. For more information, refer to eOrganic's articles on organic certification.

eOrganic 21859

Organicology 2015: Selected Live Broadcasts and Recordings from the Conference

lun, 2017/04/10 - 14:40

This broadcast took place on Friday, February 6, 2015, from the Organicology Conference in Portland, Oregon.

Crop Rotations for the Pacific Northwest

This workshop will present and discuss key crop rotations that include high demand/low supply crops that can be grown in the Pacific Northwest. This session will build on the Growing the Market Intensive and the work Oregon Tilth is doing to identify these crops and create a concrete picture of supply gaps and market opportunities. It will include a brief overview of the market analysis findings, and cover key considerations for producers to integrate these crops into current rotations, including acreage needs, variety selection, planting schedules, equipment, etc. The buyer will discuss how farmers can work with wholesalers to plan production and the producer will discuss the challenges and benefits of integrating new crops and her experiences working with buyers.

Speakers: James Henderson, Farm Liaison, Hummingbird Wholesale; Michael McMillan, Sourcing Manager, Organically Grown Company; Nick Andrews, Senior Instructor, OSU Center for Small Farms & Community Food Systems; Pete Postlewait, Co-Owner, Nature Fresh Farms

Soil Health in Organic Farming Systems

This discussion features experts from Washington State University and Rodale Institute who will present new research focused on improving soil health in organic systems. Participants will learn about soil health principles and practices for building healthy soils such as no-till and minimized tillage, cover crops, and crop rotations. This workshop will help organic and transitioning farmers identify soil health issues and improve soil health management on their farms. The workshop will also provide an overview of common soil health challenges for organic farmers and discuss the latest information on the topic from the National Organic Program and National Organic Standards Board. The session will cover information on federal conservation programs that provides financial and technical assistance for conservation projects.

Speakers: Mark “Coach” Smallwood, Executive Director, Rodale Institute; Doug Collins, Small Farms Educator & Soil Scientist, Center for Sustaining Ag & Natural Resources, WSU; Ben Bowell, Organic Education Specialist, Oregon Tilth & NRCS 

Seed Intensive Workshop

View selected recordings from this workshop here or on this YouTube playist:

  • Considerations in Organic Seed Production: Jared Zystro, Organic Seed Alliance
  • The Yearly Seed Production Cycle: Rowen White, Sierra Seeds
  • Seed Cleaning: Beth Ragourshek, Canyon Bounty Farm
  • Economics of Seed Growing: Steve Peters, Organic Seed Alliance; Andrew Still, Adaptive Seeds and Rowen White, Sierra Seeds

This is an eOrganic article and was reviewed for compliance with National Organic Program regulations by members of the eOrganic community. Always check with your organic certification agency before adopting new practices or using new materials. For more information, refer to eOrganic's articles on organic certification.

eOrganic 12903

April 2017

mer, 2017/04/05 - 15:40
In this Issue 
  • Upcoming eOrganic webinars
  • Where to learn about organic research
  • Sustainable agriculture scientists survey
  • Call for organic soil health and management abstracts
  • Comment period extended on organic check-off program
  • Videos about organic soybean and dry bean breeding
  • New spotted wing drosophila bulletin
  • Spotted wing drosophila videos
  • New report on CSA farms
  • Missed an Organic Farming Conference this Winter? Catch a Keynote
  • eOrganic mission and resources
Upcoming eOrganic Webinars April 6, 2017: Taking Stock of Organic Research Investments

This webinar will present the findings from the report by the Organic Farming Research Foundation:Taking Stock: Analyzing and Reporting Organic Research Investments: 2002-2014. This report provides information on the progress USDA funded organic research projects have made in addressing critical research needs. We will describe the types, locations, and impacts of USDA funded research, as well as research gaps and topics that require greater attention. The webinar will conclude with a set of recommendations for strengthening organic research in the US to best support the needs of organic farmers. Presenters are Diana Jerkins, Joanna Ory and Mark Schonbeck. Register

April 11, 2017: Use of High Glucosinolate Mustard as an Organic Biofumigant in Vegetable Crops

Brassica plants, including mustards, contain glucosinolates that, when broken down, produce compounds that can reduce weed pressure, insect pests, populations of parasitic nematodes, and soil-borne pathogens such as Pythium, Rhizoctonia, Sclerotinia, Verticillium, and Phytophthora. In this webinar, we’ll address the use of mustard cover crops that have been bred specifically to have high glucosinolate concentrations and act as a biofumigant in crops like potatoes, peppers, carrots, black beans, and strawberries.Webinar presenters include Heather Darby and Abha Gupta, University of Vermont Extension; and Katie Campbell-Nelson, University of Massachusetts. Register

Find all upcoming and archived eOrganic webinars at http://articles.extension.org/pages/25242/webinars-by-eorganic

Where to Learn about Organic Research

At conferences this past winter, we’ve spoken with farmers who tell me how much they enjoy learning about organic research through our webinars. However, there is still a feeling that it is hard to find information about organic research, especially since it is sometimes challenging to take time off the farm to meet researchers at a conference or field day, and online digging can be a hassle.

There is a great deal of free information about organic research available online. We’re listing some good sources in this list, including some free searchable databases, conference proceedings and recordings, and just a selection of the many university websites that have posted information on their organic research activities. Download it here: Where to Find Organic Research Information

Sustainable Agriculture Scientists Survey

The Union of Concerned Scientists is seeking information from experts to learn about their experience in sustainable agriculture research. This survey is intended for researchers or other professionals with an advanced degree (Master’s or Ph.D.) and with academic or professional experience that is relevant to sustainable agricultural systems. If you have questions about the survey or its use, please contact Tali Robbins at trobbins@ucsusa.org.

If you would like to take 15-20 minutes to fill out this voluntary survey, you can find it here

Call for Abstracts on Organic Soil Health and Management

The Organic Farming Research Foundation, in collaboration with the University of Florida-IFAS and the Florida Organic Growers & Consumers Association, invites submissions to the Organic Agriculture Soil Health Symposium (OASHS) for proposed research, education, and extension papers and posters.

The Symposium will take place during the Annual Tri-Societies Conference in Tampa, Florida in October 2017. The symposium invites researchers, extension, and educators from all disciplines related to organic farming and food systems, and other systems of sustainable agriculture that employ techniques compatible with organic standards.

Find out more information about the symposium, as well as the topics and submission requirements here: http://www.ofrf.org/news/call-soil-health-management-abstracts

Comment Period on Organic Check-Off Program Extended to April 19th

The Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) is extending the comment period for the proposed establishment of an industry-funded research, promotion, and information program for certified organic products by 30 days, to April 19th, 2017. You can submit comments by going to Regulations.gov, and searching for "Organic Research, Promotion and Information Order", or by going to this direct link: https://www.regulations.gov/docket?D=AMS-SC-16-0112. You can learn more about the proposed program and some of the arguments both for and against it in the following articles from the MOSES Organic Broadcaster and NOFA Vermont Blog.

Videos about Organic Soybean and Dry Bean Breeding

Have you ever been curious about what goes on behind the scenes in organic field research? The University of Minnesota has created a series of videos, produced by Michael Winikoff and videography by Eve Daniels, that provides a unique perspective on recent research to improve organic soybean and dry bean production in the Upper Midwest. This research was part of the project Improving Soybean and Dry Bean Varieties and Rhizobia for Organic Systems funded through USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (Grant Number 2011-51300-30743). The specific research objectives included:

  • Developing soybean varieties for organic systems
  • Developing improved varieties of dry bean for organic systems
  • Selecting improved strains of rhizobia for soybean and dry bean for organic systems
  • Evaluating the interactive effects of organic management practices with soybean and dry bean varieties

Learn more and watch the videos here.

New Organic Spotted Wing Drosophila Extension Bulletin for Michigan

A new Extension bulletin by Heather Leach, Matthew Grieshop and Rufus Isaacs of the Department of Entomology at Michigan State University details SWD biology along with recommendations on monitoring, cultivar selection, sanitation and exclusion, just to name a few! You can find the bulletin and read more updates from the NIFA OREI funded Spotted Wing Drosophila research project at https://eorganic.info/node/12848 

NCAP Spotted Wing Drosophila Videos

The Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides hosted a webinar last year on Spotted Wing Drosophila management, and video clips from the webinar have been posted in both English and Spanish. Dr. Amy Dreves of Oregon State University presents important components to effective SWD management including: biology, identification, life cycle, early detection, and monitoring pest pressure. Multiple management approaches for each season are presented, with emphasis on preventative measures and cultural practices to minimize SWD population pressure. Find the videos here.

Note: We haven't reviewed these videos for organic certification compliance, so make sure, before using any pest control product in your organic farming system, to read the label to be sure that the product is labeled for the crop and pest you intend to control, and make sure it is legal to use in the stateor other location where it will be applied,and make sure that the brand name product is listed in your Organic System Plan and approved by your USDA-approved certifier.

New Report on Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Farms

The Agricultural Marketing Service has produced a new report on CSA farms. highlighting six case studies of farmers using the community supported agriculture (CSA) direct-to-consumer business model and how that model has changed since the 1980s. Many CSAs use the traditional business model of a farmer or network of farmers offering consumers regular (usually weekly) deliveries of locally-grown farm products, particularly fruit and vegetables, during the growing season on a subscription or membership basis. The report shows that some CSAs have modified this model to include new products, partnerships and technology to create sustainable local food businesses. The report was prepared through a cooperative research agreement between USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) and the University of Kentucky. In addition to preparing the case studies, University of Kentucky researchers, led by principal investigators Timothy Woods and Matthew Ernst, conducted a national survey of CSA managers and operators and convened focus groups in the six states where the CSAs highlighted in the case studies are located.Find the report here.

Missed an Organic Farming Conference this Winter? Catch a Keynote

Many organic farming associations and groups across the U.S. offer annual conferences for a wide range of participants from commercial growers and ranchers to enthusiastic gardeners and homesteaders. Several conferences conducted over the past few months included internationally recognized and otherwise topnotch keynote presenters – here are just a few presentations available on YouTube:

  • Why We Need an Organic Future by Vandana Shiva. Delivered at the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont Annual Winter Conference: https://youtu.be/gof7vdQI6OM
  • Farming Like We're Here to Stay by Fernando Funes-Monzote. Delivered at the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont Annual Winter Conference: https://youtu.be/Ne5HNYGIt40
  • Organic Farming: The Next Generation by Mas Masumoto. Delivered at the Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES) Farming Conference: https://youtu.be/kChOgyLYd78
  • Respect the Seed: Genetic Diversity by Matthew Dillon. Delivered at Eco Farm: https://youtu.be/Zc_b1YoLlBM
  • Food Justice: Challenges & Opportunities by Malik Yakini. Delivered at Eco Farm: https://youtu.be/duVs0uaPHPk

Many additional farmers, researchers, educators, and activists—like Liz Carlisle, Ricardo Salvador, K. Rashid Nuri, Eric Holt-Giménez, Donald Wyse, Fred Iutzi, and others--provided keynotes around the country to inform and inspire us as we enter the growing season.

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This is an eOrganic article and was reviewed for compliance with National Organic Program regulations by members of the eOrganic community. Always check with your organic certification agency before adopting new practices or using new materials. For more information, refer to eOrganic's articles on organic certification.

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Video Series on Soybean and Dry Bean Research at the University of Minnesota

mer, 2017/04/05 - 13:57

eOrganic author:

Kristine Moncada, University of Minnesota

Have you ever been curious about what goes on behind the scenes in organic field research? The University of Minnesota has created a series of videos, produced by Michael Winikoff and videography by Eve Daniels, that provides a unique perspective on recent research to improve organic soybean and dry bean production in the Upper Midwest. This research was part of the project  Improving Soybean and Dry Bean Varieties and Rhizobia for Organic Systems funded through USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (Grant Number 2011-51300-30743). The specific research objectives included:

  • Developing soybean varieties for organic systems
  • Developing improved varieties of dry bean for organic systems
  • Selecting improved strains of rhizobia for soybean and dry bean for organic systems
  • Evaluating the interactive effects of organic management practices with soybean and dry bean varieties

The first video provides an introduction to the project:

Project Overview: Improving Soybean and Dry Bean Varieties and Rhizobia for Organic Systems from BioTechnology Institute @ UMN on Vimeo.

Breeding Organic Soybean

Organic systems vary significantly from conventional systems, but until recently there have been few breeding programs specifically for organic systems. The first objective, led by the project's Principal Investigator Dr. James Orf, focused on breeding food-grade soybean and selection for traits that are important in organic systems in the Upper Midwest. See Dr. Orf's video interview below for more information about his project.

Video 2: Dr. Jim Orf—Improving Soybean Varieties for Use in Organic Systems from BioTechnology Institute @ UMN on Vimeo.

Breeding Organic Dry Beans

The second objective, led by co-Principal Investigator Dr. Thomas Michaels, also focused on organic breeding, but with dry beans rather than soybeans. Unlike soybeans, these legumes usually require supplemental nitrogen and are much less competitive with weeds. Improving these traits will offer organic producers another valuable legume option in their rotations. Dr. Michaels's work includes research on both heirloom and market class dry beans. His video interview is below.

Video 3: Dr. Tom Michaels—Market Class Beans from BioTechnology Institute @ UMN on Vimeo.

Dr. Michaels's interview continues in Parts 2 (https://vimeo.com/190706348) and 3 (https://vimeo.com/190719959).

Selecting Organic Rhizobia

Nitrogen is the most limiting nutrient in grain production. Increasing legume nitrogen fixation can not only improve the yields of organic leguminous crops, it can also improve the yields of other crops in the rotation. Our third objective addresses improving nitrogen fixation by using appropriately-matched rhizobial strains, which can counter lower fertility conditions that can exist in organic systems. This project was led by co-Principal Investigator Dr. Michael Sadowsky. For an introduction to his work, please see the video below.

Video 6: Dr. Michael Sadowsky: Improving Rhizobial Strains for Organic Soy and Dry Bean Production from BioTechnology Institute @ UMN on Vimeo.

Organic Bean Agronomic Practices

For the last objective, led by co-Principal Investigator Dr. Craig Sheaffer, research was conducted to study the interactive effects of variety characteristics of dry bean and soybean with mechanical weed control (tine weeding vs. cultivation), row spacing (30" vs. 15” row widths) and rotation sequence effects. An introduction to his project can be found below.

Video 1: Craig Sheaffer—Agronomic Practices for Improving Organic Soy and Dry Bean Production from BioTechnology Institute @ UMN on Vimeo.

On-farm Organic Research

Research conducted on organic farms was an important element for all the projects' objectives. Below is an interview with organic farmer Carmen Fernholz from Madison, MN, who discusses his experiences with participating in on-farm research with the University of Minnesota.


Video 7: Carmen Fernholz, On Farm Research for Organic Dry Bean and Soybean Cultivation from BioTechnology Institute @ UMN on Vimeo.

This is an eOrganic article and was reviewed for compliance with National Organic Program regulations by members of the eOrganic community. Always check with your organic certification agency before adopting new practices or using new materials. For more information, refer to eOrganic's articles on organic certification.

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Borgerding Dairy Farm: Organic Dairy Case Study

mar, 2017/04/04 - 14:12

eOrganic authors:

Emily Marriott, University of Illinois

Michelle Wander, University of Illinois

Source:

Joe Borgerding, Borgerding Dairy Farm

Introduction

After farming conventionally for over 20 years and dealing with some significant productivity, weed, and pest issues, Minnesota dairy farmer Joe Borgerding began to investigate biological farming and hasn't looked back since. Using mineral balancing, soil ripping, and cover crops, among other practices, Joe has improved his water infiltration and retention, soil quality, and crop productivity. His grass and wild proso millet weed problems and corn borer pests are also greatly reduced. Joe gives as much consideration to his livestock underground (soil biological organisms) as he does to his dairy herd. Describing his farm as organic by design, Joe continuously evaluates and adjusts his farming practices, striving to design a system where everything works together.

Figure 1. Field corn on the Borgerding Dairy Farm. Photo credit: Joe Borgerding, Borgerding Dairy Farm.

Farm History and Overview

Joe Borgerding began farming in 1974 when he took over management of his father's 50-head dairy herd. By 1978, he had purchased the farm's 360 acres and shortly thereafter increased the acreage to 400 with the purchase of some neighboring land. Most of his farming experience was acquired on this home farm, which Joe described as having had tight, anaerobic soils.

When Joe started farming, he used conventional methods. Over time, the farm experienced some significant productivity, weed, and pest issues. Regular soil testing did not reflect the problems he was having. According to Joe, he had “really pretty numbers, but ugly ground” due to chemical carryover, poor mineral balance, and poor soil structure. In 1996, Joe began to investigate other ways of farming. He worked with an agronomist who shared some new ideas, and also read material by William Albrecht and others. He began to focus on the biology of his soils, and worked to balance his soils by adding soluble calcium and sulfur in the form of fly ash and gypsum. He also started to transition the farm to organic production in 2000 and became certified organic in 2004. Compared to when he was farming conventionally, Joe finds that organic farming requires 50% more labor and twice as much management. Describing his farm as organic by design, Joe continuously evaluates and adjusts his farming practices, striving to design a system where everything works together.

The Borgerding Dairy Farm is located in central Minnesota in the warm summer, humid continental climate zone. Summers are warm and humid and winters are cold with heavy snowfall. The area receives about 28 inches of rain and 47 inches of snow per year. The farm includes a mix of soil types. The home farm has heavy clay loams (classified as Normania or Flom) and the additional owned and rented land is composed of dryland sand, irrigated sand, and peat ground.

Currently Joe, his wife Toni, and their two sons farm around 1080 acres—about 680 acres are owned and an additional 400 are rented. The family operates the farm together; Joe's sons manage the cows, allowing Joe to focus on crop production. The farm also employs Joe's daughter half-time, his nephew full-time and an additional full-time employee.

While primarily focused on dairy, they also raise some beef. The herd size is currently about 365 head, composed of 175 milk cows, 10 dry cows, 60 bred heifers, 80 younger heifers, and 40 beef. The cattle are supported by 220 acres of permanent pasture and an additional 70 acres of rotational alfalfa-grass meadows for hay and some grazing. The remaining acres are used to produce corn, soybeans, alfalfa, and small grains like oats and barley. Alfalfa is grown on 160 to 200 acres every year.

Milk and beef are sold to Organic Valley. Surplus hay is sold to area farmers. The majority of corn and grain is fed to cows and steers, and extra is sold to organic farmers and brokers. About 20% of the soybeans are roasted and fed on-farm as a protein supplement and the rest is sold.

Infrastructure and Technology

Joe invests in high-quality equipment and partially offsets the cost by performing around 500 acres of custom work (planting, chopping, tilling, and baling) for neighbors each year. This also gives other local farmers access to good equipment. Additionally, Joe has invested in a lot of tile drainage over the years.

Joe has made a significant investment in technology with the purchase of GPS, auto-steer, and yield monitoring. With the help of an agronomic consultant, Joe uses this technology to assist with on-farm research, experimentation, and recordkeeping. He is able to accurately track the locations of different practices and compare yields.

They now have radio collars on cows that monitor activity and rumination to detect when cows are in heat. The information is sent to the office so farmers know when cows are ready for breeding. With this technology, Joe no longer needs to feed and house a bull. This increases safety and widens their selection of bulls for breeding.

Key Practices Crop Rotations

Joe's crop rotations are complex and variable. Rotations and crops are selected based on soil type, irrigation, and proximity to the dairy operation. For example, silage corn is only grown on ground close to silage storage (Fig. 2); crops that require significant nitrogen (N) fertility are grown close to the manure lagoon; and more clover and alfalfa are grown on sandy soil. A major focus is on covering the ground early in the season. To that end, Joe is increasing his use of winter annuals like winter oats. Instead of having bare ground in April and May, winter annuals are growing as soon as the snow melts. This way he makes the most of early season sunlight while protecting soils year-round and reducing soil water loss.


Figure 2. An example of a feed crop rotation. This type of rotation would typically be used on heavier soils, close to the home farm. Trace minerals are applied before alfalfa to improve feed quality. The barley silage nurse crop provides a lot of tonnage, doesn't lodge, and allows them to get a second cutting of alfalfa.

Soil Fertility and Testing

Joe began pursuing alternative farming practices in the late 1990s to address productivity problems caused by salt and chemical carryover. These heavy clay loams were alkaline (pH up to 8) with high magnesium (Mg) base saturation (up to 35%). At that time, soils had poor aeration, infiltration, and root penetration and there were few earthworms. Joe applied fly ash to supply soluble Ca and S. He also conducted mechanical ripping of his cropland to break up the salt and chemical layer. Mineral balancing and a focus on soil biology, along with the recent addition of cover crops, have greatly improved his soil quality and productivity (Fig. 3).

Since the farm generates ample manure from the dairy operation, Joe prefers to fertilize with manure. Liquid manure has the highest amount of available N and is typically used on corn. Silage corn typically receives around 5,000 gallons liquid manure per acre, while shelled corn receives 6,000 gallons per acre. Pen manure that includes a lot of straw bedding is used on small grains like oats and barley. There is not enough manure produced on-farm to meet all of the fertility needs, so Joe annually applies up to 200 tons of poultry litter and potassium sulfate (K2SO4) on cropland located farther away from the home farm (up to 5 miles away). Some manure is partially composted on-farm and applied to pastures. Joe works with an agronomist to decide N fertilization rates, taking into account N from cover crops, alfalfa, and past manure use. He also uses nitrate testing of corn stalks in the fall to see if N was over- or under-applied to fine-tune their fertilization system. Joe finds that working with the agronomist is a helpful way to make sure nothing is missed.


Figure 3. With improvements in soil structure, corn root growth has improved. Photo credit: Joe Borgerding.

Gypsum is applied regularly to provide soluble calcium and sulfur on both cropland and pasture. To further balance minerals, Joe also pays attention to iron (Fe) and manganese (Mn) levels, aiming to have soil test values near 20 ppm for each. Over time, he has seen Fe levels decrease and Mn levels increase, as desired. A trace mineral blend is usually applied before alfalfa to improve feed quality. When farm finances can support it, Joe fertilizes pastures with a trace mineral blend that also includes humates.

Joe tests his soils every 3 to 4 years on both cropland and pastures. He uses soil tests as monitoring tools, but does not use them specifically to determine fertilizer amounts. His priority is to promote soil health and biological activity to mobilize the nutrients already present in his soil. He believes cover crop root systems and soil fungi are particularly important in increasing nutrient availability. Additionally, Joe uses feed tests to inform his soil management, believing they are a better way to evaluate the nutrient availability in his soils than soil tests alone.

Table 1. Soil test results (0-6") from 1996 and 2014 for selected fields and recent soil test results for selected pastures on the home farm.

 

Soil test results in Table 1 show the impact of Joe's mineral balancing efforts, in that Mg base saturation has decreased and Ca base saturation has increased in cropped fields. Iron and Mn levels have declined over time in cropland.

Joe is interested in new soil tests that provide information on soil biology. He does occasional humus and Solvita testing on existing fields and tests all new ground. Interpretations are still being developed for these tests and, while at this point Joe doesn't use them to make management decisions, he does want to have benchmarks for future use of these tests as interpretations improve.

Use of Cover Crops

In 2013, Joe started using cover crops in his annual forage crops. Now, cover crops are used extensively to improve soil quality and moisture retention. Joe believes that the improvements he has made in soil quality over the last 15 years could have been accomplished in 5 years if he had started using cover crops with the calcium and sulfur amendments.

Joe recently made a significant change in his cover crop practices. Formerly small grains like oats and barley were underseeded with a clover cover crop. After the grain was harvested, the clover would continue to grow and fix N. After growing for an additional 6 weeks, the clover was incorporated with manure. Now, Joe harvests the small grain, applies manure, and then seeds a cover crop mix. This new practice provides multiple benefits. It allows him to fine-tune his cover crop mix, depending on his goals for particular fields. He can incorporate the manure earlier, giving it more time to break down before winter, while also having a cover crop in place to take up mineralized nutrients. Additionally, he can seed the small grain heavier without needing to provide sunlight for the underseeded clover crop and if the small grain lodges, it doesn't smother the cover crop. Finally, using a winter cover gives Joe more time in spring, since some land is already planted. It is particularly helpful on river bottomland that tends to be wet and cold in spring. Joe also believes that soil with a cover crop has less frost and thaws more quickly in the spring, resulting in better infiltration of early spring rains. He is experimenting with strip tilling, expecting it to allow him to create a black berm for planting while leaving some of the cover crop intact.

Pest Management

Grass weeds have been virtually eliminated on the farm. Wild proso millet used to be a significant problem throughout the farm, but now occurs rarely. Joe attributes this to improvements in soil quality. Broadleaf weeds, such as pigweed and ragweed can still be problems, but are not hard to manage. Flaming is used to control some broadleaf weeds in corn. Use of auto steer and new weed control discs allows Joe to set the cultivator much closer to the crop rows, minimizing the need for harrowing. Cover crops are also part of Joe's weed control strategy.

Currently there are few major pest problems in the field crops. Corn borer used to be a significant pest when Joe was farming conventionally, but now is not a problem. According to Joe, they used to see more pests, but now they see more beneficial insects including lady bugs, lacewings, parasitic wasps, and dung beetles.

Grazing Practices

The herd is composed of 4 groups: dairy cows, dry cows, bred heifers, and beef cows. Each group is kept on a separate farm. Dairy cows are managed most intensively and get new pasture every day. The other groups are moved every 3 days or so. Dairy cows graze during the day, receiving at least 30% of their dry matter intake from pasture, and are housed in a freestall barn during the night. They receive grain, minerals, and corn silage as a total mixed ration in the barn in the mornings. Corn silage is an important source of starch to balance the high protein content of young grass and keep milk urea nitrogen levels down. The rolling herd average is 16,700 lb milk/cow/year with no purchased protein. The other cattle are primarily forage-based with some grain fed to young stock (3–5 lb/day). All feed, hay, and bedding is grown on the farm, and minerals are purchased.

Pastures are planted with cool-season perennials and are divided into 2–4 acre paddocks. During the summer, when pasture productivity is high, paddocks are divided in half with a break wire, but when pasture growth slows, cattle are given access to the entire paddock at once. Alfalfa is rotated throughout the farm's cropland, providing additional grazing during the summer slump when grass production slows. An additional 30–40 acres of alfalfa are usually strip grazed (2–3 acres at a time) each year after the second cutting of hay. In years with sufficient rain to keep pastures productive during the late summer, they may not need to graze these acres of alfalfa, but they provide additional flexibility.

Water is provided in the barn as well as in stock tanks near each paddock which are moved with the herds. Black plastic pipe is used to run water to the pasture with taps every 300–400 feet.

Pasture Renovation

Pastures are renovated when the species composition needs to be adjusted (e.g. too much bluegrass, thistles, or weeds) or when productivity seems to drop. To renovate, a pasture is tilled, pen or liquid manure is applied, and the field is seeded with warm season grasses—usually a sudangrass-ryegrass mix. Without the use of a summer annual, the old pasture mix would immediately regrow. The sudangrass-ryegrass mix also provides additional high-quality grazing in the late summer. In the fall, the pasture is reseeded with their pasture blend of clovers, grasses, ryegrass, and fescue. Approximately 10 acres of pasture are renovated each year. Weed and productivity issues may also be addressed through adjusting grazing practices (see the eOrganic webinar "Learning from Our Observations of Pastures & Livestock: Preventing Pasture Problems on the Organic Dairy Webinar by eOrganic").

Case Study Takeaway Points
  • Joe attributes improvements in soil quality to mechanical ripping, mineral balancing using calcium and sulfur amendments, and cover crops.
  • An emphasis on supporting the soil biological community guides farming system design and the use of year-round cover.
  • Investment in technology is expected to increase the effectiveness of on-farm experimentation.
References and Citations Additional Resources

 

This is an eOrganic article and was reviewed for compliance with National Organic Program regulations by members of the eOrganic community. Always check with your organic certification agency before adopting new practices or using new materials. For more information, refer to eOrganic's articles on organic certification.

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Taking Stock of Organic Research Investments Webinar

mer, 2017/03/22 - 18:27

Join eOrganic for a webinar about a report by the Organic Farming Research Foundation on USDA organic research investments. The webinar takes place on April 6, 2017 at 2PM Eastern Time, 1PM Central, 12PM Mountain, and 11AM Pacific Time. It's free and open to the public and advance registration is required.

Register now at https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/6702579283953605122

About the Webinar

This webinar will present the findings from the report by the Organic Farming Research Foundation: Taking Stock: Analyzing and Reporting Organic Research Investments: 2002-2014. This report provides information on the progress USDA funded organic research projects have made in addressing critical research needs. We will describe the types, locations, and impacts of USDA funded research, as well as research gaps and topics that require greater attention. The webinar will conclude with a set of recommendations for strengthening organic research in the US to best support the needs of organic farmers.

About the Presenters
  • Diana Jerkins, PhD is the Research Program editor at the Organic Farming Research Foundation
  • Mark Schonbeck is a research contractor at OFRF and is the lead author of the report
  • Joanna Ory is the Research Program Associate at OFRF.
System Requirements

View detailed system requirements here. Please connect to the webinar 10 minutes in advance, as the webinar program will require you to download software. To test your connection in advance, go here. You can either listen via your computer speakers or call in by phone (toll call). Java needs to be installed and working on your computer to join the webinar.  If you are running Mac OSU with Safari, please test your Java at http://java.com/en/download/testjava.jsp prior to joining the webinar, and if it isn't working, try Firefox or Chrome.

This is an eOrganic article and was reviewed for compliance with National Organic Program regulations by members of the eOrganic community. Always check with your organic certification agency before adopting new practices or using new materials. For more information, refer to eOrganic's articles on organic certification.

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