Organic Report: Fire Blight Tools Saved

Editor’s Note: Information for this article originally appeared in the Spring 2011 issue of the Organic Tree Fruit Association’s “Just Picked” newsletter. Contributors include OTFA members Matt Grieshop (Michigan State University), Jackie Hoch, and Jim Koan, along with Harriet Behar of the Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service.

The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) must review and vote on every substance that is petitioned for inclusion, or is currently on, the National List of approved synthetics and prohibited natural products. They have to review every substance for relisting every five years, or else the materials sunset, and are removed from the list.

In April 2011, the organic tree fruit community was faced with the imminent sunset of streptomycin and oxytetracycline from the National List. They are allowed to control fire blight only, which is a serious problem for apple and pear growers. These items are not approved in organic production in the European Union or Canada.

At the heart of the debate was whether there is a detrimental chemical interaction with other materials, and whether there are toxicity concerns. One more issue is the concern of whether there are natural materials or methods available to make these antibiotics unnecessary in an organic orchard system.

The Organic Tree Fruit Association (OTFA) was well represented at an NOSB meeting held on April 25-29, in Seattle, WA. The potential sunsetting of streptomycin and oxytetracycline for fire blight control in organic orchards was one of the most hotly debated topics, along with sodium nitrate for nutrient management, and ethylene for use in fruit ripening.

At the end of the meeting, both streptomycin and oxytetracycline were recommended for a two-year extension (until October 2014) on the condition that a task force would be formed to assess the potential of current fire blight alternatives and the development of new ones. Ethylene was recommended for five years more use, but both sodium nitrate and sulfur dioxide were recommended for removal from the National Organic Program list of approved inputs.

Oxytetracycline was unanimously approved for relisting. Streptomycin was almost lost with a final vote of 10 for and four against its extension — the minimum vote to retain it was 10 votes.

A Major Victory

This constitutes a major victory for organic tree fruit producers and consumers because the removal of antibiotics — streptomycin in particular — without workable alternatives would have likely resulted in the loss of much of the organic acreage in the Eastern U.S. As important as this victory is, an even more important development from this meeting will be the creation of a fire blight task force with membership from the grower, research, industry, and consumer sectors, and representation for all major pome fruit growing regions.

The major purpose of this task force will be to serve as a common ground for the sharing of current regionally appropriate fire blight management strategies, to advocate for more research and extension of organically acceptable fire blight management tactics, and to develop a plan to reduce and eventually eliminate the use of antibiotics for fire blight management. Dr. Matt Grieshop (Michigan State University) and other members of the OTFA will lead the initial development of this task force.

Another major outcome of this meeting is evidence that while seemingly convoluted and complicated, the NOSB process works, but only when growers, consumers, advocates, and academics attend the meetings to provide public comment. Early on in the meeting it was clear that at least half the board was set on the elimination of both of these — unfortunately necessary — synthetic products. To a very large extent this was because they were uninformed on the potential consequences of this action and the peculiarities and management complexities inherent to perennial tree fruit crops and their diseases.

The authors would like to express their profound gratitude to the NOSB crops committee for maintaining an open mind and providing a forum for discussing the consequences of delisting these products. Decisions made by consensus are challenging to come by when such a diverse array of constituents is represented and even more so when the issue is one as complicated as tree fruit management. It is our genuine hope that in addition to the eventual sunsetting of antibiotics, this particular decision will result in stronger relationships with organic tree fruit growers across the U.S. The OTFA should be proud of its role in this debate and stands to play a central role in building the relationships needed to increase the availability of regionally produced organic fruit.

Leave a Reply

Featured Stories
New citrus grove in Florida
Citrus
August 24, 2016
Florida Citrus Granted New Incentive To Grow On
A state-backed $5.5 million grove renovation/re-establishment incentive is now available and accepting applications. Read More
Judi Whitson, 2016 Florida Woman of the Year in Agriculture
Citrus
August 24, 2016
Meet Florida’s 2016 Woman Of The Year In Agriculture
Dedication to fostering the state’s farming future defines the latest winner of longtime honor. Read More
University of New Hampshire scientists constructed a linkage map of the seven chromosomes of the diploid Fragaria iinumae, which allows them to fill in a piece of the genetic puzzle about the eight sets of chromosomes of the cultivated strawberry.
Berries
August 24, 2016
Researchers Unravel Genetic Ancestry Of Cultivated Strawberry
A genetic analysis conducted by New Hampshire Agricultural Experiment Station researchers aims to improve modern cultivation efforts of strawberry growers. Read More
Justin Clements, a fifth-year doctoral student in the Molecular and Environmental Toxicology Center working in the Department of Entomology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is the recipient of NPC's 2016-2017 Academic Scholarship.
Potatoes
August 24, 2016
Fifth-Year Doctoral Student Receives NPC’s Scholarship For Potato Research
The National Potato Council (NPC) has announced that Justin Clements, a fifth-year doctoral student in the Molecular and Environmental Toxicology Read More
2011 WA IFTA Tour
Fruits
August 24, 2016
Don’t Underestimate The Value Of Production Bus Tours For Your Business [Opinion]
Sure, you can see and talk with virtually anyone in the world through your smart phone, but you can’t shake their hand. Read More
Crowd protesting GMOs stock image FEATURE
Farm Management
August 24, 2016
Swaying Views On GMO Foods No Easy Task
Featured speaker for the upcoming FFVA Annual Convention says tides are slowly turning in how people digest the concept of genetic modification. Read More
A subsurface microirrigation system.
(Photo credit: Peter Jacoby)
Grapes
August 23, 2016
Deeper Irrigation Method Showing Promise For Vineyards
A new subsurface irrigation system is showing promise for slashing water usage in vineyards. Many vineyards use drip lines that Read More
Tar spot of corn
Disease Control
August 23, 2016
Florida Sweet Corn Has New Deadly Stalker In Tar Spot
Learn how to identify, the survival and spread, as well as management methods for this disease. Read More
sprayer nozzles
Fruits
August 23, 2016
New Insecticides Geared To Give Growers Edge Over Pests
Check out three unique chemistries from several of the industry's leading crop protection suppliers. Read More
Prepping apples for cleaning, waxing, and sorting.
Apple Grower of the Year
August 22, 2016
Apple Crop Forecasts Live On Twitter
You'll be able to get up-to-the-minute reports of not only the various regions of the U.S., but key production regions around the world. Read More
The Latest
Citrus
August 24, 2016
Florida Citrus Granted New Incentive To …
A state-backed $5.5 million grove renovation/re-establishment incentive is now available and accepting applications. Read More
Citrus
August 24, 2016
Meet Florida’s 2016 Woman Of The Year In…
Dedication to fostering the state’s farming future defines the latest winner of longtime honor. Read More
Berries
August 24, 2016
Researchers Unravel Genetic Ancestry Of …
A genetic analysis conducted by New Hampshire Agricultural Experiment Station researchers aims to improve modern cultivation efforts of strawberry growers. Read More
Potatoes
August 24, 2016
Fifth-Year Doctoral Student Receives NPC…
The National Potato Council (NPC) has announced that Justin Clements, a fifth-year doctoral student in the Molecular and Environmental Toxicology Read More
Fruits
August 24, 2016
Don’t Underestimate The Value Of P…
Sure, you can see and talk with virtually anyone in the world through your smart phone, but you can’t shake their hand. Read More
Farm Management
August 24, 2016
Swaying Views On GMO Foods No Easy Task
Featured speaker for the upcoming FFVA Annual Convention says tides are slowly turning in how people digest the concept of genetic modification. Read More
Grapes
August 23, 2016
Deeper Irrigation Method Showing Promise…
A new subsurface irrigation system is showing promise for slashing water usage in vineyards. Many vineyards use drip lines that Read More
Disease Control
August 23, 2016
Florida Sweet Corn Has New Deadly Stalke…
Learn how to identify, the survival and spread, as well as management methods for this disease. Read More
Fruits
August 23, 2016
New Insecticides Geared To Give Growers …
Check out three unique chemistries from several of the industry's leading crop protection suppliers. Read More
Apple Grower of the Year
August 22, 2016
Apple Crop Forecasts Live On Twitter
You'll be able to get up-to-the-minute reports of not only the various regions of the U.S., but key production regions around the world. Read More
Oranges
August 22, 2016
Major OJ Purchase Promises Relief For Fl…
$30 million planned acquisition from USDA to be used for surplus removal. Read More
Varieties & Rootstocks
August 22, 2016
Florida Citrus Breeders Squeezed For Tim…
The pressure is on to develop a more HLB-tolerant orange. Read More
Pest Control
August 21, 2016
Spotted Wing Drosophila: For Michigan, …
Why the pest can be so much more destructive for Eastern cherry growers might be due to what they’re not farming. Read More
Grapes
August 19, 2016
European Grapevine Moth Eradicated From …
Agricultural officials confirm eradication of invasive pest, lift quarantine restrictions. Read More
Fruits
August 19, 2016
Parts Of New York Now In Extreme Drought
Water deficits starting to cause concern for fire, water shortages in the Empire State. Read More
Citrus
August 19, 2016
Rough Winter In Store For Much Of The U.…
The Old Farmer’s Almanac and its competitor The Farmers’ Almanac predict the 2016-2017 winter will be cold for much of the country. Read More
Citrus
August 18, 2016
Florida Farmer Takes Fresh Approach To G…
New easy-peel, seedless varieties offer market potential. Read More
GenNext Growers
August 18, 2016
USDA Invests $17.8M To Educate Next Gene…
Money will bolster efforts of partner organizations to increase next generation of growers. Read More
[gravityform id="62" title="false" description="false"]