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
Fruits
March 29, 2017
Water Allocations in California Deemed Unfair
Tom Nassif of Western Growers objects to a recent announcement that some in California’s Central Valley received only a 65% initial water allocation, while other growers in the region received 100%. Read More
Albert Pieri of Ocean Mist Farms
Vegetables
March 29, 2017
Ocean Mist Farms’ Albert Pieri Dies
Pieri, who worked with Ocean Mist for almost 50 years, was a pioneer in the early days of California Artichoke and Vegetable Growers, which was renamed Ocean Mist Farms in 1995. Read More
Stone Fruit
March 29, 2017
Plum Varieties are Complex and Fascinating [Slideshow]
While diversity in species gives the consumer many options, plums can be a challenge for growers and marketers. Read More
Grapes
March 28, 2017
Understanding the Economics Of Red Blotch in Grapes
An economist and a plant pathologist team up to help growers understand the threshold for action when a vine is diagnosed with the virus. Read More
Apples & Pears
March 28, 2017
Washington State University Offers Powdery Mildew Management Tips
Opening buds may be exposed to overwintering inoculum as temperatures begin to rise. Read More
Nuts
March 28, 2017
How to Determine Optimal Almond Tree Spacing
Determining the proper row spacing for an orchard should be based on more than production and equipment access, and growers should also ponder the number of trees per row. Read More
Apples & Pears
March 27, 2017
It’s a Family Reunion at IFTA
Some of my fondest memories on the road are at IFTA conferences. Read More
Apples & Pears
March 27, 2017
Out of this World Expectations for ‘Cosmic Crisp’ Apple
With millions of trees going into PNW orchards, Washington State growers are betting big on ‘Cosmic Crisp'. The shift in varieties planted and more took center stage when the International Fruit Tree’s Annual Conference met in Wenatchee, WA. Read More
Miss Florida Citrus and Imperial Polk County 2017 winners Paige Todd and Rachel Smith
Citrus
March 27, 2017
Say Hello to the New Miss Florida Citrus
Storied tradition continues with crowning of the industry’s newest advocate. Read More
Irrigation
March 26, 2017
Tips to Maximize Water Efficiency in Your Almond Grove
Editor’s note: Spencer Cooper joined the Almond Board of California last fall as Senior Manager, Irrigation and Water Efficiency. Western Read More
SWD On Raspberry
Berries
March 26, 2017
Outsmarting SWD with Social Media
Entomologist in Kentucky uses social media for pest updates, trap catches. Read More
honeybees
Citrus
March 25, 2017
New Videos Offer Tips on Planting Pollinator Habitats
A new video series on planting flowering habitats is designed to help growers support crop pollinators. Read More
Freeze protected blueberry bushes in Florida
Berries
March 25, 2017
Florida Blueberry Crop Escapes Slap from Late-Season Cold Snap
Freeze protection tactics prove fruitful as local producers look to gain from Georgia’s loss. Read More
Apples & Pears
March 25, 2017
Two MAIA Releases Available for Growers, Hobbyists
‘Crunch-A-Bunch’ is an early ‘GoldRush’ and ‘Bakers Delight’ is a secret ingredient for baking. Read More
Nuts
March 24, 2017
Foreboding Fungus Vexes Almond Growers
In parts of California, almond growers have recently become concerned about Ganoderma root and butt rot. To put this concern Read More
The Latest
Fruits
March 29, 2017
Water Allocations in California Deemed U…
Tom Nassif of Western Growers objects to a recent announcement that some in California’s Central Valley received only a 65% initial water allocation, while other growers in the region received 100%. Read More
Vegetables
March 29, 2017
Ocean Mist Farms’ Albert Pieri Die…
Pieri, who worked with Ocean Mist for almost 50 years, was a pioneer in the early days of California Artichoke and Vegetable Growers, which was renamed Ocean Mist Farms in 1995. Read More
Stone Fruit
March 29, 2017
Plum Varieties are Complex and Fascinati…
While diversity in species gives the consumer many options, plums can be a challenge for growers and marketers. Read More
Grapes
March 28, 2017
Understanding the Economics Of Red Blotc…
An economist and a plant pathologist team up to help growers understand the threshold for action when a vine is diagnosed with the virus. Read More
Apples & Pears
March 28, 2017
Washington State University Offers Powde…
Opening buds may be exposed to overwintering inoculum as temperatures begin to rise. Read More
Nuts
March 28, 2017
How to Determine Optimal Almond Tree Spa…
Determining the proper row spacing for an orchard should be based on more than production and equipment access, and growers should also ponder the number of trees per row. Read More
Apples & Pears
March 27, 2017
It’s a Family Reunion at IFTA
Some of my fondest memories on the road are at IFTA conferences. Read More
Apples & Pears
March 27, 2017
Out of this World Expectations for ̵…
With millions of trees going into PNW orchards, Washington State growers are betting big on ‘Cosmic Crisp'. The shift in varieties planted and more took center stage when the International Fruit Tree’s Annual Conference met in Wenatchee, WA. Read More
Citrus
March 27, 2017
Say Hello to the New Miss Florida Citrus
Storied tradition continues with crowning of the industry’s newest advocate. Read More
Irrigation
March 26, 2017
Tips to Maximize Water Efficiency in You…
Editor’s note: Spencer Cooper joined the Almond Board of California last fall as Senior Manager, Irrigation and Water Efficiency. Western Read More
Berries
March 26, 2017
Outsmarting SWD with Social Media
Entomologist in Kentucky uses social media for pest updates, trap catches. Read More
Citrus
March 25, 2017
New Videos Offer Tips on Planting Pollin…
A new video series on planting flowering habitats is designed to help growers support crop pollinators. Read More
Berries
March 25, 2017
Florida Blueberry Crop Escapes Slap from…
Freeze protection tactics prove fruitful as local producers look to gain from Georgia’s loss. Read More
Apples & Pears
March 25, 2017
Two MAIA Releases Available for Growers,…
‘Crunch-A-Bunch’ is an early ‘GoldRush’ and ‘Bakers Delight’ is a secret ingredient for baking. Read More
Nuts
March 24, 2017
Foreboding Fungus Vexes Almond Growers
In parts of California, almond growers have recently become concerned about Ganoderma root and butt rot. To put this concern Read More
Citrus
March 24, 2017
Marrone Bio Introduces Biostimulant to R…
Haven Anti-transpirant helps to reduce transpiration of fruit, nut, and vegetable crops. Read More
Citrus
March 23, 2017
Count Down the World’s Top 30 Agricultur…
Familiar names and several new faces among annual ranking’s elite. Read More
Pest Control
March 22, 2017
Fear of GMOs is Impacting Quality Food R…
Perhaps the greatest threat to our industry is a public that values instinctual opinion over careful research and the findings of experts who have dedicated years to their field of study. Read More