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.

Using Streptomycin
Read the formal Organic Tree Fruit Association position on streptomycin use in apple production by clicking here.

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

All Vegetables Stories >All Fruits Stories >All Nuts Stories >All Citrus Stories >

The Latest

CitrusMajor Florida Citrus Planting Incentive Program Announc…
September 23, 2014
Citrus World Inc. plans to invest $10 million to encourage new acreage. Read More
Insect & Disease UpdatePositive Attitudes Promote Citrus Planting
September 23, 2014
Improving management methods gives growers confidence in the future. Read More
CitrusNational Farmers Union Submits Comments On Clean Water …
September 23, 2014
Organization urges other industry groups to submit constructive comments. Read More
GenNext GrowersAnnouncing The GenNext Growers Webcast Series
September 23, 2014
This series will present strategies and tips to make your voice heard and count when speaking to legislators. Read More
VegetablesViability On The Menu For Long-Term Vegetable Market O…
September 23, 2014
Economic recovery favorable for climbing consumption trends. Read More
CitrusLuke Bryan Pays It Forward For Farming
September 23, 2014
Country superstar honors agriculture with his Farm Tour. Read More
IrrigationFlorida Growers Seize Control Of Water Challenges
September 22, 2014
New irrigation projects and fertilizer practices have tremendous potential for protecting resources, while enhancing productivity. Read More
CitrusNew Superhero Aims To Save Florida Citrus
September 22, 2014
Unique marketing partnership comes to life through comics. Read More
Apples & PearsKasumin Now Registered For Fire Blight Control
September 22, 2014
EPA approves use of bactericide on pome fruit as disease management tool. Read More
Food SafetyUSDA Issues Updates To Food Safety Modernization Act
September 19, 2014
Water testing, definition of applicable farms based on produce sales among clarifications to proposed rules. Read More
GrapesThird Straight Record Crop For Washington Grapes
September 19, 2014
Numbers expected to climb as more vines planted in the state. Read More
GrapesFrench Winegrowers Face Higher Labor Costs
September 19, 2014
French wineries may come under added financial pressure as the government considers imposing social charges on wages paid to harvest workers with short-term contracts. Read More
IrrigationCalifornia Boosts Local Water Control
September 19, 2014
Governor Jerry Brown signs historic legislation to strengthen local management and monitoring of critical groundwater basins. Read More
VegetablesSakata Seed America Shows Heart Through Charitable Prog…
September 19, 2014
Company’s corporate giving mission bears fruit for the American Heart Association. Read More
Insect & Disease UpdateAdditional Aid Coming For Florida Citrus Growers Gouged…
September 17, 2014
Through USDA’s Tree Assistance Program, eligible growers can cash in on cost share for diseased tree removal and replanting. Read More
FruitsFlorida Fruit & Vegetable Association Seeks Fresh A…
September 17, 2014
New partnership bolsters Fresh From Florida program. Read More
CitrusFDA Announces Cooperative Agreement To Implement Nation…
September 17, 2014
Agreement will provide information to help plan and carry out the produce safety rule in partnership with state regulatory agencies. Read More
NutsAchieving A Super-Premium Walnut Crop
September 17, 2014
What are the best ways to get high quality walnuts that are light in color and fully developed? Read these 8 harvest best practices to find out. Read More