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
Crop Protection
July 23, 2017
USDA Invests $7.6 Million toward Beneficial Research
Projects to promote beneficial organisms as part of a pest control strategy. Read More
Citrus
July 22, 2017
Representative from Washington Proposes Amendment to H-2A Program
Move broadens use of H-2A to all of agriculture to include those with multiple crops and harvests. Read More
Insect & Disease Update
July 21, 2017
University of California Launches Website to Update Growers on Citrus Research
Easy-to-read format designed to give growers up-to-date information on huanglongbing and Asian citrus psyllid research. Read More
Hurricane Matthew satellite image as it brushed past Florida
Citrus
July 20, 2017
Atlantic Hurricane Forecast Taken Up a Notch
Current conditions in the tropics warrant marked revision in potential storm season scenarios. Read More
Sunset on Florida potato field day
Citrus
July 19, 2017
Researchers On a Mission to Find More Places for Growing Produce
Federal grant to aid exploration of food security solutions for the future. Read More
Citrus
July 19, 2017
Farm Labor Stories Making the News This Week
The agricultural labor shortage is strong enough that the consumer press is beginning to report on it regularly. Here are the stories making headlines this month. Read More
Sweet Corn
July 19, 2017
Variety Specs | Production Tips: Corn ‘Anthem XR’ from Rispens Seeds
Each month, American Vegetable Grower® will offer growing tips on specific varieties, supplied by the breeder or distributor. This month, we’re offering Read More
farm hacks collage
Citrus
July 19, 2017
Florida Grower Magazine is Seeking Your Farm Hacks
Life hacks are common in social media threads these days. They are those clever ideas or tricks aimed at making Read More
Organic
July 19, 2017
4 Challenges Large Operations Face in Organic Vegetable Production
Organic vegetable production in Monterey County has evolved over the past 25 years. It was once the domain of small- Read More
Farm Management
July 19, 2017
Tom Nunes, V: The Best Labor Solutions Are When Everyone Wins
Competition for skilled farm labor is fierce in the West. But Nunes Vegetables, Inc. believes when growers work together, they will attract more workers to their community. Read More
Fruits
July 14, 2017
Brown Marmorated Stink Bug Predator Egg Mass Found
Samuri wasp parasitized egg mass found in Southern New Jersey peach orchard. Read More
Rain drops on leaf
Citrus
July 14, 2017
Everglades Agricultural Area Farmers Winning at Water Quality
Annual report shows use of best management practices results in another massive reduction in phosphorus flow. Read More
cut watermelon
Cucurbits
July 13, 2017
Scientists Keying in on Sweeter and Stronger Watermelon Varieties
New study shows grafting can give growers an upper hand on soilborne disease threats. Read More
Citrus
July 13, 2017
The Road is Long to Farm Bill 2018 [Opinion]
Participation in this process will be crucial to ensure your needs are understood and addressed. Read More
2015 FFVA Annual Convention crowd
Citrus
July 13, 2017
Trade Talk to Top Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association Convention Agenda
Trade issues are top of mind these days for specialty crop producers. Efforts have been underway since early this year Read More
The Latest
Crop Protection
July 23, 2017
USDA Invests $7.6 Million toward Benefic…
Projects to promote beneficial organisms as part of a pest control strategy. Read More
Citrus
July 22, 2017
Representative from Washington Proposes …
Move broadens use of H-2A to all of agriculture to include those with multiple crops and harvests. Read More
Insect & Disease Update
July 21, 2017
University of California Launches Websit…
Easy-to-read format designed to give growers up-to-date information on huanglongbing and Asian citrus psyllid research. Read More
Citrus
July 20, 2017
Atlantic Hurricane Forecast Taken Up a N…
Current conditions in the tropics warrant marked revision in potential storm season scenarios. Read More
Citrus
July 19, 2017
Researchers On a Mission to Find More Pl…
Federal grant to aid exploration of food security solutions for the future. Read More
Citrus
July 19, 2017
Farm Labor Stories Making the News This …
The agricultural labor shortage is strong enough that the consumer press is beginning to report on it regularly. Here are the stories making headlines this month. Read More
Sweet Corn
July 19, 2017
Variety Specs | Production Tips: Corn &#…
Each month, American Vegetable Grower® will offer growing tips on specific varieties, supplied by the breeder or distributor. This month, we’re offering Read More
Citrus
July 19, 2017
Florida Grower Magazine is Seeking Your …
Life hacks are common in social media threads these days. They are those clever ideas or tricks aimed at making Read More
Organic
July 19, 2017
4 Challenges Large Operations Face in Or…
Organic vegetable production in Monterey County has evolved over the past 25 years. It was once the domain of small- Read More
Farm Management
July 19, 2017
Tom Nunes, V: The Best Labor Solutions A…
Competition for skilled farm labor is fierce in the West. But Nunes Vegetables, Inc. believes when growers work together, they will attract more workers to their community. Read More
Fruits
July 14, 2017
Brown Marmorated Stink Bug Predator Egg …
Samuri wasp parasitized egg mass found in Southern New Jersey peach orchard. Read More
Citrus
July 14, 2017
Everglades Agricultural Area Farmers Win…
Annual report shows use of best management practices results in another massive reduction in phosphorus flow. Read More
Cucurbits
July 13, 2017
Scientists Keying in on Sweeter and Stro…
New study shows grafting can give growers an upper hand on soilborne disease threats. Read More
Citrus
July 13, 2017
The Road is Long to Farm Bill 2018 [Opin…
Participation in this process will be crucial to ensure your needs are understood and addressed. Read More
Citrus
July 13, 2017
Trade Talk to Top Florida Fruit & Ve…
Trade issues are top of mind these days for specialty crop producers. Efforts have been underway since early this year Read More
Citrus
July 12, 2017
Shaky Florida Citrus Season Skids to a S…
Final USDA tally confirms continuing downward trend of production in the HLB era. Read More
Citrus Achievement Award
July 12, 2017
Encourage New Citrus Growth by Getting B…
2017 Florida Grower Citrus Achievement Award winner Ed Pines says producing crops under protective screen is a way to farm more and stress less. Read More
Citrus
July 12, 2017
Tomato Pests Can Be Induced to Cannibali…
The University of Wisconsin's John Orrock says when beet armyworms are exposed to concentrations of methyl jasmonate, they will abandon eating tomatoes — and start eating one another. Read More