Pests, Labor, and Water Among Hot Topics at Fruit Industry Meetings

American Fruit Grower Senior Editor Christina Herrick attended the Great Lakes Expo and pre-conference farm market tour in Grand Rapids, MI, last week. While the May 8 freeze affected many orchards in the state, pests also caused headaches for growers. Presentations focused on the usual suspects of orchard pests – brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB) and spotted wing drosophila (SWD).


Annie Nielsen of the Entomology Department at Rutgers University talked about how there can be hot spots within orchards for BMSB. While one grower may experience pockets of infestations, a neighboring orchard may not. Add to that, Nielsen says, BMSB can fly upwards of 3 to 30 miles a day, which is why coverage is the most important part of control sprays.

And, no surprise, SWD was also a large part of insect presentations, including one from Nikki Rothwell, Director of the Northwest Michigan Horticulture Research Center in Traverse City, MI, on how she and her research team are studying the preferences and behavior of the invasive pest. Raspberries are of obvious interest to SWD, and fruit that is starting to ripen is also of preference to the fly. From here, Rothwell says the team needs to understand what attracts the SWD to this nearly-ripe fruit (color, etc.).

During the 17th Annual Expo Banquet, Rufus Isaacs, Professor and Extension Specialist in the Department of Entomology at Michigan State University, was honored by the Michigan State Horticulture Society with the organization’s Distinguished Service Award. Isaacs has been instrumental in the adoption of IPM programs in fruit crop production and the Integrated Crop Integrated Crop Pollination Project.

While most presentations at the Expo centered on Michigan-centric topics, the looming ‘Cosmic Crisp’ crop was a part of Glade Brosi’s presentation. Brosi, of Storage Control Systems in Sparta, MI, said he didn’t want to alarm the crowd, but growers needed to understand there will be around 12 million trees planted by 2019, with an estimated 5 million boxes of apples coming by 2020. ‘Cosmic Crisp,’ as Brosi explained, is known for its excellent storage capabilities, and it’s going to change the way apple growers evaluate varieties for long-term storage. He says Michigan growers will need to adapt. Quickly.

On the Other Side of the Country
Meanwhile, American Fruit Grower and Western Fruit Grower Editor David Eddy kicked off the week at the Washington State Tree Fruit Association’s 113th Annual Meeting and Northwest Hort Expo Dec. 4-6 in Kennewick, WA, where they set a new attendance record.

Association President Jon DeVaney provided the 2,000-plus attendees an earful about what to expect this coming year. For example, DeVaney said President Trump’s election has mobilized progressives to the point they’re becoming the liberal equivalent of the Tea Party.

DeVaney added that these progressives are targeting H-2A “as a modern-day slave-trading program,” and that large grower/employers need to prepare immediately. It’s especially critical in Washington, where unemployment rates in key fruit-growing counties are down to about 4% ― just half what they were a few years ago.

Finally, DeVaney said growers should expect the recent national wave of sex harassment cases to hit agriculture, an industry where employees are more difficult to monitor and there is “a perceived imbalance of power.”

Later that week, Eddy attended the Almond Board of California’s Annual Conference Dec. 5-7 in Sacramento, CA, which also set an attendance record, with more than 3,900 attendees.

The conference keynote speaker was two-time presidential candidate and publisher Steve Forbes, who noted the lack of water in California is not a physical problem, it’s a political problem. Forbes added that Israel too is located in a desert, and they now use 10% less water than they used in 1948. A lack of rainfall can be overcome.

Following his speech, Forbes sat down on stage for a discussion with ABC President Richard Waycott, where he noted the lack of a free market in health care makes no sense. Hospital charges and policies are a good example. Imagine a hotel, said Forbes, telling you to share a room.

For more nuggets gleaned from speakers at both West Coast events, or from future events such as the Organic Grower Summit, being held this week in Monterey, CA, be sure to follow Eddy at @dave_avg_wfg on Twitter.