Extension Report Tree owners invited to join ‘Backyard Project’

October 19, 2005

Sometime in the next few weeks, all Hood River Valley residents will be receiving some important information in the mail from the Hood River Grower-Shipper Association.

You will receive an invitation to participate in an effort to address a problem with high significance to the fruit industry. This effort is called the Backyard Fruit Tree Project.

The goal of the project is to minimize the impact of unmanaged fruit trees on commercial fruit orchards. Pests that spread from these trees can foil the efforts of commercial growers to implement integrated pest management programs.

The project, which has been in planning since late 2003, shifted into implementation last spring. It is currently focused on codling moth, a key pest of pear and apple.

The project has several components.

One of the major ones is informing tree owners of their responsibility and options for complying with Hood River County Ordinance 263, which requires them to control pests on these trees.

This is being accomplished through an intensive outreach program which includes face to face visits from a HRGSA representative.

To coordinate those visits, the HRGSA developed a database of potentially problematic trees. This was done by conducting a valley-wide survey during bloom when the trees are most apparent.

As an incentive to remove unmanaged trees, the HRGSA is offering coupons, which are redeemable for non-fruit-bearing replacement plants from Good News Gardening and Gorge Nursery or for fresh fruit from Hood River Fruit Loop Members. In cases which residents would like to remove the trees but are physically unable to, the HRGSA will provide assistance with tree removal.

For those residents who are determined to maintain fruit trees, information on controlling key pests is provided along with an explanation of the challenges involved and an assurance that their success will be determined through follow-up visits.

According to HRGSA Executive Director Jean Godfrey, the community has been very receptive to the project, demonstrated by a high level of cooperation from fruit tree owners contacted this summer. The springtime bloom survey identified nearly 800 addresses with pear or apple trees, with an average of about four trees per address.

All of those residents have received a face to face visit or printed information explaining the project goals and how to participate. Nearly 200 tree owners have removed or are scheduled to remove fruit trees totaling close to 800 hundred trees.

The impact of unmanaged trees has become more significant in recent years because many Hood River orchardists are using an innovative approach, known as pheromone confusion or mating disruption, as the foundation of their codling moth control program.

One of the potential pitfalls of mating disruption, which is a non-chemical control, is that mated female codling moths can fly into an orchard and lay eggs on fruit, which is not protected with a conventional insecticide. Unmanaged pear, apple, and even crabapple trees can serve as reservoirs of mated females that ruin the efforts of growers to employ this environmentally friendly method of pest management.

The Backyard Fruit Tree Project has developed broad-based support from the tree fruit industry as well as from Hood River County government.

The Center for Agricultural Partnerships recognized the potential impact of this project, and has provided grant funding to support the project outreach efforts in addition to funds provided by the HRGSA membership.

The near term success of the HRGSA Backyard Fruit Tree Project and the long term success of orchard pest management practices such as mating disruption depend on a high level of citizen cooperation. For more information about the Backyard Fruit Tree Project, contact the HRGSA at 387-4769.

For information on controlling pests on fruit trees or selecting an appropriate replacement, contact the OSU Extension Service.

In the Hood River area, call 541-386-3343 or visit us on the Web at: http://extension.oregonstate.edu

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