SBA EIDL program re-opening for farmers; prebloom orchard activities

By Terence Bradshaw

Earlier today I sent a notice from Tom Berry at Senator Leahy’s office regarding availability of emergency funds to farmers affected financially by the COVID-19 pandemic. That was referencing a re-opening of the portal specifically for farms to apply for funds. If you are an ag business that was unable to take advantage of the SBA EIDL Loan/Advance Program, there is good news! The EIDL Advance/Loan portal will be re-opening shortly (today, May 4th). The re-opening of the portal is for agricultural businesses that were previously ineligible for the program. New non-agricultural business applications will not be accepted. The portal will be opened for a limited period, and it is recommended that you apply as soon as possible. The link to the portal will be:

Bud stage for most cultivars at the UVM Horticulture Research and Education Center is tight cluster. Cider cultivars are hanging back at half-inch green tip, and Zestar is ahead of everyone at early pink. This means that it’s time to really think about bloom activities. First, if you use rented beehives for pollination, make sure your hives are lined up. You’ve only got one shot to get those flowers converted into fruit, so make the most of it. Weather looks relatively cool in the days ahead, but I’m not seeing much in the line of hard freezes that concerns me. At this rate, boom is likely to hold off until next week, although that is very site-dependent. Upland and inland orchard still have a ways to go.

Any time now would be a good time to apply foliar zinc, boron, and nitrogen. Wes Autio from UMASS has published a good fact sheet on prebloom foliar nutrients here. Soil applied nitrogen and boron applications may also be applied at any time now.

Insect activity should be picking up in orchards soon. Many orchards choose to apply a pink insecticide prophylactically to manage tarnished plant bug and European apple sawfly, but those pests are best managed based on trap capture data. White sticky traps hung three per ten-acre block at knee height for TPB and head height for EAS may be monitored to assess whether populations are above economic action thresholds. Traps may be ordered from Great Lakes IPM or Gemplers and should be hung as soon as possible if they are not up yet. Thresholds for scouted insects may be found here. For TPB, five captured bugs per trap (eight for retail orchards with higher damage tolerance) is the economic threshold for an insecticide spray at pink. Cool weather this week is expected to keep activity low for the time being. EAS are typically managed at petal fall, and threshold for management is nine per trap averaged over all traps in the block for blocks that received a prebloom insecticide or five per trap for those where no spray was applied at that time.

Codling moth is an increasing pest in Vermont orchards and are best managed using degree day models to time insecticide sprays. CM are monitored using wing traps available from the sources listed above. Traps should be hung at pink and monitored daily to record the first moth capture. I posted a short explanation of the CM biofix to my YouTube channel today.

Some growers may be interested in using mating disruption (MD) against codling moth or dogwood borer this year. We have been deploying MD for several years on an experimental basis at UVM since we had significant damage a number of years ago in the organic orchards, and feel that it has been relatively successful. MD is expensive, however, works best in large contiguous blocks, and should be deployed orchard-wide to be most effective. Eric Boire at Nutrien ((802)759-2022) would be a good contact to explore this option further.

Do I have to remind you that we’re all heading into (or already in) the advanced /accelerated phase of apple scab ascospore maturity? Keep an eye on the weather, and protect ahead of rains. The New England Tree Fruit Management guide has good recommendations based on bud stage for managing this disease.

Fire blight? Still too cool to really be worried at this point. Keep an eye out for warm (>70°F) weather going into bloom and, as always, NEWA is your best bet for tracking disease potential.

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