The 2021 apple growing season has started in Vermont!

My former boss and longtime mentor Dr. Lorraine Berkett, familiar to many on this list, used to always say to be ready for the growing season by April 1. Climate change may push that up- I remember starting our spray season in March in 2012, but that was an unusually warm spring. This spring weather looks like it will hold us into the pattern that Lorraine ingrained into me. But a growing season starting April 1 means preparing for it now.

A few items that I’d like to remind growers about include:

  1. Get you sprayer ready. This probably means cleaning it up, checking the mechanics, and, once the threat of really cold weather is out (or when you can make room in the shop), going through the plumbing. If you haven’t replaced nozzle tips for a couple of years, do so now. While you’re in there, clean out all of the gunk in nozzle bodies and other nooks and crannies. This is your time to get the machine in tip-top shape heading into the season. Don’t forget to replace you tractor cab filter, too!
  2. Attend our Tree Row Volume and Crop Adapted Spraying webinar next Tuesday, March 23, noon-1:30. Register ahead of time to get the link and to apply for pesticide application credits. I will be presenting with Ontario spray expert Jason Deveau. Dr. Deveau will also be holding a two-day webinar that will go into fine detail how best to optimize your sprayer on March 29 and 30.
  3. Figure out which NEWA station you will use for your weather monitoring. We have 20 stations and airports that feed data around Vermont to the system. This web-based application helps growers to integrate field- and weather-based information into biological models to help determine the need for and time spray applications for key pests.
    1. If you don’t have a station near you and wish to have one, please contact me. Stations are about $2000 and last for about 5 years before they need replacement or upgrades. Trust me, for $400 per year, this tool pays for itself many times over.
    2. Please plan to attend our webinar on March 30 to learn about the new NEWA system, upgrades for 2021!!
  4. Get your monitoring supplies in gear and plan your orchard scouting. Your first stop should be to download our IPM Quick Summary for Monitoring Apple Arthropod Pests. Print off and put on your spray shed wall. This covers the primary insect pests to monitor, and their timing and thresholds, during the season. Next, order you traps, likely from Great Lakes IPM or Gemplers. As a start, for each monitored block (orchard management unit 10 acres or smaller in size) you’ll want:
    1. Six white visual traps for European apple sawfly and tarnished plant bug.
    2. Three ‘wing’ traps for monitoring moths. You can choose the red or white traps, I prefer red delta traps as they are easy to replace the trap cards and find in the orchard. For each trap, you will need three codling moth, oriental fruit moth, and obliquebanded leafroller pheromone lures. You’ll also need three or more trap liners per trap.
    3. You’ll need four apple maggot fly traps per block. Traps come in disposable (requires hanger) or reusable models. We’ve moved to the disposable because the reusable ones require some pretty gross cleaning regime. You’ll also need appropriate adhesive to coat the traps.
    4. I like to carry rolls of flagging and some kind of magnifying lens to mark trees and make field identification easier.
    5. A good field guide is essential. We recommend NRAES 169: Tree Fruit Field Guide to Insect, Mite, and Disease Pests and Natural Enemies of Eastern North America (pdf, hard copy).
  5. Set up whatever data sheet system works for you. Some prefer a clipboard and paper, others a spreadsheet on the phone. A sample, printable spreadsheet can be found here. Note there are some extra trapped insects (e.g., Lesser apple worm, etc., that we are less concerned with in most orchards) and some pests that we assess with visual leaf or fruit observations- we’ll get to those as we go through the season.
  6. A good, general Orchard IPM Guide is the Cornell Apple IPM for Beginners booklet, available here.
  7. As we get into the growing season, you may want to consider mating disruption of codling moth or dogwood borer, the latter especially on young or dwarf trees. Mating disruption pheromones dispensers are typically hung in the orchard around bloom, so be ready to order ahead of time.

That should do it for now. See you soon.