Vermont Orchard Rundown

June 7, 2020

I had a chance to visit some orchards late last week in Southern Vermont. We should remember that the lower Connecticut River Valley has traditionally been a major center of apple and peach production in the state. While there are fewer acres of trees than in the past, that’s true across the state. I am always impressed by the landscape down there, it really feels like another place compared to the Champlain Valley or interior highlands. What I saw is likely pretty indicative of orchards around the state.

Fruit set looks pretty heavy, and I have been seeing evidence of thinners applied early last week working. We are entering another window of good thinning weather, so if your crop id still clustered into doubles and triples per cluster (or worse), plan on another thinner this week before it warms up again. Grower who use Apogee for shoot growth management should keep applying on a 10-14 day schedule until terminal bud set. That’s still a solid month away. Get your nitrogen, potassium, magnesium, and boron fertilizers (plus anything you need if your foliar analysis from last year indicates it) on now. Any time, you can start applying calcium sprays to developing fruitlets, especially Honeycrisp and other large-fruited varieties.

Diseases: scab? What scab? This spring has been easy to manage for apple scab, as rains have bee intermittent, spread out, and fairly short. NEWA suggests that most of the ascospores at our orchard in South Burlington have been ejected, but I don’t really trust that yet. Growers should maintain fungicide coverage ahead of any rain events for the next couple of weeks. Fire blight: I started seeing symptoms on Friday in one of our blocks that was intentionally inoculated as part of Dr. Kerik Cox and Anna Wallis’s fire blight trials I am hosting. So, I know conditions were ripe for infection. Keep an eye out in your orchards and be ready to cut out any strikes as they appear. Haste is good on that front. Sooty botch / flyspeck will be managed with your scab sprays.

Insects: Things are hopping on that front. Plum curculio remains active and I have seen injury. We’re only about halfway through their oviposition period at this point, so keep covered. Organis corchards should plan to keep Surround on for another couple of weeks anyway. Codling moth are active. If you didn’t trap them in your orchard, use the NEWA models to guess, but it’s always best to use an actual catch date from your farm when calculating degree days for managing this pest. I’ve played around with a few capture dates for various orchards in the warmer sites and all are calling for treatment sometime this week. If CM  are a problem in your orchard, I would plan on a spray specific to them with a selective and efficacious material like Intrepid, Rimon, Belt, or Madex. As always, see the New England Tree Fruit Management Guide for recommendations.

Seeking Information: 2020 Perennial Crop Losses

June 3, 2020


I have been asked by the USDA Risk Management Agency for information on potential weather-related losses of perennial crops in Vermont in 2020. This is not a system to report insurable losses. If you have a loss, be sure to contact your insurer asap. Rather, this is a high-level assessment of loss events. Please contact me as soon as possible (reply to this email) with a brief note on the status of any weather-related crop damage on your farm. If you have had a loss, please indicate:  Issue or event of loss; Date of damage; Area (county or region); Estimate percent of damage or crop loss.

Thank you,


Orchard Considerations: Scab (yes…), Fire Blight, Insect Management

June 17, 2020

It’s dry, I know. If you have the ability to irrigate, you should be. At a minimum, newly planted trees should be watered regularly. This dry weather has been great for management of most diseases- apple scab, plus rusts and some of the other ‘minor’ diseases should be pretty low in abundance in managed orchards. It’s not hard to find scab lesions in unsprayed orchards, even at the especially-dry UVM Horticulture Research & Education Center (HREC), so the potential is there. This dry weather is slowing the end of scab season, though. Ascospore development follows a fairly predictable curve in years with normal precipitation patterns. However, in dry conditions, the fungus enters a dormant state, so development slows. We’re not entirely sure how extended the dry window needs to be for the inoculum to die out rather than just wait it out until rains come and re-energize it. Most orchard’s NEWA models indicate that the primary scab season is over, but others who are using the RIMpro model indicate another infection period is waiting in the wings. I would feel better with one fungicide protection going into next week when rains are expected. I don’t know if any of the models adequately plan for weather conditions like this.

The disease of greater concern to me is fire blight. Weather during bloom was hot this year with pretty high potential for infection. However, wetness events were rare, and inoculum isn’t guaranteed in all orchards. We have some active fire blight research going on at the HREC, and I can assure you that trees that were inoculated have plenty of the disease. We also have other sections of orchard with little FB history where I have found a few strikes. Everyone should keep an eye out and do a thorough scouting of your orchards for signs of infection and plan to cut it out ASAP. This dry weather we’re having is conducive to cutting while minimizing disease spread. Dan Cooley and others wrote a nice fact sheet on fire blight management that can be found at: I have also recorded a video on removing strikes that I’m posting to my YouTube channel ( My rural DSL upload capability is taking quite a while to get it there, so check back later today.
Insect management is key in orchards now. Where codling moth has been a problem, application of a CM-specific material is warranted most any time now, depending on your biofix (the date of first catch in pheromones traps in your orchard). For upland and inland sites, you may be a week away. Plum curculio are likely still active in cooler sites, but I have not seen fresh damage in the warmer sites (Champlain / Connecticut Valleys) so if a suitable material was applied in the last week or so, you’re probably covered there. Hot, dry weather is also conducive to mite flare-ups. A weekly or, if the numbers indicate, bi-weekly scouting will help to indicate if there are high enough mite numbers to consider treatment. Information on monitoring: Mites should be treated based on the following thresholds: in June, 1-2 mites per leaf; July, 5 mites per leaf; in August, trees are more tolerant of feeding so treatment should only be applied if there are over 7.5 mites per leaf.

Think about applying calcium in all of your sprays now, especially on Honeycrisp, Cortland, and other large-fruited cultivars, and especially especially on those cultivars if they have a relatively small crop this year.

Many growers, myself included, have observed poor fruit set or over thinning this year. That warm spell around June 4-6 and again 10-12 seems to really have activated thinners, and there may have also been some frost damage going into bloom. I hope your crop has turned out okay, please let me know if there are issues. I’m not sure if weather events contributed to overthinning is an insurable loss under most crop insurance policies, but it’s worth looking into.

Where trade names or commercial products are used for identification,

no discrimination is intended and no endorsement is implied.

Always read the label before using any pesticide.

The label is the legal document for the product use.

Disregard any information in this message if it is in conflict with the


The UVM Tree Fruit and Viticulture Program is supported by the

University of Vermont Agriculture Experiment Station, a USDA NIFA E-IPM

Grant, and USDA Risk Management Agency Funds.

Midsummer Orchard Activities

July 15, 2020

It’s been a while since our last check-in. One of the things I was surprised by when I started in orchard work was the relative slowdown in urgency after July 1. Having grown up on a dairy farm, where there’s no break, and summer means haying season on top of all the other chores, a chance to take a breather in summer is welcome.

But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to do in the orchard, and activities done (or not done) now can greatly affect your crop. Here are some of the things to keep in mind right now:

Insects: Apple maggot fly (AMF) is active in most Vermont orchards. Red sticky traps should have been hung at the beginning of the month, and five flies per baited trap, or one if not using baited lures, should indicate a need to treat. Assail is the most common material that growers are using these days, although many others are also effective. As always, see the New England Tree Fruit Management Guide for specific details. Organic growers may have success using Surround at this time, although the residue will need to be removed from fruit at harvest. Entrust has some efficacy against AMF, but should be used with a feeding stimulant like sugar to increase feeding by flies. Codling moth (CM)second generation egg hatch is still a bit away, we usually aim for treatment around 1260 degree days (base 50F) after the first trap capture biofix (we’re at 907 in South Burlington as of today). Obliquebanded leafrollers should be active soon as well, and I’d imagine that materials applied to target CM (unless using very specific materials like codling moth granulosis virus) will take care of hatching larvae.

Mites aren’t really insects, but I’ll include them here. The hot, dry weather has been very conducive to mite population flare-up, both for European red mite and for two-spotted spider mite. These pests are worth scouting for, and an average of over 5 mites per leaf (choose mid-aged leaves on terminals) may warrant treatment. The best ways to avoid mite problems are measure to protect beneficial mites and insects that eat them. That means avoidance of pyrethroid, carbamate, and organophosphate insecticides in general, as well as a thorough oil treatment in spring. Still, if you are in mite trouble, there are many materials available to help manage them.

Diseases: Apple scab should be done, it was a pretty easy year on that front. Sooty blotch and flyspeck are now the main cosmetic diseases, along with bitter rot and black rot that can destroy fruit. Although it’s dry, maintaining a minimum residue of a fungicide like Captan, Topsin, or a strobilurin will help to keep diseases at bay until harvest. We’re on a three-week schedule at the UVM orchards, but it’s really dry there and we do not wholesale fruit so a little cosmetic damage from SBFS is acceptable. Finally, keep looking for and cutting out fire blight.

Horticulture: Now is the time to start summer pruning to get some sunlight into vigorous trees and improve airflow and spray penetration. In most cases, summer pruning may not be necessary except to correct for occasional broken limbs or branches growing out into the drive row. But in many Vermont orchards where semi dwarf trees are still common, a light haircut can improve light penetration, red fruit color, and overall pest management and fruit quality. I tell my pruners that I want to see the whole trunk- that means removing vegetative shoots tat are blocking light from penetrating into the tree canopy. Fruit don’t need to be 100% exposed, dappled light is okay, but they can’t be in the shade.

It’s important to be maintaining calcium sprays, especially on large-fruited cultivars and doubly especially on Honeycrisp. Four to eight applications are recommended, especially on Honeycrisp, to reduce bitter pit. That may mean making extra trips through the orchard just to spray calcium. Most times, it can be mixed into the tank with other pesticides, as long as any pH requirements are met for the materials you’re using.

Keep running water if you can. It’s really dry out there, not that you need me to tell you that.

COVID-19: As harvest nears, I’ll get more materials out regarding impact of the pandemic on farm operations. For now, I’ll point you to Verm Grubinger’s excellent resource list for vegetable and berry growers. You will need a plan this year, whether harvesting for wholesale, selling retail, or opening for PYO.

Important: VT Pick-Your-Own Webinar & Farmer Forum

June 3, 2020

Join NOFA-VT and your fellow VT Pick Your Own growers on Jun 4, 2020 5:00-6:30 PM to learn more about adapting your Pick Your Own operation during the COVID-19 pandemic. Hear from VT growers including Eugenie Doyle of Last Resort Farm and Sue Haynie of Sweet Seasons Farm, and bring your questions to discuss and share. Vern Grubinger, crop specialist from UVM Extension, and Kristina Sweet and Abbey Willard from the VT Agency of Agriculture will be available to provide information and answer questions.


Direct registration link:

Where trade names or commercial products are used for identification,

no discrimination is intended and no endorsement is implied.

Always read the label before using any pesticide.

The label is the legal document for the product use.

Disregard any information in this message if it is in conflict with the


The UVM Tree Fruit and Viticulture Program is supported by the

University of Vermont Agriculture Experiment Station, a USDA NIFA E-IPM

Grant, and USDA Risk Management Agency Funds.

H2A Workers and COVID-Related Health Care Needs

July 26, 2020

Good morning: I’m forwarding this request on from a colleague at UVM Extension. If you use H2A workers on your farm, it is important that you weigh in so that resources may be made available (or developed, if needed) to assist you and your workers with handling issues related to COVID-19. -TB

Does your farm have guest workers (H2A)? Would you or your employees benefit from assistance navigating health care services or COVID related logistics? Is there a need for information, masks or other resources? If so, we want to hear from you and your employees. UVM Extension is assessing health related needs among H2A workers in order to offer support services. Please reply directly to Naomi Wolcott-MacCausland: or 802-503-2078.

VTFGA Fall Marketing

August 5, 2020

Sharing this information from VTFGA President Eric Boire on the fall apple marketing campaign. -TB

From: Eric Boire

Greetings Growers,

As we gear up for our fall marketing campaigns this year I wanted to give you all a quick update on where we stand and what’s going to be different.

  1. The Vermont Department of Tourism is going to run an ad in SevenDays on 9/16 promoting Vermont apples and the fall picking season.  What they need for this ad and potentially some thereafter is some photos from you.  Specifically, photos of you with a mask on in or around your orchard.  There is a pretty quick turnaround on submitting our photos we only have until 8/11 to submit. So please consider getting a photo back to me, dust off the grandparents or kids and get them out in the orchard. They are the most photogenic anyway. Hopefully this is the start of a new relationship the Department of Tourism and getting some fresh fall marketing campaigns going again.
  1. The Vermont Department of Health is going to be participating in the YOUfirst apple program again this year. Just to refresh everyone, VDH purchases around 60-80 certificates from the VTFGA to give out to their qualifying members.  The certificate is good for a half bushel of apples and all you have to do is collect the certificate and turn them back in to me at the end of the season (or just give me the count). They can be redeemed with the VTFGA for up to 35.00 dollars or whatever you charge for a half bushel.  Due to covid, this year VDH is asking for a list of growers who will have pre-packaged half bushels at their orchard.  They want their members to have that option if they are not comfortable with going out and picking this season.  If any of you are interested in learning more about the YOUfirst program in general you should check out the Department of Health’s website under Health Promotion and Chronic Diseases.

Give me a call or email with any questions. Preferably with a photo attached.

Eric Boire

President, VTFGA

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VCAAP Relief Payments for Agriculture and Working Lands Businesses—Coming Soon!

August 14, 2020

Forwarding from the VT Agency of Ag, this could be a great opportunity to recoup some COVID-related expenses for your farm business.

Vermont COVID-19 Agriculture Assistance Program (VCAAP) Agriculture and Working Lands Assistance Application

$8.5 Million in CARES Act Coronavirus Relief Funding will soon be available to a wide variety of agricultural, food, and forestry businesses and organizations through the Vermont COVID-19 Agriculture Assistance Program (VCAAP) Agriculture and Working Lands Assistance Application.

General Eligibility Criteria

(1) Farmers, commercial processors, slaughterhouses, farmers’ markets, food businesses, forest products businesses, dairy producers or processors, and agriculture producer associations are eligible.

(2) Your business entity must have gross annual income of at least $10,000 to apply.

(3) Your business must have verifiable losses and/or expenses since March 1, 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 public health emergency.

How To Apply

The Agriculture and Working Lands application will launch the week of August 17, 2020. Please note that state offices are closed on Monday, August 17 for Bennington Battle Day. Check our website and subscribe to our newsletter to be notified when the application is open.

The deadline to apply is October 1, 2020. However, keep in mind that grants will be awarded on a first-come, first served basis, so the application may close prior to October 1 if all funds are expended.

Before applying, applicants should complete a W-9 form and gather documentation of losses and costs incurred since March 1, 2020 that are related to the COVID-19 public health emergency.


Attend a webinar to learn more about the VCAAP Agriculture and Working Lands Assistance Application. A webinar for service providers and partners will be held on August 19. Webinars for applicants will be held on August 21, 24 and 25. Webinars will be recorded and posted to our website.

Contact Us

(802) 828-2430 select #9

New England Apple Crop Insurance Listening Session Notice

June 24, 2020

Forwarding from George Hamilton:




It is VERY important for those of you having Apple Crop Insurance Policies to participate.

Apple marketing is very different here in New England compared to rest of the major apple producing area in the USA.

This looks to be the last chance for orchardists from New England to voice other needs in an apple crop insurance policy that represents the New England  region.

Please mark this session’s date on your calendars (ITS TOMORROW – JUNE 25) and participate, especially if you have apple crop insurance.

Take Care, Keep Safe and Stay Health – Everyone!


Apple Crop Insurance Listening Sessions

June 18, 2020

From: Jake Jacobs
Sent: Thursday, June 18, 2020 11:15 AM
Subject: Apple crop insurance listening sessions

Please share with any interested parties.

Sorry for such short notice on these listening sessions, but I just received the announcements yesterday while I was out of the office.  Just FYI, in the last series of apple crop insurance listening meetings that were set up across the country in 2018, the New England meeting that was held in New Hampshire had the greatest number of apple growers in attendance.

Details on how to join the meetings and call-in numbers are in the attachments.

Thursday, June 18 – Pennsylvania Apple Growers – 12:00 – 1:30 p.m. EST

Thursday, June 25 – New England Apple Growers – 12:00 – 1:30 p.m. EST

Thursday, July 9 – New York Apple Growers – 12:00 – 1:30 p.m. EST