June 3, 2016

Codling Moth Season Has Begun!

Everyone likes to eat apples, including over 70 insects and a long list of fungi and bacteria.  To produce good tasting, good looking fruit, we have to control those pests.  Of all the flying pests, codling moth is probably the pest needing to be controlled the most.  Codling moth is responsible for the proverbial worm in the apple, so to speak!  As we hit 250 Degree Days in this pest's flight cycle, lets see how we might control it. 

Codling moth is a small moth whose caterpillars bore into the fruits of apple and pear trees during mid- to late-summer.  Codling moth is the cause of what is often referred to as "the proverbial worm in the apple". The caterpillars of this insect can damage a high proportion of the fruits on apple trees in gardens in a small amount of time.

Codling Moth Larvae
Newly-hatched larvae (caterpillars) chew through the fruit skin and bore their way to the core. The presence in fruit of one or more holes plugged with frass (excrement) is characteristic of attack by codling moth. The larvae enter the fruit through the sides, stem end, or calyx end, and a syrupy substance may exude from the holes as the fruit matures. Shallow entries called "stings" result when larvae penetrate a short distance and then die from insecticide poisoning or natural causes.

The eggs, larvae and pupae of codling moth each have specific physiological time requirements to complete development before they transform to the next stage. Temperature also affects the flight, mating and egg laying activities of the adults. Although the minimum threshold for emergence of moths is 50 degrees Fahrenheit, male moths do not fly until temperatures exceed 55.4 degrees F and codling moths do not mate until temperatures exceed 60.8 degrees F.
To determine when flight begins for codling moth, commercial growers make use of pheromone traps.  Once moths have been trapped for  two consecutive days in a row, a biofix is set  that initiates the beginning of growing-degree-day calculations.  We know that at 100 degree days after the biofix date codling moths begin to lay eggs and those eggs begin to hatch at 250 degree days after biofix.  It is this information that aids in the timing of necessary sprays for codling moth so they do not damage fruit.  Growers wishing to time sprays based on egg development and hatch should make an application of an insecticide at 250 DD (base 50 degrees F) after the first sustained capture of males in the sex pheromone traps.  Here is a Detailed Growing Degree Day Model for Codling Moth. 
For the home orchardist who does not have the benefit of a weather station or other means to calculate degree days, a simple tree growth stage time table can be followed.  Codling moths usually start flying at bloom time. Eggs laid by these moths begin to hatch about two weeks after petal fall, depending on the weather. You can apply the first codling moth spray at this time to prevent larvae from entering the fruit. Because insecticide residues last 7 to 10 days and moths are continuously present throughout the summer, apply a spray every 7 to 10 days to prevent later broods of codling moth larvae from entering apple and pear fruits. Always follow the label directions of any spray you may use.

Several insecticides can be used for codling moth control including acetmaprid and/or spinosad.  Acetamiprid is a soft, conventional control and is available as  Ortho Flower, Fruit & Vegetable Insect Killer.  This is a ready to use product that contains .006% acetamiprid, a synthetic organic compound of the family of chemicals that acts as neonicotinoid insecticides. Acetamiprid is a contact insecticide for sucking-type insects and can be applied as a foliar spray or a soil treatment. Acetamiprid acts on a broad spectrum of insects, including aphids, thrips, plum curculio, apple maggot and Lepidoptera, especially codling moth.  When sprayed in the evening at sunset, it will not harm bees or other beneficial insects.  Be sure to follow all label directions on the bottle for proper application.

An all natural approach is available in the form of Bonide’s Captain Jack’s Dead Bug Brew.  Captain Jack's Deadbug Brew® contains Spinosad (spin-OH-sid), a product first isolated from a naturally occurring soil dwelling bacterium that was collected on a Caribbean island from an abandoned rum distillery. Deadbug Brew® kills bagworms, borers, beetles, caterpillars, codling moth, gypsy moth, loopers, leaf miners, spider mites, tent caterpillars, thrips and more! Use on fruits, vegetables, berries, citrus, grapes, nuts and ornamentals and approved for organic gardening.

For additional information, see the following fact sheets which are available from local university extension services:

May 19, 2016

Plum Curculio Season

plum curculio ovipositing egg
Plum Curculio Ovipositing Egg
With the petal fall being behind us, and the temperatures predicted to be near 80 this weekend, it is prime time for our ugly little friend, PC! Adult plum curculio beetles, pictured to the left, emerge in the spring, right around or just after petal fall, to feed on apple buds, flowers, leaves and young fruit. Female beetles cut holes in the young fruit and deposit one egg in each cavity.
These sites are easily identified by their crescent shaped cuts. Unlike codling moth, the larvae of plum curculio rarely cause damage to the fruit. The fruit is primarily damaged superficially by the egg-laying and feeding by the adults. These "stings" will cork over and cause an indentation in the fruit as it matures making it look deformed and unsightly. 

The question then becomes, how do we control them??  Pesticide application at this time is very important for plum curculio control. To prevent fruit drop, and due to toxicity to bees if there are still blooms on the trees, do not use carbaryl (Sevin®) or any pyrethrin based spray as these are highly toxic to honey bees and other pollinators. For home growers, an acetamiprid spray such as Ortho® Flower, Fruit & Vegetable Insect Killer Ready-Spray is a deterrent.  If no blooms are present  on any trees, a pyrethrin based spray can be used.  Picking up and disposing of any fallen fruit will reduce problems with plum curculio, other insects, and many plant diseases. For conventional growers, Avaunt or Assail are two choices you might use, based on your codling moth protocol and your apple maggot protocol.  For a pure organic spray, the two most frequently used insecticides are Surround® and Pyganic®, both certified organic. The organic products may need to be sprayed multiple times for complete control at 7 to 10 day intervals or after any rain. And, as always, follow all label directions on any spray product.

For a complete Fact Sheet on Plum Curculio, consult the Cornell University Plum Curculio Fact Sheet and for an indepth look at plum curculio management in stone and pome fruits from Michigan State University.

April 7, 2016

Critical Temperatures For Frost Damage on Fruit Trees

This spring has marked another unprecedented weather pattern that raised our temperatures in late March and lowered early April temperatures to below normal.  It seems that each spring since 2012, we have been on the verge of critical temperatures for frost damage with our fruit trees.  

As the trees develop in the spring and buds start to swell, they lose the ability to withstand the cold winter temperatures that they could withstand in dormancy during the cold winter months. The young, actively growing tissue can then be damaged or even killed. Swollen fruit buds can better withstand temperatures in the teens without any damage. As the buds open, temperatures in the low 20s can cause harm, but sometimes leave other buds undamaged.  As growth moves from green tip to 1/4” green to 1/2” green to tight cluster to pink in apple trees, temperatures in the upper 20s can cause considerable harm to an early blooming tree. Near bloom, the range between slight and severe damage can be very small. So the stage of bud development determines how susceptible any given fruit crop is when freezes occur.  For more information on what those critical temperatures are that can cause freeze damage to trees during development, I have added two charts on the Critical Temperatures For Frost Damage on Fruit Trees from Utah State University below that you can download by clicking on either chart below. 


Given the weather patterns we have experienced so far this spring, and the fact that we have gotten snow as late as mid April, a spring frost could be possible within the next few weeks.  We will need to constantly assess the stage of development our trees are at and their susceptibility to freeze injury. If we continue in this spell of colder weather, apple trees will continue to develop more slowly, but once they begin showing tight cluster and pink, the critical temperature rises from the low 20’s to the high 20s, to levels just below freezing at bloom time.  

March 21, 2016

Spring Dormant Spray Time!

It's just about time to begin thinking about a dormant oil and copper spray for your fruit trees! The apple trees are getting ready to silver tip in the orchard here at Royal Oak Farm Orchard in northern Illinois and that is a sure sign that spring has arrived!! It also indicates that just as soon as the nights stay above freezing, it will be time to do a dormant oil and copper spray. The oil (mineral oil) is sprayed for mites, scale and aphids because spring is the time to cover those eggs at the base of the buds before they begin to hatch.  The oil smothers the eggs and they suffocate before hatching.  Below you can see aphid eggs that were laid last fall.

Aphid Eggs

Copper is also sprayed at this time for control of fire blight and to aid in the suppression of apple scab pathogens, both being severe diseases that can destroy a crop as well as the trees. We also have to be aware of the spring critical temperatures as the buds progress in development. Each spring I post the spring critical temperatures chart from Utah State to help you determine at what stage your fruit trees may be at as spring progresses.

Critical Spring Temperature Apple Pear

Critical Spring Temperatures Stone Fruit

Ever wonder how the fruit trees know when it's time to come out of dormancy? Well, the trees won't come out of dormancy until they have endured a certain amount of time with temperatures between 32 and 45 degrees Fahrenheit. Once the number of chill hours they need is achieved and temperatures warm in the spring, the trees come out of dormancy and resume their normal growth. The number of hours required at cooler temperatures is known as the chill requirement or chill hours. As of this afternoon we had accumulated approx. 751 chill hours from October 1 of last fall. Most apple varieties require 400-1000 chill hours, so most of the trees in our area have met their requirement and will come out of dormancy just as soon as temperatures warm. Growth resumption can be predicted by tracking what we call growth units. Growth units are the number of degree hours above 41 F. For example, if the temperature averages 51 F for and hour, then 10 degree units are accumulated. Bud break initiates after approx 3710 F growth units accumulate, and progresses depending on the temperature. We do our dormant oil and copper spray generally around April 10. The best time to spray is at silver tip....when the buds have that silvery/gray tinted fuzz on them. You can use the chart below to determine the growth stage your trees may be at.

As I mentioned earlier, now is the time to do our fire blight copper spray and our horticultural oil spray.  We want to get the copper on the trees before they reach full 1/4” green and the horticultural oil can be sprayed at the same time in a tank mix or done as a dormant,silver tip,green tip, or 1/4” green spray.  In other words, your oil can be sprayed at any time from silver tip through 1/4” green providing you are using a mineral oil based product such as Superior Oil 70sec or an off the shelf Horticultural Oil such as Bonide’s All Seasons Horticultural Spray Oil.  Your copper spray should be done before the trees reach 1/4” green to avoid any phytotoxicity issues.  For your copper spray you can also use an off the shelf brand such as Bonide Copper Fungicide RTU (Ready to Use).  Both of these products should be available at your local hardware store or garden center of from Amazon.com.

A dormant oil and copper spray should not be done until we get at least a 24 hour period that is above freezing at night. The oil cannot freeze on the trees, but it pretty much dries within about 24 hours. Once dry, there is no chance of it freezing.  We usually get at least one 24 hour period above freezing at night before the trees get to 1/4" green. 

This “window of opportunity” for dormant sprays for fruit trees depends on the bud stage of your target fruit tree. You can follow these guidelines:

Apples: swollen bud to 1/4” green
Pears: swollen bud to cluster bud
Peaches/Nectarines: swollen bud to pre-bloom
Apricot: before bloom

When applying, spray trees just until they are dripping to get good application on all the stems and crevices at the buds. If you are using horticultural oil alone, use a rate of 2% (mixed in water) for best results or follow your chosen product’s label rate.  For situations where aphids have been real problems in the past, consider adding an insecticide (such as acetamiprid, etc.) to 1.5 - 2% oil or use one of the Bonide RTU (ready to use) pre-mixes for insect pests.

March 9, 2016

Time to Prune the Home Orchard

Even though it’s not March 21 yet……spring is upon us!  In our area, northern Illinois, our apple trees are beginning silver tip and it’s time to begin planning our spray protocol for coming spring season.  Our pruning began back in December and we are just finishing up. You may not have 16,000+ trees like we do here at , so many of you may not have pruned your trees yet, but now is the time to prune if you have not done so already!

When to Prune

For the home grower that has 2 or more fruit trees, the better time to prune in our region is probably mid to late March when the daytime temperatures are  a bit more bearable.  The earlier in winter you begin to prune, the more likely you may open the tree up for freezing in severe temperatures if those temperatures arrive too early in the winter.  So the best time to prune is late winter or early spring, before the buds open up for the new growing season. 

If you have just planted your tree(s) this past growing season, you may not even need to prune your trees at all through this first year.  You can then begin training your tree(s) this next May and June and do any minimal pruning at that time.

How to Prune
It is very important to know the difference between training your new apple trees and pruning them.  Training begins when the tree is planted and continues throughout the life of the tree. 
Training is primarily used for proper positioning of the main scaffolds of the tree.  A properly trained tree can save many hours of  very difficult corrective pruning later!
Pruning, on the other hand, is used to thin the branches of your tree to allow more light into the tree canopy (the area covered by vegetative growth).  When all the leaves of a tree are exposed to more light, the tree produces higher quality fruit.

For more on training and pruning your young fruit trees, download T. R. Roper’s article  .

Rather than post the various yearly stages of pruning trees, let me refer you to an excellent article on that will cover the first four years of pruning a young tree, whether it be apple trees or stone fruit such as peaches.
I hope you find these articles useful!  As always, if you have any questions contact me anytime via comments or through our !

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