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antibiotics and the organic standards

Posted by Michael Phillips 
antibiotics and the organic standards
December 18, 2012 08:34PM
I spent nearly an hour this afternoon on the phone with Tracy Favre of the Organic Standards Board discussing biological alternatives to antibiotics to deal with a potential fire blight epidemic. Absolutely, I'm pleased that one of these folks wants to better understand the holistic viewpoint. Tracy is an "environmental rep" for the NOP (National Organic Program) but it turns out she's also a pecan grower down inTexas. And has recently added a fruit orchard to her homestead to boot. Tree perspective matters here. Anyhow, I made a strong case for biology over synthetic medicines. Pseudomonas as a competitve organism has a proven track record. Effective microbes and/or compost tea changes blossom dynamics for bacterial opportunists like Erwinia amylovora (fire blight bacterium) every time. Washington growers using hops extracts have shown that the nutrient tack demonstrates extreme effectiveness as well. Read the details in Holistic Orchard if you're not up to speed here.

The quandary in this ongoing debate is the need by big organic apple growers out West to protect plantings in a conventional (albeit questionable) manner. Apparently we smaller growers out East and in the Midwest just don't recognize the risk involved in planting susceptible varieties on susceptible rootstocks across acres and acres of orchard. And thus the "question of scale" has NOP representatives seriously considering allowing the continued use of antibiotics for approved organic production. The pivotal point regardless of tree count is that every grower needs to get out there with spray protection the day prior to a high risk infection event. I'm willing to bet good money on the competitive colonization approach backed by deep nutrition to do a far better job than Streptomyicin and whatever Monsanto comes up with.

And when push comes to shove ... which really better suits your idea of what "organic" is supposed to be about?

Lost Nation Orchard
Zone 4b in New Hampshire



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 12/18/2012 09:07PM by Michael Phillips.
Webinar: Fire Blight Alternatives
February 16, 2013 01:13PM
I'll pass along this learning opportunity for growers as to alternative strategies for fire blight. Please give a report back here if you "attend" this presentation. That link provides a preview of the slides and thus the approaches being detailed.

If you know any organic apple or pear growers who might be interested, here is an upcoming webinar on March 13 where Dr Ken Johnson, Oregon State University, will discuss fire blight control without antibiotics, which are being phased out by the NOSB. Ken is probably the leading researcher in the country on this.

http://www.extension.org/pages/62448/fire-blight-control-in-organic-pome-fruit-systems-under-the-proposed-non-antibiotic-standard

David Granatstein
Tree Fruit Research and Extension Center
Washington State University
1100 N. Western Ave.
Wenatchee, WA 98801 USA
Tel. 509.663.8181 x.222
Re: antibiotics and the organic standards
April 19, 2013 08:12PM
You may want to look at Blossom Protect:
Blossom Protect Label

Approved for organic use. You apply it before the Fire Blight risk. It colonizes the site where the bacteria triers to enter the flower and make it unhospitable by making it acidic.

In Canada, Strepto is a no-no for organic use even tough you can use it in the US until 2014.
Re: antibiotics and the organic standards
February 24, 2016 10:54PM
Do you have experience with blossom protect, it would be something I'd be willing to try as we have a lot of fire blight pressure here. I want to be as natural intervention as possible so will likely try to go without it and more holistic until it proves to be a problem in our orchard.

No fences orchard and cidery
spokane wa 5b
Re: antibiotics and the organic standards
February 25, 2016 07:10AM
Washington state's commercial industry is notorious for virulent (e.g., strep resistant) fireblight because of years of antibiotic use and an incredible environment for infections. If you have a biologically rich orchard (lots of good bacteria and fungi), then you're already ahead of the game (for Washington state anyway). But with cider varieties being so susceptible you need to be extra vigilant. Pure holistic approach may not cut it in a bad year, so I would recommend to continue building the bio-rich environment and at least experimenting with Blossom Protect (and similar approaches) before actually needing them in a crisis situation. There are other compounds out there that are worth looking at even though their track record isn't all that hot in commercial settings: Bloomtime (P. agglomerans), Fire Quencher (bacteriophage - not registered as far as I know), Actigard (systemic activated resistance) plus the organics: Cueva, Serenade, Double Nickel. The trick with all of them is make sure the surface of the plant and the open flowers parts of covered with the competitive organisms (or compounds) well ahead of an infection so they can out-compete the invading Erwinia. Start applying before the flowers open -- like around tight cluster. Oh, and dont apply anything wou ldkill off the good biology before you actually need it to work. It takes time for them establish, so this isn't a discrete spray. You mentioned in your previous post using whey protein -- AgriDynamics has a whey "yogurt" product that I've heard (spoken with a few row crop farmers) works really well on mildews (Fungi). I havent heard any direct reviews of it against bacteria though -- but it can't hurt. If you have an orchard that has low or no fireblight, then you are your own best friend right now. Yes, fireblight can blow in from neighboring infected orchards, but if you can keep your orchard clean, remove and destroy any infections that you might find, and generally keep the conditions for future infection low (low vigor, resistant varieties, proper pruning and nutrition, etc.) then you can probably practice a near-pure holistic program and remain fireblight free.

Mike Biltonen, Know Your Roots
Zone 5b in New York
Re: antibiotics and the organic standards
February 25, 2016 03:45PM
Thanks Mike, I'll get into looking at these compounds!!
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