An official website of the United States government.

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock ( ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Using New Alternatives to Enhance Adoption of Organic Apple Production Through Integrated Research, Education, and Extension

Investigators
Berkett, Lorraine
Institutions
University of Vermont
Start date
2009
End date
2012
Objective
Apples are an important component of New England's diversified agriculture. Although there is significant interest in organic production, there are very few organic apple orchards in New England, in part, because of the challenges associated with the traditional apple cultivar grown (McIntosh). However, because of recent shifts in consumer preference for newer cultivars, growers are planting different apple cultivars. Growers want to know what the potential is for sustainable and profitable organic production with the newer apple cultivars that are being planted in the region.

This project holistically examines the opportunities and challenges of organic production within the two major orchard systems growers are using to change to new cultivars and with five of the top apple cultivars that growers identified as important to the future of the industry. The long-term goal of this multi-state, multidisciplinary project is to enhance adoption of organic apple production in New England through research that advances the scientific knowledge base and provides practical information to stakeholders.

Through a closely integrated extension/outreach program that addresses stakeholder needs, the project will enable whole farm planning, improve competitiveness, and enhance the ability of growers to grow and market high quality organic apples. Stakeholders have been an intricate part of the development of the project's goals and objectives and have guided the project throughout the past three years; extensive stakeholder involvement will continue throughout the next three years. The project directly relates to five of the OREI goals/priorities, two of which are designated as OREI's highest priorities. The project's objectives are:

  1. Continue to evaluate new apple cultivars and incorporate research-generated knowledge of apple ecosystem dynamics into organic production systems to determine sustainability and profitability.
  2. Field test commonly used organically-certified growth regulators (i.e., seaweed products) and evaluate their impacts on fruit yield, quality, tree nutrition and health including impact on disease and arthropod pests.
  3. Evaluate the benefits of different ground cover strategies in promoting tree health, plant and soil water status, and yield and fruit quality.
  4. Continue to collaboratively develop and implement with stakeholders a multi-dimensional extension program that addresses their priorities and needs, enables whole farm planning, improves competitiveness, and enhances the ability of growers to grow and market high quality organic apples.
More information
Non-Technical Summary: Apples are an important component of New England's diversified agriculture. Although there is significant interest in organic production, there are very few organic apple orchards in New England, in part, because of the challenges associated with the traditional apple cultivar grown (McIntosh). However, because of recent shifts in consumer preference for newer cultivars, growers are planting different apple cultivars. Growers want to know what the potential is for sustainable and profitable organic production with the newer apple cultivars that are being planted in the region. This project holistically examines the opportunities and challenges of organic production within the two major orchard systems growers are using to change to new cultivars and with five of the top apple cultivars that growers identified as important to the future of the industry. The long-term goal of this multi-state, multidisciplinary project is to enhance adoption of organic apple production in New England through research that advances the scientific knowledge base and provides practical information to stakeholders.

Approach: Objective 1. The research initiated in 2006 to determine the opportunities and challenges of organic apple production with the five cultivars planted in two orchard systems will continue in the two certified organic orchards at the UVM Horticultural Farm in South Burlington, VT. In essence, this is a feasibility/profitability study having the following questions: (i)What are the opportunities and challenges of organic apple production with the five cultivars planted in the two orchard systems (ii) Is organic apple production profitable and sustainable with the knowledge and tools we have and with these cultivars (iii) Will there be a long-term difference in profitability between the two organic orchard systems The following types of data will be collected: horticultural measurements of tree health and productivity, disease and insect incidence, soil health measurements, and economical parameters. Objective 2. The questions we seek to answer include: (i) Given adequate mineral nutrition and water availability, is there an effect on tree growth, fruit yield and quality, attributable to applications of commonly used seaweed products (ii) Does application of seaweed products increase tree health such that incidence of disease and arthropod damage is reduced on fruit and foliage (iii) Can the use of seaweed products improve tree health to a point where they can better resist attack from pests, thereby reducing the need for pesticide intervention in the orchards There will be three treatments in this study: a standard nutrient application applied to all trees and two seaweed treatments commonly used by organic apple growers. Data collection will include tree growth and productivity measurements, fruit quality, leaf nutrient analysis, and disease and arthropod damage assessment across the five cultivars. Objective 3. The demonstration orchard at the University of Maine will contain a research study on ground cover management for weed control. Ground cover management strategies of close mowing, mulching, and an organic herbicide will be compared on Honeycrisp trees on G.11 and M.26 as to their impact on weeds and tree health. Data will be collected on weed biomass, tree growth, and soil health and moisture. Objective 4. The extension/outreach program will: (i) Continue the development of the OrganicA website, http://www.uvm.edu/organica/ (ii) Expand the delivery of resource materials to eOrganic. (iii) Collaboratively organize tours of organic apple farms in the region where growers can learn from the experience and insights of the host organic farmer. (iv) Organize grower field days and/or at the two organic research orchard systems. (v) Organize and conduct a regional Workshop on Organic Apple Production in December, 2011. (vi) Develop a comprehensive Practical Guide to Organic Apple Production.

Funding Source
Nat'l. Inst. of Food and Agriculture
Project source
View this project
Project number
VT-0056OG
Accession number
218650
Categories
Chemical Contaminants
Bacterial Pathogens
Commodities
Produce