Jay Norelli, USDAAn infected block of trees are damaged from fire blight. Researchers are looking for alternative methods to the use of oxytetracycline in organic orchards, The Organic Center began a project to provide the organic community the information needed to prevent the disease. Organic apple and pear growers remain concerned about progress that’s being made on treatments to replace the use of oxytetracycline for controlling fire blight in orchards.
“Fire blight is a very serious disease that kills entire orchards,” said Addie Pobst, coordinator of imports, sustainability, organic integrity and food safety for Viva Tierra Organic Inc., Sedro-Woolley, Wash.
Need for alternatives
The Organic Center, Washington D.C., published results from a poll conducted by David Granatstein, sustainable agriculture specialist at Washington State University, which concluded up to 90% of all organic apple and pear producers may switch to non-organic orchards if an alternative control is not available by the time oxytetracycline is banned.
Coupled with the increasing demand for organic apple and pear products, the industry could potentially see a large imbalance of supply and demand.
Growers know the research needed to find a sustainable cure needs to happen fast, something that isn’t necessarily likely.
“We are working hard on a replacement to antibiotics and some cures are root stocks changes which will not happen fast,” said Roger Pepperl, marketing director of Stemilt Growers Inc., Wenatchee, Wash.
Organic Center publication
In July, The Organic Center began a project to provide the organic community the information needed to prevent the disease.
The project, a collaboration with Granatstein and Harold Ostenson, is intended to research integrative antibiotic-free treatment strategies.
Jessica Shade, director of science programs for The Organic Center, said the project is intended to provide growers with information from organic operations who already have been working to treat fire blight without antibiotics.
“It will share the lessons learned by growers who have already been avoiding antibiotics to comply with European standards,” Shade said.
In addition to the full report, the project also includes a table with photos of infestation at different stages so growers can look for different treatments others have tried at that stage, according to Shade.
“The chart will have pictures and descriptions of the different action items,” she said.
The draft is in the review stage to ensure it covers all the latest research and is clear for technical and non-technical audiences.
“We have members from all over the U.S. looking over the draft so we can make this document more understandable,” Shade said.