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Evaluation of Strategies for Fire Blight Control in Organic Pome Fruit Without Antibiotics

    Authors and Affiliations
    • Kenneth B. Johnson
    • Todd N. Temple , Department of Botany and Plant Pathology, Oregon State University, Corvallis 97331-2902

      Apple and pear produced organically under the U.S. National Organic Program (NOP) standard can be treated with antibiotics for suppression of fire blight caused by Erwinia amylovora. Recent regulatory actions by the NOP, however, have lessened the likelihood of antibiotic use after the 2014 season. In response, western U.S. organic apple and pear stakeholders identified two immediate-need research objectives related to fire blight control: development of effective non-antibiotic control programs based on combinations of registered biological products; and, in apple, integration of these products with lime sulfur, which is sprayed at early bloom to reduce fruit load. In orchard trials in Oregon, increasing the frequency of treatment with biological products improved suppression of floral infection. In apple, fruit load thinning with 2% lime sulfur plus 2% fish oil (LS+FO) at 30 and 70% bloom significantly (P ≤ 0.05) reduced the proportion of blighted flower clusters in four of five orchard trials. Moreover, lime sulfur significantly (P ≤ 0.05) suppressed epiphytic populations of E. amylovora after their establishment on apple flowers. Over four trials, treatment with Aureobasidium pullulans (Blossom Protect) after LS+FO reduced the incidence of fire blight by an average of 92% compared with water only; this level of control was similar to treatment with streptomycin. In three seasons, a spray of a Pantoea agglomerans product after the 70% bloom treatment of LS+FO established the antagonist on a significantly (P ≤ 0.05) higher proportion of flowers compared with a spray of this bacterium before the thinning treatment. Consequently, in apple, biological treatments for fire blight control are not advised until after lime sulfur treatments for fruit load thinning are completed.