10.     ALMar Orchards gains national attention for use of pigs, not


Pass by Jim Koan's 120-acre apple orchard this spring and you could well
spy dozens of baby Berkshire hogs marauding under the trees -- miniature
porkers scarfing up fruit and grubbing in the soil.

A case of hogs gone wild?

No. It's an experiment in organic farming gaining national attention,
and the pork-and-apple program at Koan's ALMar Orchards in Flushing is
getting accolades from Michigan State University researchers who say it
may someday help fruit growers reduce pesticide use.

Koan, like many orchard keepers, has long been plagued by the Plum
Curculio Beetle, a quarter-inch pest that burrows into the young fruit
to lay its eggs. The infestation makes the apples drop prematurely.

The larvae migrate from rotting fruit into the soil. The adult beetle
then emerges to attack the remaining fruit, and the cycle continues.

Once an orchard is infected with the beetles, it can take years of
diligent applications of pesticides to eradicate the tenacious beetles.

Koan, an organic farmer looking for ways to reduce pesticide use, hit on
the idea of using animals to eat the infected fruit along with the
larva, interrupting the cycle.

First he tried chickens, but he found them lackadaisical.

Then he imported 250 guineas, exotic African chickens known for their
love of beetles. But hawks and owls made off with all but nine of the

He also considered sheep -- a technique farmers use in New Zealand, but
they seemed too large and were easy targets for the coyotes that roam

"Then the lightbulb went on," he said. "Hogs."

Koan researched Berkshire hogs, known for their sunny dispositions and
sharp intelligence. And at 230 pounds full grown, the hogs are a sure
match for a hungry coyote.

Koan started with three sows and a boar. By last April, he had nearly 30

When the infected apples began to drop five weeks later, he let the
piglets into the orchard.

They were in, well, hog heaven, gorging themselves on infected fruit for
three days.

"It was a thing of beauty," said MSU pest management specialist and
researcher David Epstein, who is studying Koan's experiment and working
to get federal grant money to continue the experiment.

"They moved as a team, like little Hoover vacuum cleaners, picking up
everything in their paths," he said.

Epstein and Koan were surprised at the success of the flash grazing

The piglets ate almost every infected apple in sight. They also helped
with weed control, and their sharp hooves aerated the soil under the

Good Fruit Grower, a national trade publication, is to feature Koan's
hogs in the upcoming issue.

And Epstein is fielding questions from growers around the country who
are hearing about the success.

"Let's just say that if we do the follow-through and we can show that
flash grazing is as successful as it seems, definitely people will be
interested, particularly those running small farms with direct markets,"
Epstein said.

Koan plans eventually to market his hogs as organic meat, once they are
done cleaning up his rotten apples. He's expecting a new litter of
piglets in the spring.

But he's had trouble letting go of his friendly farmhands.

One sow named Olivia has been adopted by Koan's daughter. Olivia walks
on a leash and is litter box trained so that she can live in the house.

"So I'm guessing she's not going anywhere," Koan said.

11.     Now is a good time to monitor for mummy berry in blueberries 
Annemiek Schilder, Plant Pathology

It's mummy berry season again. The mummy berry fungus enjoyed the snow
cover this winter, which provided sufficient moisture for mummies to
germinate. However, the rate of germination is lower than last year,
with a maximum of 6 percent mummies germinated at this time. The
extended cold weather seems to have delayed their development. In
addition, some sites are very wet and many mummies may actually be
submerged. It is not known how well they can survive waterlogging, but
wet soils in general are conducive to disease. At this time, some
mummies are showing small finger-like extensions (apothecial initials)
and some have small trumpet-like mushrooms (apothecia) ranging from
having pin-prick size openings to about 1-2 mm in diameter. At 2 mm
(1/12 inch) in diameter, they can start to release ascospores. However,
the most spores are released when apothecia are 5-10 mm in diameter (1/4
to 2/5 inch). If there is no leaf tissue on the bushes, it does not
matter since infection cannot take place without green tissue being
visible. The mummies typically germinate over several weeks to a month,
depending on temperature and soil moisture, so there may be more waves
of germinating mummies ahead. 

What to look for
Blueberry growers should be monitoring for mummies with trumpet-shaped
mushrooms (see pictures). The number of germinated mummies (specifically
the number of visible apothecia) is a better predictor of disease than
simply the number of mummies under a bush, since germination is
prerequisite for ascospore release and disease development. Mummy berry
occurs primarily at wetter sites and in poorly drained areas; therefore
scouting should target those sites. Dry, sandy sites may not have any
mummies at all. The mummy berry fungus shoots ascospores out of the
apothecial cup as soon as the cup diameter is about 2 mm (1/12 inch)
wide. Ascospore release continues until the cup collapses. Longevity of
the mushrooms is affected by temperature close to the ground, e.g., at
70?F, the mushrooms may live for less than a week, whereas at 50?F, they
can last two to three weeks, and at 40?F up to four weeks. At higher
temperatures, the mushrooms expand more quickly (they can almost become
dime-sized) and release more spores per day than at lower temperatures.
A severe freeze may damage the cups, but research shows that they can
partially recover their ability to shoot ascospores after exposure to
temperatures of 22?F and above. The ascospores are windborne and can
travel fairly long distances (supposedly up to a mile). So even if you
don't have any mummy berry in your field, there is a chance that
ascospores can drift in from other fields or nearby woods with wild or
escaped blueberries. 

Stages of infection
There are two stages of infection. First the developing shoots are
infected by the ascopores released from the mummy berry apothecia. Shoot
strike symptoms appear approximately two weeks after infection. Shoots
are susceptible from bud break until they are about 2 inches in length.
Sometimes flower clusters may also become blighted; these are called
flower strikes. Both shoot and flower strikes are characterized by
drooping/wilting symptoms and a layer of gray spores (conidia) on the
surface. These conidia are spread by insects (primarily bees), wind and
rain. Bees are attracted to the shoot and flower strikes due to their UV
light pattern (a nifty trick of the pathogen) and pick up the conidia on
their legs and bodies. Bees then inadvertently deliver the conidia to
the flowers where infection takes place. 

The conidia infect the flower stigma followed by colonization of the
developing fruit, which eventually mummifies and drops to the ground.
Flowers are susceptible for about four days after they open. The more
shoot strikes there are and the better the weather for pollination, the
greater the risk of flower and fruit infection. Cultivars such as
Berkeley, Bluetta, Blueray, Earliblue, Jersey, Nelson, Patriot and
Weymouth are susceptible whereas Bluecrop, Duke and Elliott are
moderately resistant to the disease. Some cultivars are more susceptible
to shoot strikes and less susceptible to fruit infection, whereas others
are just the opposite. 

While there are multiple fungicides registered for mummy berry control,
Indar consistently has outperformed other fungicides for both the
primary and secondary phases of the disease in Michigan. Indar is a
sterol inhibitor fungicide and therefore prone to resistance development
in target fungi. It is recommended to limit the number of sprays of
Indar to a maximum of two or three per season (five are allowed per the
label). Orbit (propiconazole) and PropiMax (propiconazole), which are in
the same chemical class as Indar, now both have a supplemental label for
blueberries. Indar, Orbit and PropiMax all have a 30-day PHI. In small
plot trials in Michigan, we found that Orbit was similar to Indar in the
control of shoot strikes, but did not perform as well as Indar for
control of fruit infection. PropiMax has not been tested in Michigan,
but is expected to behave similarly to Orbit.

For fungicide resistance management, it is important to alternate SI's
with fungicides in different modes of action, such as Bravo (fair to
moderate efficacy), Captevate (moderate to good efficacy) Topsin M +
Captan or Ziram (moderate efficacy), and Serenade (moderate to good
efficacy). Systemic fungicides such as Indar and Topsin will likely
provide better coverage of the flower parts (the stigma specifically).
Cabrio and Abound have shown poor to fair efficacy in past trials in
Michigan. While Pristine did not perform particularly well for control
of mummy berry shoot strikes in small-plot trials in Michigan, it
provided good control of fruit infection. We suspect that the activity
of Pristine is better at higher temperatures; it therefore may be a good
option during bloom as it also controls anthracnose, Botrytis and
Phomopsis twig blight and canker.

*** Follow these instructions to receive a brief e-mail announcement
when a new issue of MSU's Field Crops CAT Alert newsletter is posted at
this web site. The announcements are sent through an automated system
called a listserve. 

Directions to sign-up (subscribe) for the free listserve: 
Send the following one line e-mail message to [log in to unmask]:
subscribe fieldcat (your first and last name) 

For example, if your name was Jane Smith, you would type: subscribe
fieldcat (Jane Smith) 

You will receive a confirmation e-mail asking you to click on an
Internet link in order to complete your subscription. This ensures that
the address came with your permission. 

Topics for CAT Alert newsletters include:
Fruit: Tree and small fruit commercial production.
Vegetables: Muck and upland vegetables and potatoes.
Field crops: Corn, soybeans, dry beans, small grains, forages, sugar
Landscape: Nursery and landscape settings, turfgrass, Christmas trees,
forestry, and home/yard.
Greenhouse: Commercial production of garden plants.



Vicki Morrone

Organic Vegetable and Crop Outreach Specialist

Michigan State University

C.S. Mott Group for Sustainable Food Systems

303 Natural Resources Bldg.

East Lansing, MI 48824


517-282-3557 (cell)

517-353-3834 (fax)

For information on organic agriculture production please visit:

P Please consider the environment before printing this email



If you would like to access previous postings to the Mich-Organic listserv you can copy and paste the following URL into your browser address bar