Control fruit tree disease with less chemicals

Balingup orchard manager David Giumelli is hosting an event on 25 October to discuss options for the control fruit tree disease.

Mr Giumelli manages Eastwind orchard on the western outskirts of Balingup. He has been trialling methods to control tree disease with help from South West Catchments Council (SWCC), with an emphasis on reducing his reliance on chemicals.

David is concerned about the way growers currently deal with this issue.

“Everything seems to be evolving around chemical control and less so around biological control,” David said.

“We are using more and more chemicals. The cost is one thing but the damage is another. As far as I’m concerned, the soil is becoming sterile.”

SWCC has invited Queensland-based nematologist Dr Graham Stirling to speak at the event.  Dr Stirling has 45 years’ experience studying and managing soil-borne disease and is author of several books including Soil Health, Soil Biology, Soilborne Diseases and Sustainable Agriculture.

Most of Dr Stirling’s research has been directed towards the development of non-chemical controls for plant-parasitic nematodes. He has found that a healthy community of soil microorganisms can suppress pest nematodes. To do this, he says growers need to work towards minimising practices that are detrimental to beneficial organisms, and manage organic inputs to maintain their food supply.

Research into the management of lesion nematodes on replanted apple trees suggests that these nematodes could be managed through a combination of practices, such as allowing more time between the removal of the previous orchard and replanting, incorporating animal manure or a green manure crop with urea, choosing appropriate rootstock, and maintaining a layer of organic mulch around trees.

David has begun implementing some of these ideas, and the event will include a walk through his orchard to see how he is progressing and discuss other ideas to trial.

“A lot of farmers are worried about soil and waterways and the sustainability of it all, but most are unsure about which way to go with it. I’m trying to figure that out to create a system for my farm that’s more sustainable, profitable and more environmentally friendly,” David said.

For more information about the event, call Eastwind Orchards on 9764 1248 or go online at https://swccnrm.org.au/event/orchard-soil-health-day/

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