Fresh Facts Week 26: Prepping the Farm with Pheromones

I certainly can’t remember a nicer week on the farm than the one we just enjoyed. Oh my goodness, every day was textbook mid 70’s and sunny. Every orchard was in full bloom, every bee was happy; just gorgeous.

On the work side, it’s the nicest time to drive a tractor all year. No bugs or dust. The three jobs this week were disking up the winter weeds, cutting in frost furrows, and keeping the blooms covered with fresh probiotics. Regardless, it’s like you’re cruising up and down the aisles of a florist shop.

We already talked about the probiotics protecting the delicate blooms from the bad guys. Now, we’re getting ready to protect the orchards best we can against frost.

The two things that can destroy our crops in a few minutes are frost and hail. And when it comes to frost, even one degree warmer can save your year, so here’s what we know: Grass gives up its daytime heat faster than clean soil. Freshly cultivated soil gives up its warmth faster than firm soil. Wet soil is warmer than dry soil, and finally well water comes out of the ground about 55 degrees.

Armed with this knowledge, here’s what organic farmers do. We wait until the weatherman says we have a warm dry spell of a good week or so (like right now.) Then we rush in and cultivate up all the winter weeds. At that point, we’re the most vulnerable to frost because we have fluffy dry soil (like right now.) But then immediately—the same day—we cut in frost furrows and are ready to start water. That water not only will moisten the ground making it warmer, but packs it making it warmer still, and also making it faster to run water on a cold night. Weed-free, furrowed, wet, warm and ready; the cumulative total can be several degrees warmer, but mostly we’ve done all we can with the knowledge and resources we have.

Weatherman says it’s warm and dry all week, so we’re going to hold off on the irrigation while the men hang pheromones. If you’ve visited the farm, you’ve seen the red pheromone dispensers hanging in each tree looking like a couple coffee stirrers glued together at each end.

Our two main stone fruit pests here are Oriental Fruit Moth, and Peach Twig Borer. The larval stage of each is the nefarious worm in the peach you never want to find half of.

At mating time, the female moths emit an alluring—at least to a male moth—perfume that he amorously follows to find the object of his desire. Alas, the motivated pair have but a few precious hours to accomplish their task. So, by hanging a dispenser in each tree, we effectively fill the orchard with her same scent. It’s like he’s running around in a house of mirrors thinking she’s everywhere yet nowhere. A few hours later, she lays infertile eggs which can’t hatch, no worms, no pesticides, and organic wins again; roll credits!

Well, Carol and I will have been married 35 years pretty soon, so we’re going to disappear for a few days before everything gets really busy. This page is in the most capable hands of Cristina next week.

The video below explains a little more about pheromones so if you’re on a tour this Spring you’ll make Uncle Vern happy with your knowledge!


Author Uncle Vern

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