Time arrives for tree spraying

Homeowners need to take care of their fruit trees to help safeguard local crops, officials say.

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MILTON-FREEWATER -- It's spring, which means it's time for homeowners with fruit trees to help stop insects that can cripple one of Milton-Freewater's major industries.

Now is when fruit tree owners need to start and maintain regular pesticide applications for codling moth larvae, apple maggots and cherry fruit flies, agriculture experts say. One untended backyard fruit tree can harbor those pests that then spread to commercial orchards "and once that happens our local economies have a lot to lose," said Nora Connors, Oregon State University master gardener.

"Before you plant new fruit trees, or if you already have fruit trees, be sure that you're ready and willing to accept the responsibilities that go along with owning them. Particularly apple, pear and cherry trees," Connors said in a release.

Fruit tree owners need to apply pesticides from fruit set until harvest, said Clive Kaiser, Umatilla County OSU extension agent. Many Oregon counties, including Umatilla County, have laws that require property owners control destructive pests and diseases to prevent their spread to commercial orchards. Washington state has similar requirements requiring tree owners to spray if they find pests, said Butch Bosley with the Walla Walla County Noxious Weed Control Board.

The pests can severely hurt the fruit industry in the Milton-Freewater area, which generates about $85 million a year and employs about one-third of the population who live in the area's ZIP code, Kaiser said.

"Just one cherry fruit fly in a shipment of the fruit means foreign markets can reject the entire load. In some Asian countries, if inspectors find three incidents of codling moths in a shipment, they refuse apples from the U.S. for a year," he said.

The last time that happened was in 2004 and the apples were from Milton-Freewater, which resulted in huge losses to the local economy, Kaiser said. Another incident occurred last year when California refused to take cherries from Milton-Freewater because of three cherry fruit fly infestations. That also caused local growers to lose millions of dollars in revenue.

Homeowners who want to avoid the work needed to keep their trees pest-free should consider replacing them with trees that don't harbor pests, Kaiser said. "You're life will be a lot easier if you steer clear of fruit trees that require multiple pesticide sprays."

Andy Porter can be reached at andyporter@wwub.com or 526-8318. Check out his blog at blogs.ublabs.org/randomthoughts.

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