Learn the finer points of tending orchard from the Twilight Fruit Growers

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By: Jeff Burbrink
jburbrink@purdue.edu

Adrienne Barnett/The Elkhart Truth

The Twilight Fruit Growers meeting, held every other year at Kercher’s Sunrise Orchard, is always a popular program. On April 16, the Kercher family will once again host Purdue Extension at their business, located at 19498 C.R. 38 on the south side of Goshen.

The evening will begin at 6:30 p.m. when we gather together at the market and walk into the orchard for a pruning demonstration. Peter Hirst, Purdue Extension fruit specialist, and Tom Kercher will walk us through techniques of pruning apple trees.

Along the way, we usually find a few other cultural things to talk about, from weed control and deer management, to managing suckers and grafting.

At dusk, the program will move indoors, where participants will have a chance to buy Purdue publications, such as the popular ID-146, “Managing Pests in Home Fruit Plantings.”

I have asked Peter Hirst to say a few words about thinning fruit from apple trees. You might recall that a frost killed most of our fruit crop in April of 2012 and triggered an every-other-year production cycle, starting with a huge crop in 2013.

Since many trees had a relatively light crop in 2014, it is very likely our trees will be loaded with fruit again in 2015. By thinning trees carefully this spring, you may be able to return your trees to a normal production cycle.

Janna Beckerman, a Purdue Extension Plant Pathologist, will talk to the group about management of common diseases, such as apple scab and fireblight.

Following Janna will be Rick Foster, a Purdue Extension entomologist, who will discuss insect management in the orchard, including the brown marmorated stink bug, a pest we are beginning to see on fruit and vegetables in this area.

I plan to demonstrate a website called driftwatch.org, where growers can register their orchards, vegetable fields, organic produce and other specialty crops so that pesticide applicators can locate the fields to minimize drift issues.

We have a number of beekeepers in the area who are using Driftwatch to protect their hives from pesticides. There is no cost to use the Driftwatch website.

Private Applicator Recertification credit will be available for $10 for those who hold a PARP license. Otherwise, this meeting is free and open to the public.

So that we have enough seats for everyone, I ask that people call the Purdue Extension – Elkhart Office at 574-533-0554 before the event. Please do so by April 13.

Jeff Burbink is an extension educator for Purdue Extension Elkhart County. Catch his column Thursdays in The Elkhart Truth.
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