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Dear Good Fruit Grower:

Orchardists should be concerned about woodpiles and orchard regrowth. A few years ago, there was an emphasis put on removing woodpiles in and near orchards due to potential pest problems. Around the state, piles disappeared, however, these piles are growing again. Some growers spray these piles. If you are concerned enough to spend money and time spraying a pile of wood, it needs to be removed.

In Benton County, we have orchards that have been left idle after the trees are removed. During the first and second year after removal, the suckers are easy to control with an orchard tractor and sprayer. However, these suckers quickly become fruit-bearing trees. It is much better to take care of these situations before they cost you fruit, or worse, an export market.

Frank Wolf
Benton County Horticultural Pest & Disease Board
Richland, Washington

Dear Good Fruit Grower:

The Good Fruit Grower article "Is your orchard bee- friendly?" by Eric Olson [March 15, 2009] contained incorrect information. First, hive strength standards have been established by a consensus of beekeepers, the Washington State Department of Agriculture, and other stakeholders for pollination standards. These standards have been repeatedly challenged by those who have sought to reduce competition and to gain market share by artificial means.

A second point of contention is dandelions. Maintaining competitive bloom diminishes the number of bees pollinating the crops. Also, maintaining any attractive nuisance (such as dandelions) where pesticides are used is bad policy.

With this letter, I include a graph of bee losses in the Yakima Valley. CLICK FOR CHART Bear in mind the graph does not show hive loss mitigations by purchase of replacement hives, packages, nucleus of bees, splits, or by other means. Beekeepers do not deserve to be treated as the ugly stepchild of agriculture. Dandelions are good for bees (and beekeepers’ profits), but not for setting quality fruit on your trees.

For the orchardist, the issue is not to protect honeybees, but to protect yourselves. In 1992, the year of the heaviest bee kills from Penncap-M, a WSDA official told the beekeepers, "You can’t sue the growers." The beekeepers trusted him. By the spring of 1992, half of the Yakima Valley beekeepers were out of business. Shortly after, the official’s position was defunded by the Washington Professional Beekeepers Association. The acting director then resigned with no reason given. Penncap-M was banned from use on tree fruit in large part because of the focus on those bee kills. Will beekeepers be so naive next time? As applicators, do you want the EPA to ban additional pesticides? The tree fruit industry will best protect itself by protecting the beekeeper’s interest also.

Chester Ferguson, beekeeper
Yakima, Washington

Dear Good Fruit Grower:

Thank you so much for the article "Stop puncturevine" in the April 15, 2009, Good Fruit Grower. I sure can use the help getting the word out. Your article just reached all of those who could not attend Pear Day and those who grow fruit other than pears. Once again, thank you.

Mike "Clay" Mackey
Chelan County Noxious Weed Board
Chelan, Washington