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Workers cut away fireblight infections in pear orchards on Friday, June 15, 2018, near Monitor and Cashmere in the Wenatchee Valley, Washington. Nearly everyone in the pear industry in the Wenatchee Valley, even workers who have been here 34 years, is calling 2018 the worst fireblight season they have seen. (Ross Courtney/Good Fruit Grower)

Workers cut away fire blight infections in pear orchards in 2018 near Monitor and Cashmere in Washington’s Wenatchee Valley. A session on fire blight will be held at the annual meeting.
(Ross Courtney/Good Fruit Grower)

An entire session on fire blight, plenty of WA 38 updates and the usual day’s worth of Spanish sessions — that’s what’s on tap for the Washington State Tree Fruit Association’s annual meeting in December in Yakima.

The conference, which carries the theme “Manage What You Can Control, Plan for What You Can’t,” is slated for Dec. 3-5 at the Yakima Convention Center. The conference has been growing in attendance every year, with 2,200 in 2017, according to the Tree Fruit Association.

The accompanying NW Hort Expo trade show, which attracts roughly 220 exhibits a year, will be held at the convention center and the nearby Yakima Valley SunDome.

The theme comes from discussions within the industry about how growers must keep up good horticultural practices and pursue the right new technologies within their operation, while at the same time be ready to adjust to the effects of geopolitical issues — such as tariffs and immigration — in the world at large, said Sean Gilbert, president of Gilbert Orchards and chair of this year’s conference planning committee.

“All these things that are outside of our control that affect our industry,” Gilbert said.

The speaker for the annual Batjer address, which serves as the event’s keynote, will be Vikram Mansharamani, a global equity investor, a Yale University lecturer and author of “Boombustology: Spotting Financial Bubbles Before They Burst.”

Mansharamani espouses a “generalist” point of view to anticipate opportunities and reduce risk in the global marketplace, according to the Premiere Speakers Bureau.

The conference also features an entire session on fire blight, after Washington apple and pear growers experienced two rough years of infections in 2017 and 2018.

“Fire blight has been getting a little bit worse each year,” while growers receive sometimes conflicting or confusing answers about how to manage the infections, Gilbert said.

Meanwhile, commercialization is well underway for WA 38, Washington State University’s new apple branded as Cosmic Crisp, so the annual meeting dedicates an entire session to growing, training and marketing the variety.

As always, conference organizers have booked an entire day of session in Spanish.

Postharvest disorders, efficiency in orchards and pest, disease and vigor management are just a few more examples of other educational presentations on the docket.

Registration prices vary but increase after Nov. 9.

For more information about the annual meeting and expo visit the Tree Fruit Association at wstfa.org. •

—by Ross Courtney