POP TIPS: tree borers & biodynamic orchard newsletter

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Phil Forsyth

May 24, 2022, 3:12:15 PMMay 24
to Philadelphia Orchard Group
Philly Orchardists,
Just a quick reminder to sign up for our hands-on POPCORE pest & disease management workshop in a couple weeks: 
9:30am - 12:00pm

POPCORE Eco-Orchard Pest and Disease Management Workshop

Participants will learn about spring orchard care tasks with a focus on holistic and organic approaches to the management of orchard pests & diseases, including hands-on scouting and demonstrations of techniques in the Share Orchard.
Also wanted to note that at least one POP orchard has recently reported active borer damage.  Peach tree borers are a dreaded pest, as they attack all stone fruits and can quickly kill a tree if not properly managed.  Watch out for gummosis and frass at the base of a tree, as pictured below!  Read POP's blog post on managing insect borers for management tips.  


Also wanted to share the Know Your Roots newsletter below, which is from a biodynamic orchardist I've been following for a couple of years.  This one highlights strategies for borers!  You can sign up for the newsletter via links below. 

Phil Forsyth, Co-Executive Director
Philadelphia Orchard Project
Pronouns: he/him

---------- Forwarded message ---------
From: Know Your Roots <mi...@knowyouroots.com>
Date: Mon, May 23, 2022 at 5:59 AM
Subject: Beware the Dreaded Borer, My Son!
To: <ph...@phillyorchards.org>

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All Mimsy were the Borer-goves. Beware the Borers, My Son!

23 May 2022

Beware the Dogwood Borer, My Son!

I've had this cursed Borer conversation with a number of growers I consult with over the years. Based on years of experience (and constant vigilance) I feel I have struck on the right combination of approaches:

  • Life Cycle. Knowing when the adults are flying and mating; understanding their life cycle and biology. Use pheromone traps the catch adults when they first start to fly (dogwood borer only) and then you can "time" from mating to egg hatch.
  • Mating Disruption. Using mating disruption IF you have a large acreage and relatively contiguous block of trees. Mating disruption is effective, but only for three years before you need to abstain for a season or two. Why is that? The disruption is so effective (dogwood, peach tree) that it knocks populations so low that continued used beyond year 3 is a waste of money and ineffective. It only works if you've got 'em. Also, small or discontiguous blocks don't work as well since the point is saturate the orchard with the pheromone. If trees are all over the place, that makes it harder.
  • Whitewash. Paint the trunk with a combo of white latex paint (mixed 1/3 with water) plus sand and spinosad. Do this regardless of anything else, especially right after planting. It is not a silver bullet but will deter and reduce mating (not proven scientifically, but observed).
  • Clean It Up! Keep the weedy plant growth down from around the trees. This reduces the places they can hide from predators and sprays.This not a call to action to remove beneficial and supportive plants in the orchard understood, but rather excessive and unnecessary grass, rootsuckers, and other weedy growth at the base of the tree. Keep it clean at a minimum of 9" diameter at the base.
  • Let 'Em Breathe! Those spiral wrap trees guards can protect from rabbits and voles, but are a haven for borers and weeds. As well the trunks remain wet and inaccessible for scouting. If you are going to use tree guards, I strongly recommend you use either the flexible plastic mesh cylinders or my preferred 1/2" hardware cloth. You get the protection from voles and rabbits, but do not create a safe haven for borers. Plus they give you access for weeding and sprays.
  • Scout, Scout, Scout - you won't know what you have unless you look. This requires you getting on your hands and kness, digging and poking at the base of the trees. You know it when you any spongy tissue that flaking or just soft, the presence of frass is also a dead giveaway that your tree's got problems. Once you find the ugliness, clean it up, dig it out, patch it up, and keep on going to the next tree.
  • Sprays - There are very few sprays that are effective against borers. Yes, Lorsban works but is also nasty neurotoxin that is no longer legal to use. Assail has some benefit, but the reality is that there is little you can do spraying once the borers are in the tree. The use of a spinosad plus other insecticides (e.g., DiPel) aimed at lepidopteran insects will provide some modicum of protection, but timing is everything. They only work when the insects are on the surface of the plants. What timing? When the eggs hatch and the larva are still active on the tree surface or when the adults are flying.
  • Avoid Burr Knots. Plant trees deep enough to reduce the potential for burr knots on the rootstocks. Avoid rootstocks with a propensity towards burr knots. Borers love burr knots.
  • Healthy Bark. As trees get bigger, consider 'bark scraping' to remove any loose bark that the moths loves to lay eggs under and the hatching larva love to find as entry points. Also, as trees get older they are less susceptible to any damage that may occur (its a volume thing). In fact, in almost any older tree you can find larva without seeing the damage you might expect - or at least not the effects of the damage.
  • Clean It up! If you do get damage, clean the wound (kill the suckers!) back to green tissue. Just a green edge of cambium, not more. remove any frass, rough edges, rotten or decaying wood, etc. THEN apply the pure neem and wrap lightly with a medical gauze (not tape) to seal but also allow it to heal. It will get darker, this is just the neem oxidizing. Not to worry.
  • Parasitic Nematodes. If you feel like there are larva in the tree that you can't get to, consider creating a mud poultice of parasitic nematodes. Apply a clay slurry of nematodes to the affected area. Then DO wrap this tightly with a material that won't allow this to dry out - the nematodes can't dry out. Theoretically, the nematodes should move towards the living critter and assist it out of this world. I haven't actually tried this, but I did read about it in The American Fruit Grower for use on Peach Tree Borer
  • Biodynamics to the Rescue. Ashing/peppering - a biodynamic technique for reducing the reproductive capacity of the adults. I'll create a separate thread for this since it is not something that someone can run down to the hardware store and buy. It is strictly DIY and yet very intriguing way for shifting the energetic balance of the orchard in your favor.


Introspection. One way or another we all find our own way in life. In farming, as in all things in life, we gravitate towards those things that resonate with our soul. And I believe there is a vibrational alchemy that occurs within ourselves and those things we gravitate towards that can only come from the cosmos, from the seed of life.  Each of these rays from the seed of life represent a potential path one may take. Whether we are drawn to or guided towards that path is up for debate. But what we do know is that if something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. Go with your intuition, go with your soul. It’s probably the right way to go anyway.
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