Saturday, 28 August 2010

Poison fruit - Grenadier

One of my lovely pullets, poisoned by rotten fruit.

We have inherited a large standard cooker in the new garden, almost certainly Grenadier. I've sometimes thought what a pity the fruit was always left to rot on the ground by our late elderly neighbour. We tried baking a couple of them but they were absolutely vile; even smothered in sugar, they tasted of neat vinegar. Even the wasps have barely touched the windfalls.
I'd been letting my small flock of new silkies range around the area. So many 'experts' exhort gardeners to let poultry free range under fruit trees, to clear pests and help clear up the windfalls, which were quite sparse to begin with but then started to drop in great numbers a fortnight ago. One morning I found one of my black pullets paralysed in the house. She was unable to walk, but had drooping wings. I brought her in, rehydrated her after which she brightened up but then started producing bright turquoise droppings (previous experience tells me this indicates poisoning). She be came increasingly more paralysed, head down and wings drooped, and died a couple of days later. I suspected botulism, but a one off instance wasn't enough evidence to be sure. A couple of days later her sister developed the same symptoms and declined very rapidly, and died within 12 hours of showing the first symptoms, which were classic ones of botulism poisoning. 
Examination of the ground under the Grenadier revealed many completely black, rotten fruits embedded in the ground, and quite a few that had turned completely brown. In poultry the usual source of botulism poisoning is rotting vegetable material, (birds are susceptible to a different form of the disease to that that affects humans).
So please don't let poultry free range among windfalls, rotting fruit is not a good food source for them and can be deadly. Pick up all rotting fruit and either burn or put in the re-cycling bags, most of the early windfalls will be infected with codling and be half-rotten inside before they even touch the ground.

Crop: Beth

Terrible storms this week meant that we lost a sizeable percentage of the Beth crop as windfalls. I should have noticed that one or two had started yellowing on the tree, and a kilo or two ended up on the ground as wasp food. If I'd checked last years records I would have seen they were ready exactly the same time as last year. I picked the remainder yesterday, the crop weighed in around 5kg - about 7kg /15 lbs total, remarkably consistent with last year's crop. The local shop took a tray, will be interesting to see if it's worth supplying fruit on an ongoing basis. Fruit quality was a tad disappointing this year to be honest, lacking the usual intensity and sweetness.

Friday, 13 August 2010

More Codling Moth

No mystery about the source of the codling moth, the ancient cooking apple in the newly-acquired neighbouring garden is absolutely full of moth larvae. The fruit has not been picked or cleared for years.

A lot of the Morettini fruit has developed signs of infestation since being picked and stored, quite a significant percentage now. I'm not sure why it's taken so long for the infestation to build up on the other side of the fence, but now it has. I think the apples are less affected as most of them are quite strongly biennial, so over-wintering females have found no fruit to infest.

Lets dispel some myths about control. Most of my cordons are grown between regularly dug vegetable beds, this has made very little difference to the incidence of pests that spend part of their life cycle in the soil below. I also have chickens, and a very wide variety of wild birds that feed enthusiastically, which also has made little difference. I haven't tried any barrier methods of control (greasebands) yet, or pheromone traps, so this will be the first approach.

I might try the biological control, as there aren't many other fruit trees in the vicinity and I'm sure the main reservoir is probably the cooker next door. Pheromone traps are an option, but will catch some of the males, not enough to make a real difference, so their use would probably be only as a guide as to when to spray as a last resort.

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Pests: codling moth

Just found one that didn't manage to escape! Spotted a Glou Morceau that had a large amount of frass emerging from the eye and cut it open to find a large grub devouring the core. Very large in comparison to other fruit-mining grubs, even cut in half it was nearly 1cm long and 2-3mm wide, a greyish colour with a dark brown head.

Pest: codling moth damage on pears

The first pears to fall were all infested with some kind of fruit-mining larvae. This time I'm inclined to think the culprit is codling moth, rather than fruit mining moth which was a problem last year. The latter tends to make multiple tunnels nearer the surface, whereas the damage here is mostly to the core with one escape tunnel.

Only a handful of fruit were infected, so not a major problem as yet. If the numbers increase next year I might have to think about controlling it down the line, but not at the moment.

crop: Morettini

The first windfalls made me think that the rest of the crop is ready to pick, though most of the early droppers were infected with codling moth which didn't help judge the timing.

In past years I've found timing picking quite critical; too early and they dry out before ripening, too late and the fruit is dry and prone to rot from the middle. I hope my timing is good this year as I have just picked the whole crop, a whopping 12kg (26 lbs) in one go. The reason for this is that, if allowed to ripen on the tree, they attract wasps in large number, which makes it impossible to pick the rest of the crop. I think I probably picked a tad too early, as a number shrivelled. Next year I think I'll leave a little later. 

I'd been expecting large losses from pear midge this year, but the spraying was obviously effective and I then forgot to thin, meaning that much of the fruit was very small. Nevertheless, the crop was still heavy enough to bend all the branches horizontal and it was a miracle none broke, especially with the strong winds we've had constantly for the last month. If a similar crop develops next year, I think thinning by 50 % would probably be advisable.