Practical Guide for Organic Apple Production

Lorraine P. Berkett1, Renae E. Moran2 , M. Elena Garcia3, Heather M. Darby1, Robert L. Parsons1, Terence L. Bradshaw1, Sarah L. Kingsley-Richards1, and Morgan C. Griffith1
1University of Vermont, 2University of Maine, 3University of Arkansas
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Organic IPM

Soil Health &
Ground Cover Management

Marketing & Economics

Orchard Equipment

Practical Guide Home

The OrganicA Project

Funding Sources:
-USDA Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative
-University of Vermont
-University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture Cooperative Extension Service
-University of Maine Cooperative Extension
-NIFA Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Program
-Vermont Tree Fruit Growers' Association

IMPORTANT: It is the grower's responsibility to ensure that any crop production practice or material used in the orchard is acceptable in their particular state’s organic certification program. Some materials deemed organically acceptable on the National List may not be acceptable in some states. Contact your federally accredited certifying agency to know what is acceptable and to ensure compliance with regulations in your state.

NOTE: Where trade names or commercial products are used for identification, no discrimination is intended and no endorsement is implied. Always read the label before using any pesticide.
The label is the legal document for the product use. Disregard any information in this guide if it is in conflict with the label.

Last updated: 2012

Soil Health & Ground Cover Management
Soil Health - Ground Cover Management

Soil Health

The National Organic Program requires certified organic producers to select and implement tillage and cultivation practices that maintain or improve the physical, chemical, and biological condition of soil and minimize soil erosion. The producer must manage crop nutrients and soil fertility through rotations, cover crops, and the application of plant and animal materials. The producer must manage plant and animal materials to maintain or improve soil organic matter content in a manner that does not contribute to contamination of crops, soil, or water by plant nutrients, pathogenic organisms, heavy metals, or residues of prohibited substances. (NOP)

Soil health should be monitored with soil sampling (see Horticulture page for more information) to determine the proper soil amendments and practices necessary for each specific orchard.

For more information:
Apples: Organic Production Guide (ATTRA)
A Grower’s Guide to Organic Apples (Cornell University)
OrganicA, A Resource for Organic Apple Information (University of Vermont)
Managing the Plant and Soil Ecosystem (Heather Darby, University of Vermont)

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Ground Cover Management

Young apple trees or trees on dwarfing rootstocks cannot out compete other vegetation for water and nutrients therefore, it is necessary to maintain a weed-free zone around the trunk for at least part of the growing season to ensure adequate tree growth and fruit yields. Commonly in organic apple production, mechanical cultivation is used to create the weed-free strip followed by mulch applications to maintain the weed-free strip. (See Organic IPM page for more information on weed management).

For more information:

Ground Cover Management (University of Vermont)
Orchard Floor Management (University of Wisconsin Madison)
Long Term orchard groundcover management systems affect soil microbial communities and apple replant disease severity (Cornell University)
Orchard floor management practices alter soil microbial community composition (Cornell University & Michigan State University)
Apples: Organic Production Guide (ATTRA)
A Grower’s Guide to Organic Apples (Cornell University)
Managing the Plant and Soil Ecosystem (Heather Darby, University of Vermont)

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