During the first week of January, Steve and I headed to Portland where Steve attended the Orchard Pest and Disease and Management Conference (affectionately known as “the bug meeting”). Steve has gone to this conference as long as I have known him. Yep,16-17 years worth of information and knowledge about bugs, or to give them a fair place in the crowd, “insects”. After a 16-year love affair with insects and having Steve return home, touting the marvels of Portland, it was high time for me to see what all the hubub was about.
There are a handful of devastating things that can radically alter an otherwise optimistic crop. One is the weather (spring frost), another is labor (lack of it), the market (supply and demand) and then, there are insects. Beneficial insects that we like to see on the farm are: lacewings, Deraeocoris, Typhlodromus, praying mantis, and lady bugs. Insects that we don’t like to see are: codling moth (known for their exceptional ability to make worms in apples), twig borer (known for their exceptional ability to make worms in peaches), peach tree borer (known for its exceptional ability to make worms in peach TREES), earwigs (known for its exceptional ability to make holes in ripe peaches). There are also new invasive insects that have not yet found their way to Colorado. If and when they do, we need to learn how to manage those insects too.
But back to the bug meeting. These meetings bring national and international researchers together to compare notes on good and bad bugs that affect fruit trees. Rather than long lectures, each presenter gives a fifteen minute synopsis of their most current research – really the state of the art in fruit bugs. Sometimes talks are controversial and researchers disagree with each other, sometimes they give each other a hard time, sometimes they cross their antennae and square off, but mostly it is a chance to share and collaborate, both in the meetings and over yeast fermented beverages and dinner. And, geeky bug humor, oh my, probably not appropriate for the dinner table but certainly appropriate for the cocktails.
For Steve, this is a chance to learn the newest ideas in promoting all those good bugs and controlling those bad bugs that we see in our orchard system. The challenge in an organic system is to minimize the bad bugs while protecting the beneficial ones. Since Colorado is a relatively isolated fruit production area, it’s a way to shore up relationships that can be useful in the midst of the season when insect surprises pop up. It is a chance to hob knob and speculate as to what the best organic pest management system might be for our area. When Steve gives tours on the farm and says that our insect management programs rely on research from the last fifteen years, this is where he gets lots of that information.
Meanwhile, I was doing my own research. I was checking out Portland, spending as much time in Starbucks as I wanted, visiting Powell’s bookstore as long as I wanted, eating great food and taking in a little culture. I was pleasantly rewarded with my endeavor of being a tourist-without-her-children-and-her-husband-in-a-meeting-all-day. Here’s what my research found: (1) Lots, and I mean lots of people smoke in Portland. Wow, it blew me away~felt like I was in Paris. (2) If you want cool vintage clothing stores, go to Portland (3) The official color spectrum of clothing in Portland are as follows… heather gray, charcoal, dorian and black. In Colorado, our jackets are colorful–cobalt blue and chartreuse green down jackets (maybe it has something to do with the sky here???). Not so in Portland. The people though unfazed by the dreary gray, were friendly, helpful and lovely. The scene and aliveness that being in a city affords was a welcome change.
And nary a bug in sight.