Beginning next year, Cary, N.C.-based Nufarm will take over marketing of a biological agent that controls fire blight in apples and pears.

Verdesian Life Sciences will continue to market the product, known as Bloomtime Biological, for the remainder of this season, according to a news release.

Bloomtime FD contains the naturally occurring Pantoea agglomerans strain E325 bacterium, which is an antagonist that suppresses the Erwinia amylovora fire blight bacterium.

The benign P. agglomerans basically out-competes the fire blight organism for space on apple or pear flowers, thereby preventing infection.

It also does not harm honeybees or other beneficial insects.

The product is listed by the Organic Material Review Institute and can be used for both organic and conventional production systems.

Two antibiotics, which had been used to control fire blight in organic orchards, are being phased out and will not longer be approved for use in organics after this season.

Bloomtime works best when applied early in the season before fire blight populations have built up.

To be most effective, the product should be part of an integrated approach, according to Oregon State University research.