BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – Tree fruit growers in Washington, Michigan and New York will be receiving a survey from Haley Consulting Services asking growers about their horticultural practices and orchard characteristics. Responding to the survey is critical, as growers’ responses will help guide the Solid Set Canopy Delivery System for Apples and Cherries, a two-year, USDA-funded project involving research from Washington State University, Cornell University and Michigan State University.
The solid set canopy delivery system will be built into an orchard’s trellis system in order to simultaneously deliver inputs orchard-wide. Currently, to protect an orchard from a pest outbreak, a worker must drive a tractor hauling a sprayer up and down between rows of trees.
There are several inefficiencies in this scenario, said Jay Brunner, an entomologist and director of WSU’s Tree Fruit Research and Extension Center in Wenatchee, Wash. The worst is that the orchard manager simply may not have enough equipment to cover a large orchard in a timely manner.
“This system would remove tractor operators from close proximity with pesticides, so there would be even further reduction of health risks than there already is with our modern, soft pest control chemicals,” said Brunner, who is leading WSU’s efforts on the project. “We may also be able to get better efficacy from existing pest control materials by reducing chemical drift and application rates.”
Improving efficacy and reducing pesticide application rates means lower costs for growers – and improved environmental safety for orchard workers as well as consumers. For the project to be successful, though, researchers need to hear from growers about their pest management practices, characteristics of their orchards and other information vital to the successful implementation of solid set canopy delivery systems.
“Entomologists and plant pathologists need to know what the greatest pest and disease challenges are to growers in these areas,” said Jean Haley, an agricultural sociologist working with the firm conducting the survey. “Researchers also need to know what compounds growers are using to figure out how those compounds can be delivered in the solid set system.
“We’re also asking questions about how their orchards are set up – are they trellised or not, what the tree density is and so on – and what kind of sprayer they’re currently using,” she said.
“This information fits directly into how much work it will be to convert to a solid set delivery system,” she said. “The project economists need this information to figure out what the costs of conversion will be.”
Haley said growers in Washington and Michigan who have never received or who lost the survey should contact her directly. Growers in Washington and Michigan who did not respond to the survey will receive a follow-up the week of March 26. Growers in New York will receive the survey in January 2013.
The solid set canopy project soon will be extended to cherry orchards, as well, Haley said. Cherry growers in Washington and Michigan will receive the survey in early 2013.
For a related story with more background info on the solid-set canopy project, please see On Solid Ground (bottom of page).