1a. Objectives (from AD-416)
1. Develop and integrate sustainable pest control technologies into deciduous tree fruit production systems. 2. Develop and integrate new horticultural technologies and strategies into deciduous tree fruit production systems to improve apple and peach fruit quality. 3. Develop and integrate new automation and mechanization technologies into deciduous tree fruit production systems to improve apple and peach production efficiency.
1b. Approach (from AD-416)
This project proposes the development and integration of entomological, horticultural, and engineering technology to solve major problems affecting temperate tree fruit production, the sustainability and environmental impact of tree fruit production, and consumer acceptance of tree fruits. Novel arthropod management techniques will be developed through the evaluation of insect behavioral manipulation strategies, identification of insect-resistant fruit tree accessions, and manipulation of the orchard floor vegetation to encourage beneficial insects and arthropods. Improved light, water, and pest management will be developed through new irrigation and vegetation manipulation of the orchard floor and through improved understanding of hormones and growth habit on carbon partitioning, tree development, and water use efficiency. Novel crop load management will be developed through new chemical and mechanization approaches. Future mechanization of orchard operations will be facilitated by newly developed tree management systems to improve light penetration in novel tree growth habits and by computerized visualization of tree branches and fruit. The broad base of expertise in the research program will integrate the most appropriate technologies to solve the key problems of tree fruit production. Productive and sustainable tree fruit production systems will benefit both consumers and global competitiveness of U.S. growers.
3. Progress Report
The brown marmarated stink bug (BMSB) is an invasive insect that is a major new pest of fruit, vegetables, agronomic crops, and homeowners. With the Appalachian Fruit Research Station (AFRS) leadership, a BMSB Working Group was formed to organize the current knowledge and develop a plan for needed research. AFRS determined after testing various insecticides that dinotefuran was effective for control. The results were made available to stakeholders through a series of meetings and extension publications presented during the spring and summer of 2011. As a result, Section 18 status was granted by EPA to permit its use for BMSB control. In addition, the BMSB Working Group developed a proposal that provided significant funding to support research for developing sustainable practices for BMSB management. For example, studies were initiated to develop behaviorally-based monitoring and management tools. This included the evaluation of visual stimuli, such as pyramid traps, and a known attractant under field conditions. In addition to BMSB, research continued on the management of insect pests, plum curculio and dogwood borer, by behavioral modification and new traps. A sex pheromone was identified for dogwood borer, and trials are currently being conducted in commercial apple orchards to evaluate formulations that disrupt mate finding of dogwood borer. Fruit tree size and branching (architecture) strongly affects the intensity of cultural practices and the potential use of automation in orchards. Genes and the associated chemical and physical signals that may regulate branching in apple and peach were characterized. This knowledge will help identify the biological processes that determine tree architecture and can be utilized as a selection trait for breeding programs and a management target for grower practices, such as thinning, pruning and spraying, that are targets for automation. Orchard mechanization work continued to refine the design of a mechanical thinner. The first generation thinner is being tested on grower peach trees, and a new thinner with a lighter but resilient new frame was constructed and is being tested on peach trees trained to different architectures. Computer vision work continued to create a three-dimensional model of a leafless apple tree that will be used with mechanized pruning. Cameras acquired tree images that were used as input to a computer program that is under development to create the three-dimensional model. Traditional modeling techniques that work well for structured objects, such as buildings, do not work well for trees, so work has focused on methods to overcome the specific problems caused by the characteristics of trees (e.g. irregular structure). Progress was made in identifying abiotic factors that limit tree fruit productivity. Ozone was identified as a factor limiting photosynthesis and the use of a kaolin-based particle film was shown to degrade ozone. In addition, progress continued to manage heat stress with particle film to reduce canopy temperature, increase light reflection into the canopy, and altering the quality of light to change the partitioning of dry matter into fruit.