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:
Over the last 60 months, the project was affected by the retirement of two scientists (Entomologist and Horticulturist); the departure of an Entomologist; the emergence of a devastating insect pest, Brown Marmarated Stink Bug (BMSB); and a significant reduction of funds. As a result, two milestones associated with the departed scientsts were removed from the project with Area and NPL authorization in February 2011 and three new milestones associated with BMSB were added. Most 60-month horticulture milestones were completed but three related to ground cover crops, pest management, and reflective ground covers were removed from the project with Area and NPL authorization in May 2013. Significant progress was made for pest management, knowledge of control of fruit trees, and orchard automation technologies that will support sustained, secure production of fruit. The pheromone of the BMSB that was isolated and identified by ARS in 2011 was synthesized, and during 2012, was tested in the field by scientists and growers in 10 states throughout the country. Larger quantities of the pheromone have been synthesized and are being tested during the 2013 season (Objective 1. Develop and integrate sustainable pest control technologies into deciduous tree fruit production systems). Hormones and associated metabolites that affect bud break and shoot growth were determined in growth units and tree sap of apple trees grown on size-controlling rootstocks. The metabolic profiles strongly indicated the root graft and shoot tips are the key sites of size-control. Results support the hypothesis that rootstock controls the size of the tree but the scion controls the distribution of carbon within the tree crown. Hormones and genes that control bud break and branch growth were identified and measured in peach trees with distinctive architectures. Trees with upright branches had reduced branch density and hormonally-regulated gene expression that was distinctive in comparison with trees with horizontally-oriented branches. This discovery will contribute to genetic and cultural management of fruit trees for orchard automation (Objective 2. Develop and integrate new horticultural technologies and strategies into deciduous tree fruit production systems to improve apple and peach fruit quality). The vision system was refined to create 3D models of dormant apple trees in the laboratory for the purposes of robotic pruning research and physiological/genetic/horticultural studies. The number and type of cameras were determined for accurate models to be generated by algorithms developed in-house. Algorithms and software have been developed to determine the shape and architecture of bare apple trees and a rule-driven decision system for automatic pruning. The computer vision work is being refined in the laboratory and a platform-supported system has been fabricated for the field for trial (Objective 3. Develop and integrate new automation and mechanization technologies into deciduous tree fruit production systems to improve apple and peach production efficiency).
1. Pheromone-based monitoring tools for the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug (BMSB). The BMSB, Halyomorpha halys Stal, has been officially detected in 40 states, as well as Canada, Switzerland, Germany and France, and has inflicted devastating injury on tree fruit, vegetables and row crops, and is a serious nuisance pest, particularly in the mid-Atlantic region. ARS researchers at Kearneysville, West Virginia, and Beltsville, Maryland, collaborated to identify the key pheromone components for BMSB and synthesized sufficient amounts for a national evaluation of the trapping efficacy. Trapping data confirmed the high efficacy of the pheromone combination. The commercialization of this pheromone technology will lead to effective management of the pest and new trap-and-kill techniques that will reduce pesticide usage.
Wright, S.E., Leskey, T.C., Jacome, I., Pinero, J.C., Prokopy, R.J. 2012. Integration of insecticidal, phagostimulatory, and visual elements of an attract-and-kill system for apple maggot fly (Diptera: Tephritidae). Journal of Economic Entomology. 105:1548-1556.