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 marmorated stink bug (BMSB) is an invasive pest of fruit, vegetables, agronomic crops, and homeowners. With the Appalachian Fruit Research Station (AFRS) leadership, a BMSB Working Group continues to organize the current knowledge and develop plans for needed research. AFRS evaluated residual activity of key insecticides under field conditions, and results were made available to stakeholders through a series of meetings and extension publications presented during the winter of 2011 and summer of 2012. As a result, a Section 18 application was submitted to the EPA to permit the use of bifenthrin in apples and peaches. In addition, AFRS participated in trials aimed at identifying the BMSB pheromone and generated results identifying stimulating wavelengths and intensities of light for BMSB. In addition, AFRS was the first to document that BMSB overwinter in natural overwintering sites in forested settings. Size-controlling rootstocks are critical for efficient and effective management of high-yielding apple trees, especially where orchard mechanization is to be used. Improved understanding of the size-controlling mechanisms is needed for development of new rootstocks for all fruit trees. Two hormones that regulate growth were discovered as signals that move upward in the sap of apple trees from rootstocks. These discoveries can be used in the development of cultural practices and breeding for development of new rootstocks that are stress resistant and that can be integrated into orchard mechanization. Orchard mechanization requires reliable capture of fruit tree image and accurate quantitation in 3-D space of fruit and branches. Image capture was achieved with multiple cameras to develop datasets of skeletal objects, including control items such as a coil of copper tubing but also of tree branches. New algorithms were developed and used to convert the experiment-based voxel data to more commonly-used graphics file formats and to smooth the images. In parallel with the image work, a robot was established that can be controlled through programs. The image data will be used to direct platform-mounted robots to carry out orchard work such as pruning. Other orchard mechanization work continued to test and improve a mechanical thinner of flowers and fruit on grower peach trees in California. Due to a frost that followed early flowering, there was no peach fruit to test this year at AFRS. Field and greenhouse studies indicate that kaolin-based particle films provide additional habitat for fungi, yeast and bacteria on plant surfaces. Studies demonstrate that microbial DNA is increased as much as 10X on particle film treated leaves in the field. Pathogenic microorganisms were not increased. This microbial growth may be a mechanism associated with ozone degradation and plant protection from ozone damage.