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ARS Home » Northeast Area » Kearneysville, West Virginia » Appalachian Fruit Research Laboratory » Innovative Fruit Production, Improvement, and Protection » Research » Research Project #426211

Research Project: Integrated Orchard Management and Automation for Deciduous Tree Fruit Crops

Location: Innovative Fruit Production, Improvement, and Protection

2014 Annual Report

1: Improve understanding of deciduous tree fruit stress responses and develop cultural strategies and technologies to ameliorate abiotic stress with different tree architectures and rootstock-scion combinations. 1.A. Develop and test novel genetic sources and tree architectures for increased water use efficiency. 1.B. Characterize key biochemical and physiological processes regulating fruit tree architecture and genetic-environmental interactions. 1.C. Develop cultural management practices that include rootstock and shoot architectures that are stress tolerant and improve production efficiency in high density plantings. 1.D. Develop rudimentary apple orchard carbon budget. 2: Develop new devices/technology for dectection and control of invasive and native insects in fruit crops including, but not limited to, brown marmorated stink bug, spotted wing drosophila, and the native plum curculio. 2.A. Identify and utilize attractive behavioral cues, including olfactory and visual stimuli, to develop sensitive monitoring tools and behaviorally-based control strategies within the production system that reduce insecticide inputs to increase profitability and sustainability. 2.B. Develop monitoring and management tools for the invasive brown marmorated stink bug, spotted wing drosophila, and the native plum curculio using the knowledge developed in Sub-objective 2.A. 3: Develop and apply computer vision for mechanization of orchard practices including, but not limited to, pruning. 3.A. Refine computer vision system for three-dimensional shape modeling of trees, including different tree growth habits. 3.B. Integrate computer vision system and robotics for pruning.

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 identification of olfactory or visual cues in order to implement insect behavioral manipulation strategies that will improve monitoring and control of key insect pests. Improved light and water management will be developed through training systems that include different tree growth habits that are amenable to orchard automation and through improved understanding of hormones, rootstocks, and growth habit to optimize carbon partitioning, tree development, and water use efficiency. 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 algorithms for the visualization of tree branches. The technologies and knowledge developed within this project are components of management systems that integrate behaviorally-based monitoring and management of arthropods, optimal tree architecture, and orchard automation that result in the production of high quality fruit with stable annual yields. The broad base of expertise in the research program will develop and 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.

Progress Report
This new project 1931-21000-024-00D replaced project 1931-21000-019-00D which terminated in December 2013. The biological foundation for size and branching (architecture) of fruit trees was investigated. Five growth habits of apple ('Royal Gala', 'Pink Lady', 'Golden Delicious', 'Fuji', and 'Honey Crisp') were vegetatively propagated on four rootstocks (M.27, M.9, M.7, and MM.111). Five growth habits of peach (Pillar-Compact, Narrow-leaved Pillar, Compact Redhaven, Crimson Rocket, Sweet-N-Up, and Bailey) were propagated from seed. Genetic factors associated with auxin-associated gene expression and tree architecture have been developed. These genes were quantified in vascular systems of apple trees. Preliminary experiments were conducted to determine broad effects of training (cutting, bending, and plant growth regulator applications) and irrigation on biological processes that regulate apple and peach tree architecture. Experiments were initiated to determine effects of drought on the physiology of hormone metabolism and gas exchange in apple ('Gala' and 'Fuji') on different rootstocks (M.9 and MM.111). 'Gala' and ten apple accessions of apple with a wide range of drought hardiness were 'Chip'-budded on Bud-9 rootstocks. All grafts failed so summer 'T'-budding will be conducted on M.9 and M.7 rootstocks in 2014. In the field, four (8' x 8' x 16') chambers were constructed to measure gas exchange of apple trees in a replicated study. Twelve chambers were constructed to measure soil and root respiration, and two chambers were constructed to measure grass gas exchange. Data collection began May 2014 and will continue throughout the growing season. Construction of a mobile robotic platform for field trials continued. A multi-computer data acquisition system was developed to allow images to be collected from a camera mounted on the end of the robot. Completed hand-eye, robot-world calibration (a 24-month milestone) so that various views of the trees can be used, resulting in a greater reconstruction accuracy of trees.