Tree fruit growers in Washington, Michigan and New York are receiving a survey form from Haley Consulting Services asking them about their horticultural practices and orchard characteristics.
Responding to the survey is critical, say Washington State University researchers, since it is linked to establishing a guide for a solid set canopy delivery system for apples and cherries, a University researcher states.
The solid set canopy delivery system will be built into an orchard trellising system in order to simultaneously deliver inputs orchard-wide. Currently, to protect an orchard from pest outbreak, a worker must drive a tractor hauling a sprayer up and down the rows of trees.
There are several inefficiencies in this scenario, according to Jay Brunner, entomologist director of WSU's Tree Fruit Research and Extension Center in Wenatchee, Wash. The worst, he notes, is that the orchard manager may not have enough equipment to cover a large planting 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 control chemicals," he adds.
"We may also be able to get better efficiency from existing pest control materials by reducing chemical drift and application rates," says Brunner, who heads up WSU's input into the project.
Improving efficiency and reducing pesticide application rates means lower costs to consumers, and improved environmental safety for workers and others.
"Entomologists and plant pathologists need to know what the greatest pest and disease challenges are to growers in these areas," says 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."
Producers are expected to be sent results of the survey in 2013.