Wednesday, August 21, 2019

#IFTAONTARIO

Yes, my blog seems to be heavy on #IFTA (International Fruit Tree Association) posts. Probably because it's one of the more interesting, and photogenic things I do all year? mine pales in comparison to coverage by Good Fruit, Growing Produce (American Fruit Grower), and Fruit Growers News (see links at end), but it's a good exercise for me to document. Make sure you also check out #iftaontario on Twitter.

#IFTAONTARIO Headquarters, Hamilton, Ontario, CANADA, a port city of just over half-million people on the west shore of Lake Ontario. Major economy is manufacturing and is the steel capital of Canada. We got the impression it is a diverse city too, 25% of the population was not born in Canada. (Curious how that compares to major U.S. cities?) A real interesting and copiously stocked food store housed in the mall below the Sheraton hotel called Nations Fresh Food...and had some pretty nice calamari (and margaritas) at a Mexican restaurant called TheMule. Dinner company with Lisa Jenereaux (IFTA President) and Pedro Cuevas, Semios Washington Account Manager. I learned a lot about Semios Automated, Remotely Controlled Climate, Insect and Disease Monitoring and Treatment.

Yummy fried calamari at TheMule in Hamilton

DAY 1 -- Orchard tours in the Norfolk region, mostly west of the Niagara escarpment.


Stop 1: University of Guelph Research Station with U. of Guelph Dr. John Cline and OMAFRA's (Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs) Amanda Green. Dr. Cline discusses preliminary results of 2014 NC-140 Honeycrisp apple rootstock planting featuring Vineland and Geneva rootstocks. Here is a preliminary report prepared by Dr. Cline. From the report "V.5, V.6, and V.7 appear to be more vigorous and slightly less yield efficient (than G. 935), but offer cold hardiness and resistance to fireblight (rootstock not scion resistance)." Also see the planting page on nc140.org. And Amanda Green told us about the significant parternships in Canada to develop and test new apple varieties. We also made a quick stop at a cider variety planting/trial as there is significant interest in apples for making quality ciders in Canada (as well as the U.S.).

Dr. John Cline with the cider apple variety planting

OMAFRA's Amanda Green talks about new apple variety evaluations
Stop 2: Hedges Apples, wow, owner and IFTA Director Chris Hedges is managing 250 acres of apples (including 75 acres of new plantings) as well as owning and operating Ontario Orchard Supply. Formerly a banker, you can tell Chris is into analyzing all aspects of his operations. And I doubt he works bankers hours anymore! We had lunch in his brand new 10,000 bin CA cold storage. At Hedges Apples, we were also treated to a demonstration of Crop Adapted Spraying by showman Dr. Jason Deveau, OMAFRA Application Technology Specialist. I won't get into the details, you can see much, much more at sprayers101.com but I did like that H.S.S. "airblast" sprayer. After listening to Jason, I hesitate now to call it an "airblast" sprayer though.

Chris Hedges elaborates on his many jobs running 250 acres of apples plus Ontario Orchard Supply

Dr. Jason Deveau makes spray depostition entertaining but with an important message!

Stop 3: After lunch at Hedges new cold storage, we made a non-orchard stop at Northland Ginseng Farms. Ontario can produce a high-quality Ginseng root, but the challenges are many, including land availability (crops have to be rotated after a 4-5 year growing cycle) and Chinese competition of inferior quality ginseng, according to the farmer. But Phil Schwallier sure seemed interested?

"Hey, this looks even harder than growing apples, maybe?" says Phil Schwallier of ginseng.
Stop 4: On to Norfolk Cherry Company, where a scheduled tour of the tart cherry packing company was put on logistical hold. We spent most of our time looking at a young (planted 2018), free-standing Honeycrisp block on V.1 rootstock. I have no pictures, which maybe says something -- it was not bad, but could have just as easily been a free-standing young tart cherry planing if you get my drift. Will be interesting to see how it turns out?

Stop 5: Last stop for the day was Lingwood Farms. A bit of a downer because co-owner Ken Porteous has no real good succession plan in place right now, despite the orchard having been around since the mid-1800's. Still, a solid, good, well-executed orchard despite some recent challenges with a tornado (support sytem held up), fire blight, and black stem borer. (I'll put my 2 cents in here and say it's really not the black stem borer that is the problem, it's something else -- cold injury, wet feet, canker? -- weakening the trees and making them susceptible to invasion by the ambrosia beetles. Chicken-egg? Egg- Chicken? IMHO.) We looked at Ken's 3rd-leaf Gala tall-spindle "tipped"trees, AKA Wafler system. Seems to me there was pretty good approval of it...

The IFTA crowd gathers at Lingwood Farms to listen to Ken Porteous discuss his recent orchard challenges

3rd-leaf tall-spinde "tipped" Gala apple trees at Lingwood Farms


DAY 2, beginning with two-hour bus ride to Georgian Bay. 

The ride was not too bad as the Ontario countryside -- once out of the greater Toronto metro -- was quite lovely.

Stop 1: To No End. Not remembering a lot here, the manager was a bit of a character, was not afraid to tell it like it is/was. I have minimal notes, so I don't remember too many details, but he was doing his own (I think) two-leader apple trees. This was a no-nonsense orchard, that overall looked good as did the 2-leader trees. I thought anyways. Maybe I was just a bit groggy after the bus ride?

Looks like Leslie Huffman (OMAFRA, retired, and barn quiltand vinegar lady)
leads the discussion at To-No-End
Two-leader and Gala block at To-No-End. Nice...weather.
Stop 2: Sandy Creek. After a wonderful lunch at a private ski lodge/club, manufactured orchard from Italy at Sandy Creek. Planted this year. Want one? Order it up -- frutop.it. Might be hitting $70,000 per acre complete with cement posts, wire, irrigation (trickle and overhead for frost protection), and hail net. (Want DIY cement posts? http://www.producetech.com/en) Includes installation. 30 acres? (Was suppose to be 60, but could not get it done this year.) Can't remember, don't think trees were included, but they are included in that app. 70 grand price tag. (I may be on the high side, but I think it's close. So what if it was more like $60,000?) Solid Honeycrisp, I think the plan was to install some pollinators. Some trees were flagging a bit which would concern me. Interestingly, the manager was a field crop guy (corn and soybeans) so this was all new to him. Their consultant was notably absent but I guess he only spoke Italian so that was kind of a no-starter. I don't know, will be interesting to see if they can make any money before the Honeycrisp market goes south. (If/when it ever does?) Kudos to them if it works out.

Explanation of process and costs associated with manufactured orchard by fruitop.it at Sandy Creek.

Nice place to stand and enjoy the shade provided by hail net. Outstanding looking, but prepare to get out the big checkbook. Note a couple trees on right are not looking so good, would concern me after spending that much money. Fire blight? Site issue? Phytophthora? Not sure...

Stop 3. Apple Springs Orchard with frequent IFTA travler Kyle Ardiel (and father Shane). Another cooperative apple variety trial planting, and a vjust-planted, rather experimental IMHO, V-trellis apple block that included a new Honeycrisp strain from U. of Minnesota with presumably redder sking color? Kyle represents a new generation of apple farmers given the latitude by their parents to try out new ideas while continuing with the family orchard. Best wishes to the young growers, we hope they continue the two-way learning relationship with IFTA.

Young, experimental V-trellis, including spring-grafted, numbered red-strain Honeycrisp from U of MNat Apple Spring Orchard.


Stop 4. T & K Ferri Orchard, including dinner in the orchard. Tom Ferri is a hard-working, rather animated character who's life appears to be his orchard. Tom has been cultivating super-spindle trees for a while now, and in a harsh environment up there has recently suffered some tree loss to SAD (more on that later), but overall the manicured orchard looked fantastic. Tom and a computer-savy partner lead a discussion on precision thinning using the fruitlet growth rate model. Karen hosted a catered "communal" dinner in the orchard which was a delicious and perfect way to end Day 2 of #iftaontario. Very satisfied. Sharing some wine with good company/friend and MSU Extension Agents Amy-Irish Brown and Phil Schwllier helped. I learned Phil likes his Kentucky Fried Chicken while on the road back home!)

Tom Ferri (right) and collaborator talk about how they modified the apple fruitlet growth rate model to suit their needs. They did the procedure on many blocks with mixed results. Typical of chemical thinning anomalies that everyone experiences! Got to have a bit of luck thrown in the mix to get it perfect! In other words, "precision" is a bit of an oxymoron! Weather rules!
Beautiful super-spindle Gala at T&K Ferri Orchards. Maybe a little over-thinned, eh? Otherwise perfect!


FINAL DAY 3, including return to Hamilton.


First, a couple stops in the morning while departing Georgian Bay.

Stop 1. Botden Orchards. Equipment display and description of operation of each -- which of course had all the guys (and maybe a few gals?) typically oohing and aahhing, equipment displays always a big hit at these IFTA tours -- by owner Marius Botden. And then a quick discussion about smaller tools used in the orchard to assess fruit quality and growing conditions (soil moisture) byMost notably -- I think, I'm not an equipment guy! -- Boden Orchards is the exclusive grower of the Red Prince apple, which is a trademarked strain of Jonagold from Belgium. A very engaging stop overall.

Marius Botden at beginning of equipment discussion, Botden Orchards. That rather ET-like contraption in the background is an over-the-row sprayer. Marius is afraid of heights, so he has never been up in the "cabin!"

Gerbe Botden talks about some tools used to monitor orchard conditions and fruit quality while IFTA Board member Jim Engelsma listens intently.

Stop 2, and last stop in Georgian Bay before heading back to Norfolk regions, was Bamford Family Farms where OMAFRA's Kristy Grigg McGuffin talked about SAD/RAD, Sudden Apple Decline/Rapid Apple Decline (the latter seems to be preferred, otherwise it is just too sad). Seems this pheomenah of Rapid Apple (tree) Decline is caused by a series of environmental insults that might include winter injury, poor site conditions, and plant pathogens (including fire blight). Young- to middle-aged on dwarfing rootstocks pushed to the limits of production seem to be most afflicted. (But of course there are many such healthy trees too.) Bottom line -- no easy answer, keep trees happy and fingers crossed. Oh and it's all about Location, Location, Location I think. :-) Throw in some good management too. We did look at some older (15 to 18 years) bearing blocks planted on M.9 too.

Wrapping it up with Stop 3 at Chudleigh's Farm back in the greater Toronto metro. Total change of pace, Chudleighs is a direct market, destination, agri-tainment mecca. Owner Tom Chudleigh's apple blossom pastries are legendary and lived up to expectations. I found their choice of some of the pick-your-own varieties, which included Canada-bred (out of British Columbia) Sunrise, Silken, and Creston, along with Honeycrisp, Ambrosia, Cortland, and (maybe) some Macs, interesting. Many direct-market tips and tricks here including wide rows for customer breathing room (they get very, very busy on fall weekends), large, bright red apples on the trees, and entertainment and food for those in the family not all that into just apple picking. They might be called "dads" and "boyfriends?" :-)

Tom Chudleigh and co-workers talk about their PYO varieties and systems. It's different than what we saw already, trust me. Use of hay mulch is interesting, but voles are not a problem with the turf-like groundcover management. But that is one of the least interesting points of Chudleigh's.

Want more? After reading all this? OK...

https://www.growingproduce.com/fruits/the-heat-is-up-and-on-the-climb-for-tree-fruit-farmers/

https://www.growingproduce.com/fruits/the-future-of-fruit-production-looks-bright-north-of-the-border/

https://www.growingproduce.com/fruits/how-to-top-off-3-epic-days-of-tree-fruit-exploration/

https://www.goodfruit.com/systems-evolution-and-sprayers-that-can-adapt-the-focus-of-the-first-day-of-ifta-in-ontario/

https://www.goodfruit.com/from-south-tyrol-to-the-georgian-bay-systems-star-on-the-second-day-of-the-ifta-ontario-tour-2/

https://fruitgrowersnews.com/multimedia/ifta-sees-ontarios-offerings/

And don't forget to check out #iftaontario on Twitter! Eh?

Friday, May 24, 2019

How to use the Malusim app

The Malusim app is a tool that includes the fruitlet growth rate model, apple carbohydrate model, and an irrigation model. I am just going to cover setting up and using the fruitlet growth rate and apple carbohydrate models here.

Start by going to http://malusim.org on your computer (or tablet) and register for an account. Also, go to the Apple or Google stores on your smartphone, search for “Malusim,” and download the app. Sign in using the same account you registered on your computer.

Next, ADD A LOCATION. You will be presented with a Create Location form. Note which fields need to be filled out for the fruitlet growth rate and apple carbohydrate models. Later you can come back and fill out the fields for the irrigation model if you decide to use that. You have to choose the closest NEWA weather station, preferably your own station. Be sure to click the checkmark in upper right to SAVE your LOCATION.
You have to create all your locations, which are typically your management blocks by variety. Be sure to use the check mark (upper right) to SAVE your LOCATIONS!
Once your LOCATION(S) are created, click on the LOCATION and you can then select which Model you want to use.

Four locations here, click on the location to select which Model you want to use. Add more locations as necessary using the + ADD LOCATION green button.

Once your locations are created and you have selected a location, you will be presented  with the location details and choice of model you want to use -- the green buttons.
Choose the green button Fruit Growth Rate Model. Here you have to Edit the Fruit Growth Rate Dataset. To use the Fruit Growth Rate Model, you have to enter the “# of Trees” you are going to measure fruits (5 to 7 per variety per block recommended), the “# of Clusters per Tree” you are going to measure (15 recommended, 10 at a minimum), the “# of Fruitlets per Cluster” (use 5) and “Flower Clusters Counted per Tree” (terminal flowers only, not lateral flowers on 1-year old wood). You also have to set a Target Fruit per Tree based on experience, and what is expected of the trees in terms of yield per acre. Tall-spindle apples, depending on variety, typically carry 65 (Honeycrisp) to 100 (Gala) apples per tree. Again, make sure you click the check-mark to save your Dataset.
For each location, you have to Edit Fruit Growth Rate Dataset before you can use the Fruit Growth Rate Model
Once you have this all set up you are ready to begin measuring fruits. Go back to green button Fruit Growth Rate Model, click the green + button under Measurements.

Click the green + under Measurements to begin using the app to collect fruit growth measurements.

You will be presented with a data entry form for individual fruit measurements. When using the phone app, there will be the option for voice input. Otherwise, you can enter with the keyboard. All Measurement data is automatically saved and synced between the phone app and the web app. Still, it’s a good idea to check your work frequently making sure it is recorded and saved correctly! For more information on the Fruit Growth Rate Model, see Predicting Fruitset Model. Also note there is a yellow Help button (upper right, most windows) for further explanation of what’s needed to use the Malusim app.
Enter Measurements window as it appears on computer in browser window. You can manually enter measurements using the keyboard. Note this should also work on phone or tablet, however, it's recommended to use the app on those devices.

Enter Measurement screen in iPhone. (Works on Android too.) Note the microphone icon for voice input of the fruit measurements.
With successive measurements, you will see the results of the Fruit Growth Rate Model in a chart of Predicted Fruit Setting. Note there is also the option of entering chemical thinner Spray Records (green button under Location Details).
The result after four dates of fruit measurements. More thinning still needs to be done to achieve the Target! May 21 does not show here on the axis, but if it did, there would be a vertical line showing the application date.
Additional information:

Predicting Fruitset Model (Michigan State University, Phil Schwallier and Amy Irish-Brown)

MFGA Meeting and Malusim app (jmcextman.blogspot.com)

YouTube video using the Malusim app with voice input (Jon Clements, June 3, 2018)

Precision chemical apple thinning in MA in 2017 (jmcextman.blogspot.com)


Thursday, March 7, 2019

#IFTA2019

Last week, February 25-28, 2018, 350 fruit tree growers, researchers, educators, and industry representatives got together in Rochester, NY for the International Fruit Tree Association (IFTA) Annual Conference. I can't begin to recount all that went on -- after all, there were two full days of Conference education sessions, and two full days or orchard tours -- but I will summarize some take-home messages here. Speaking of messaging, search #IFTA2019 on Twitter if you want MORE! Lots MORE! Over 300 Tweets to be exact!

George Kantor, CMU, Robert Carlson Lecture
Monday, February 25 - Day one of education program with an AM themed session "Who Moved My Trees?" and a PM session "Using New Rootstocks to Improve High Value Apple Production." Leading off the AM was George Kantor of Carnegie Melon University, who during the Robert Carlson Lecture talked about orchard sensing and automation. Interesting, dynamic speaker -- one screen sums it all up -- "AI (Artificial Intelligence) is coming: It will bring changes, you can start getting ready for it now, and you can help shape it." In the PM, although all the talks by scientists who are part of the SCRI funded Root2Fruit project were useful, I found Lailiang Cheng's of Cornell University talk on "Control of Honeycrisp Bitterpit: Use of Rootstocks and other Strategies" particularly interesting.

Lailiang Cheng summary screen on Honeycrisp bitterpit management
Tuesday, February 26 - Orchard tour west of Rochester to Orleans County. Six
 orchard stops. I will highlight three. Excelsior Farms with Roger Bannister. Multi-leader Pazazz trees that in 4th-leaf produced over 1,000 bushels per acre. Honeycrisp, on same system under-performed at about 600 bushels per acre. Challenges included time spent training and pruning, i.e. getting the multiple leaders uniform. But fruit quality is very high.

Roger Bannister w/ Cornell's Mario Mirando Sazo, Exclesior Farms, multi-leader Pazazz
Lamont Fruit Farm, Inc. with Jason Woodworth and Jose Iniguez. Super-spindle Honeycrisp, Gala, presumably a few other varieties. (SweeTango, Koru, Smitten club varieties included.) Mostly on B.9 rootstocks. Planted app. 2 feet by 11 feet. Very nice -- grow the tree up in the nursery (they have their own) and a year or two in the orchard, then stand back and enjoy growing uniform fruit of targeted sizes. According to them. But they made it look easy.

Jason Woodwoth and Jose Iniguez in super-spindle Gala/B.9 planting. Very nice.
Oh, and that is Bill Broderick on the left, Sunnycrest Orchard, Sterling, MA.
Kast Farms, Inc. Cornell-Geneva rootstock trial with Gennaro Fazio. Delicious as scion. Interesting, but not too many surprises here. I kind of spaced-out because not too interested in Delicious. (Only real interest is right rootstock for Honeycrisp!) CG. 2013 might be their next rootstock release? Did I mention yet it was cold and getting colder -- Gennaro's fur hat got compliments from back home.

Fur-hatted Gennaro Fazio with Cornell-Geneva rootstock planting at Kast Farms
Tuesday evening, IFTA Social Event 2019 (no Banquet, some seem to think it is getting dated) at Artisan Works in Rochester. Artisan Works was pretty mind-blowing spectacular! And the food and company was not too bad either...👍

Wednesday, February 27 - Another day of education inside. Plus a very special event in the evening. First, in the AM "Realizing the Potential." Including the Wallace Heuser Lecture by Nick Dokoozlian of EJ Gallo Winery. You know, what I got out of his talk is that the grape industry, particularly the big wine grape guys, are ahead of us. Way ahead? Maybe not, the big tree fruit growers are adopting new technologies and catching up and trying to match the wine grape industry's obsession with fruit quality and profitability.


Nick Dokoozlian, E&J Gallo Winery, this screen sums up his talk
I also particularly liked WSU's Bernardita Sallato's talk on "Orchard Nutrient Management and Diagnostics," and the "Advances in Tree Fruit Nursery Technologies: Panel Discussion" lead by Greg Lang. No pictures on that, but there was a diversity of nursery production methods espoused by Willow Drive Nursery, North American Plants, Sierra Gold Trees, and Helios Nursery. I liked the one-year bench grafts being produced by Willow Drive.

Bernardita Sallato walked us through a step-by-step nutrition diagnosis, here with soil test optima
Oh, and at the beginning of the AM session was a special tribute and moment of silence to Wally Heuser, founding father of IFTA, who passed away last month at the age of 90. Wally was a leader in getting the industry to plant dwarf apple trees. Memorial contributions to Wally can be made to the IFTA Research Endowment Fund with the announcement of a goal of $250,000 by this time next year when IFTA convenes in Michigan. Almost immediately just shy of $15,000 was raised by the end of the day!

In the PM session "Getting the Right Fruit in the Bin" yours truly talked about "On-Farm Research: Reduce Errors, Get Results" and Cornell's Craig Kahlke (Lake Ontario Fruit Program ) spoke on "The Best Tools for the Job - Measuring Maturity in High Value Apple Varieties." Otherwise, IFTA Business Meeting wherein Lisa Jenereaux (Spurr Brothers Farm LTD, Nova Scotia) and Jeff Cleveringa (Starr Ranch, WA) were elected IFTA Board Chair and Vice-Chair respectively. (You now know where to send complaints!) Plus a "People and Machines to Harvest Apples Panel Discussion" and a nice education sessions wrap-up "Take Home Messages -- Young Professional Panel Discussion" lead by Jen Baugher of Adams County Nursery. Don't forget IFTA is going to Ontario for a Summer Tour (July 21-24, 2019) and the Annual Conference is returning to Grand Rapids, Michigan the week of February 9, 2020.

Thanks Fruit Growers News for the Tweet!


Interesting facts on Titratable Acidity for Honeycrisp, by Cornell's Craig Kalhke
Now for that very special event on Wednesday Evening, the Women's Network Dinner. Mostly because Chelcie Martin, Honey Pot Hill Orchard, Stow, MA and Elly Vaughan, Phoenix Fruit Farm, Belchertown, MA, who were home-state recipients of a scholarship sponsored by the IFTA Women's Network. Both gave five minute stand-up routines during the celebration, and I got to say, they would have made The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel proud! The third recipient, I believe, was Diane Kearns, Fruit Hill Orchard, Winchester, VA.

Chelcie Martin and Elly Vaughan at IFTA Women's Network Dinner
On to last day, Thursday, February 28 - Orchard tours to Wayne County, biggest apple producing County in New York, east of Rochester. AM stops, Fowler Farms and Wafler Farms. All I can say is WOW, especially Fowler Farms who pioneered super-spindle in New York many years ago. Words don't do justice to the panorama of gently sloping hills, almost as far as the eye can see, of young super-spindle orchard. Honeycrisp, SweeTango, Gala, and more recently Evercrisp on M.9 and B.9 rootstocks. Fowlers are vertically integrated and their excellence in apple growing is almost legendary. I particularly liked their use of black locust support system posts, which they have their own sawmill and even grow their own locust to make their posts all on-site. I can't help but think if I was going to do an organic apple orchard in the East, it would look a lot like Fowler's. At Fowler's we also listened to Cornell's Terence Robinson on Helena's proprietary HyGround soil sampling program that "gives detailed information on soil variability and can help target pinpoint areas for nutrient recommendations." Less to say about Wafler's, although their camera-on-platform to monitor orchard field workers was certainly interesting, but a little intimidating and big-brotherish -- who has time to watch all that recorded video? Only Paul Wafler! He claims it's not to punish/reprimand employees, but to help them be better and more efficient workers. Point taken. And out in the orchard, Kyle Wafler talked about logistics of the Tall-Spindle-Tip (Wafler System). The System, along with their self-designed work/harvest orchard platforms -- don't forget, with video camera!!! -- helps keep the flow moving and achieve high apple yields and quality while reducing costs.

Wafler Farms wall-to-wall super-spindle. I particularly liked the black locust posts
and low tree height. Think organic...

Cornell's Terence Robinson talks about variable rate fertilizer application benefits.
Helena's HyGround soil sampling technology. Think precision orcharding...

Kyle Wafler, Wafler Farms, talks Tall-Spindle-Tip (aka Wafler System)
Ben and Tom Clark at Wafler Farms. The orange cone is attached to
Wafler''s harvest platform and is where non-perfect fruit ends up
while being harvested.
In the afternoon, and it did not seem to be getting much warmer, but we visited VanDeWalle Farm, LLC and Cherry Lawn Farms, LLC. At VanDeWalle, the discussion centered around production of high-quality fresh-market apples -- including the new club varieties Sweet Cheeks, SweeTango, and Evercrisp -- using tall-spindle/fruiting wall systems. At Cherry Lawn an intended demo of Drape Net over high-value club varieties went awry (the net had to be removed before our visit) because of record-high winds a few days prior. Humph?

Todd and Ted (or is it Ted and Todd?) Furber, Cherrry Lawn Farms, LLC.
Note the bent-over tree tops where Drape Net was used last growing season.
There was a lot packed into four days of the IFTA Conference in western New York. There are parallels to what everyone is doing out there, from Nova Scotia, to New York, to Ontario, to Michigan, to Washington, to British Coumbia. All places IFTA has held a Conference or Tour recently (Ontario upcoming). Details are in regional, often minor differences and priorities, but standardization on the basics -- tall/super spindle/hi-density with high light utilization, fruiting wall, orchard platforms/mechanization, adopting technology, labor efficiencies, and new varieties -- are common themes to successful apple production across all regions as we move into the 2020's. And finally thanks to all the attendees, speakers, IFTA Directors, Management, Conference Planning Committee, Cornell Extension/Lake Ontario Fruit Team, and all our local hosts. A lot of bang for the buck! And I shout out to Massachusetts tree fruit growers who went and learned at the IFTA Conference -- Mo and Andre Tougas, Tougas Family Farm; Courtney Basil and Tim Smith, Apex Orchards; Chris Smith, C.N. Smith Farm; Ben and Tom Clark, Clarkdale Fruit Farms; Chelcie Martin, Honey Pot Hill Orchard; Elly Vaughan, Phoenix Fruit Farm; and Bill Broderick, Sunny Crest Orchards. 

Cheers at the Hyatt Downtown Hotel bar after a long 5 days...
Been a long time since I had a Genny!



Saturday, February 16, 2019

iPiPE iPMX5

Last week (February 5-6, 2019) I attended iPMX5, the 5th Annual iPiPE 'Mixer' at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, NC. This was my third iPMX5 because for two years I have been New England (and New York) Apple Crop Pest Program Coordinator (CPPC) for iPiPE. In a nutshell, iPiPE "Progress thru Sharing" is a USDA/NIFA funded initiative who's mission states "There is a critical need to develop a national infrastructure of professionals who routinely monitor crop health and pest incidence then share this knowledge enabling dissemination of mitigation measures to limit food security impairment." More on iPiPE here and Apple CPPC (New England-New York) here. Note that anyone can join (and contribute to) iPiPE here.

As New England Apple CPPC for two years, I employed a graduate student (Liz Garofalo) who in-turn employed/engaged a total of four undergraduate students -- two in 2017 (Nicole Foley and Paul O'Connor) and two in 2018 (Cam Olanyk and Lyndsey Ware) -- to primarily scout apple orchards in Massachusetts and enter pest incidence data into iPiPE. Among many other miscellaneous work duties as assigned... 😀
Cam Olanyk pruning peaches at UMass Orchard, May 2018

I was not alone at iPMX5 as Liz, Cam, and Lyndsey accompanied me along with UMass colleague Katie Campbell-Nelson (Vegetable CPPC) and her student Avi Flynn. Also, UConn Grape CPPC Mary Concklin and her student interns Evan Lentz and Casey Lambert were there along with other iPiPE CPP's and student interns from across the country. I want to highlight here though the fact that at iPMX5 our own Cam and Lyndsey won several awards (which included cash!) from the iPiPE leadership team.

Lyndsey presents her honorable mention poster at iPMX5
First, Cam and Lyndsey got Honorable Mentions each for their Intern posters presented at iPiPE. The undergraduate student intern poster presentation session is an important event at the Mixer, and all the posters by these undergraduate students highlighting their iPiPE intern work and research experience were quite exceptional. Cam and Lyndsey's posters were titled 'A Grower's Perspective on Data Sharing and IPM.' and 'The Apple Press - Pests, Plants, & People and Using Models Effectively' respectively. Although not best in show, Liz and I were pleased with their performance and the amount of work they put into their posters, particularly when they also had current semester class and homework commitments ongoing. (Well, I understand Cam was doing quite a bit of snowboarding too!) You can see Cam's poster here, and Lyndsey's poster here, although Lyndsey's hard copy poster had an extra-special 3-D element to it that can't be reproduced w/o being there. I should note that at iPMX4 in 2018 Nicole Foley and Paul O'Connor also won a Poster award, second place I believe. You can see their poster from 2018 here.

Lyndsey and Cam share stakeholder engagement award
with fellow NJ iPiPE intern at iPMX5
Second, Cam and Lyndsey shared first and second place (along with a fellow iPiPE intern from NJ) in the iPiPE 'Stakeholder Engagement' card/publication judging. Their entry was unique compared to others, it was a small field note-taking booklet, with front and back cover links to the iPiPE website and a QR code that leads to the iPiPE Lite App. Cam and Lyndsey actually handed out the booklet to growers at the Massachusett Fruit Growers' Association Summer Meeting held at the UMass Cold Spring Orchard on July 10, 2018. Hence, stakeholder engagement. You can see the booklet cover and instructions for using iPiPE Lite here.
Lyndsey with iPiPE blog 1st place award!

Finally, Lyndsey was awarded best/first iPiPE intern blogger for her posts during the 2018 season. Lyndsey has journalism training and is quite adept at wording and looking at her work in a different way. For now, the intern blog is private. It was on Google+, which is being discontinued, so iPiPE is looking for a different host. But, you can get a flavor for Lyndsey's blog posts here and here and here.

Very proud of these students, and the work they did for us, and thanks to Liz for honchoing their activities over two field seasons. There is lots more to iPiPE, but that is another story. Here I just wanted to talk about the iPiPE Mixer, iPMX5, and the fine job our UMass student interns did. Congratulations...👍❤💥💪

Monday, January 14, 2019

MFGA meeting and Malusim app

Last Thursday, January 10, 2019 the Massachusetts Fruit Growers' Association met for their Annual Meeting at the Great Wolf Lodge in Fitchburg, MA. The meeting program included presentations by UMass Extension faculty and staff as well as Dan Donahue from Cornell's Eastern New York Commercial Horticulture Program.

MFGA Annual Meeting, 10-Jan 2019, Great Wolf Lodge, Fitchburg, MA
But, as a result of some feedback, I wanted to highlight one of my presentations, "Precision thinning using the Malusim app: trials and tribulations." I am going to follow with the individual "slides" and what I should have said during my presentation, but of course then I did not have time to smooth it out like I will here. Not to mention I only got 15 minutes. So here goes...


slide 1
Slide 1 - Today I want to talk to you about the Malusim app and how I used it (hence trials and tribulations) at the UMass Orchard in 2018 to practice "precision thinning."


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Slide 2 - So exactly what is precision thinning? It uses the fruit growth rate model co-developed by Duane Greene at UMass, and Alan Lasko and Terence Robinson at Cornell University to help predict if chemical thinners have been effective and thus achieve a target crop load per apple tree. AKA predicting fruit set. (See: A Method to Predict Chemical Thinner Response in Apples.) You can see the required steps here, which include: 
  • Determine desired crop load
  • Count flower clusters at bloom (7 trees per variety per orchard block)
  • Tag and mark fruitlets at about 5 to 6 mm (7 trees times 15 spurs times 5 fruits per spur equals 525 fruits)
  • Begin measuring each fruit with a caliper and record results, keep track of each fruit with each measurement, go home and enter into Excel spreadsheet 
  • Spray thinner, repeat above (several times) until desired crop load achieved (number of fruit or % fruit set), and additional thinners (if necessary) have been applied.
Are we having fun yet? Is anyone actually doing this?


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Slide 3 - If you really do want to use the predicting fruit set procedure, it is all outlined here in a 7 page document: https://www.canr.msu.edu/apples/horticulture/ Just keep in mind too it really needs to be done on every variety in every block! I ask again: are we having fun yet? Is anyone out there actually doing this?


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Slide 4 - Enter the Malusim app. An app developed by Poliana Francescatto and co-workers at Cornell University to help put precision thinning/predicting fruit set and the in the palm of your hands. Literally. First note that the Malusim app works in your browser where you create an account an set up your orchard blocks, as can be seen here in a browser window. As for the iOS and Android apps, we have been beta testing them but the app should be available to download this spring in the respective app stores. Note that Malusim also includes an Irrigation Model and has the ability to keep chemical thinner spray and irrigation application records.


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Slide 5 - So what did I do this year? Note that I have experience predicting fruit set and have wrote two articles on jmcextman.blogspot.com highlighting my results. But this year, I used the Malusim app to (hopefully) facilitate the process. Which included:
  • Selecting six (6) varieties in six different blocks: Pazazz, Fuji, Gala, Honeycrisp, McIntosh, and Empire
  • All trees were dwarf, tall-spindle (more-or-less) except Empire (slender-spindle)
  • Five trees were selected, five (only five!) spurs per tree selected and measured on 4 measurement dates
  • All data entered using Malusim app on Android (Google) phone using (the experimental) voice input
  • Only a petal fall thinning application was applied: NAA (or Maxcel) plus carbaryl

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Slide 6 - All fruit measurement data was entered using the Malusim app on a mobile device either using voice input or the device keyboard. I want to say it was easy, so simple even UMass Stockbridge School of Agriculture undergraduate students could do it! (Thanks Cam and Lindsey!)


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Slide 7 - Here are some screen shots using the phone app. On the left, the Locations menu in the ?. Middle, fruit diameter data entry screen, including the voice input icon - press and your are prompted to speak the measurement which is automatically entered into the Fruitlet # field. And last on right, the results showing target fruit number and % fruit set, and predicted set (number and %) based on each measurement date. At bottom of this screen you can also see when the chemical thinning spray was applied, also indicated by the vertical gray line on chart (to left).


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Slide 8 - and here, for example, is the interface (browser window) you would get when logging into malusim.org from your computer. When logged into your account, the app completely displays and syncs across phone, tablet, and computer.


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Slide 9 - Now, let's look at the results. First up Pazazz, a managed variety grown in WA, MN, WI, NY, and Nova Scotia. These are screen captures from the browser window. At the bottom, you can see when the thinning spray was applied, which is also depicted by the vertical gray line on the left of the chart. You can also see there the Potential fruit per tree and the Target fruit per tree (number of fruit and % set). These are determined when the block is initially set up, after counting the flower clusters and deciding how many fruit per tree is wanted. Then, four fruit measurements were made, with predicted fruit set shown by the blue bars beginning/after the second measurement date on 30-May. At the top, I counted the number of fruit per tree left at harvest, averaged across the 5 trees. So, on the last measurement date (8-Jun) predicted fruit set was 159 fruits per tree. Actual fruit per tree at harvest was 117. Humph. Definitively over-cropped were these trees, which affected quality -- look, I only wanted 50 fruit per tree on these smallish Bud.9 rootstocks. That's how it works. Now let's look how the rest of the varieties worked out?


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Slide 10 - Next up, Fuji. Target 80 fruit. Predicted (after last meausurement) 137 fruit. Actual, 125. Close, but over-cropped.


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Slide 11 - Gala. These Gala trees were a bit odd, with variable bloom and final crop. So, not putting much stock in it, but Target 65, Predicted 50, Actual 61. Not bad. I have come to the conclusion you almost need to be just below your target upon the final measurement to come up right.


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Slide 12 - Honeycrisp. We love to hate it. Target 50 fruit, predicted 90 apples, harvest 101 apples. Ugh. Way over-cropped = lousy tasting Honeycrisp. More chemical thinner should have been applied, need to see that final blue bar BELOW the pink shade?


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Slide 13 - McIntosh. 100 fruit target. 114 fruit predicted. 160 apples at harvest. What? McIntosh are different. But small Macs are good, right? Not sure I would waste my time doing this on Macs, which habitually crop every year and did I say small Macs aren't a bad thing? But do they make any money? 😟


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Slide 14 - Empire, I add here only because there is a side story (in two slides). This was not my experiment you will see. I don't have much to say here, except wait for slide 16.


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Slide 15 - So, the general tendency is for the trees to be over-cropped at harvest, and that has a tendency to be indicated by the predicting fruit set results. All is good on that front, but you have to wonder why too many fruit? Don't forget the Malusim app can also display the results of the Carbohydrate (CHO) Balance model at your orchard. Wait a minute, that is if you have a NEWA site because the app pulls the results of the CHO model real-time from NEWA. Note here the CHO balance is not particularly severe when the chemical thinners were applied. Therefore, one would expect modest chemical thinning (at best). Another/more chemical thinners should have been applied.


slide 16
Slide 16 - Now the Empire story, here Paul O'Connor, UMass PhD student works with a technician from Carnegie Mellon University at the UMass Orchard to visualize fruitlet growth using a hyperspectral(?) camera. Over the course of a week they took several visualizations of fruit growth using this special (and expensive and heavy) camera with the goal of seeing if indeed growth rate can be visualized and calculated based on these images. Indeed, preliminary results suggest that this is the case, and last I heard, they are working to see if the same growth rate learning model can be applied ot images taken with, shall I say it, a smart phone? An idea I have had for quite some time...😲


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Slide 17 - Conclusions. The Malusim app has the potential to make the job of precision thinning and predicting fruit set notably easier. One needs to be a bit of a technophobe, however, and it's not for everyone. Plus it's kind of in beta. (Cornell, please figure out the future path of Malusim.) Don't forget, however, there is a whole irrigation model built-in too. I encourage you to go to malusim.org, sign-up with an account, and give it a try in 2019. I will say at the very least you will learn a lot by going out and looking at a small sub-set of your growing (ot not growing) fruitlets, which will make you "seat of the pants" chemical thinning decisions a little less so. Good luck and feel free to submit feedback to the Malusim team, whoever that is...