Saturday, July 18, 2009

MFGA Summer Meeting

Last Wednesday (July 15) was the summer meeting of the Massachusetts Fruit Growers' Association (MFGA). Held at the current MFGA President's orchard, Andre Tougas of Tougas Family Farm, over 150 tree and small fruit growers and others from Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Maine were in attendance.

In the morning, Mo and Andre Tougas leaded a tour of their orchards, including:
  • potted bench-grafted apple and seedling blueberry nursery (picture)
  • one acre of 1st-leaf sweet cherries (picture) to be covered with a Haygrove Tunnel
  • producing blueberries covered by a Smart Net Systems net
  • 1st, 2nd, and 3rd leaf tall-spindle apples (picture), including bench-graft and nursery trees, such as a Daybreak Fuji orchard that yielded 400 bushels per acre in the 2nd leaf

In the afternoon, invited guest Dr. Andrew Landers of Cornell University could not have made the subject of air-blast sprayer calibration and performance any more informative while at the same time being entertaining. Landers 2-hour presentation (picture) was supported by a Region 1 EPA Strategic Agriculture Initiative grant and MFGA. Landers discussed the three factors that determine sprayer application rate: pressure, flow rate, and travel speed, and how to measure and modify them to match the desired spray output. He also discussed the pros and cons of different kinds of nozzles, including ceramic core and disc, hollow cone, and air-induction (picture). The latter proven to significantly reduce drift, although their performance using contact insecticides might not be adequate in all orchards. He also used a 'patternator' to examine spray pattern (picture) and adjust airblast sprayer nozzle orientation to match the canopy and spray output on both sides of the fan. (Which differ because of fan direction unless nozzle direction is adjusted.) Landers also talked about how growers can make their own pattenator and finally brought out the famous Cornell 'donut' (picture) that can reduce the speed and volume of air output form the airblast sprayer. Again, useful in reducing drift where tree canopy volume is on the lower side. (Early in the season, dwarf trees.) Landers gives a real good show and is undeniabley an expert on the subject of sprayer calibration and drift reduction. (Despite being a 'Brit'!)

In case you missed any of the links to pictures above, here is my Flicker set from the meeting.