Monday, February 8, 2010


I attended the Mid-Atlantic Fruit & Vegetable Convention last week (Feb. 2-4) in Hershey, PA. The Convention is a collaboration of the State Horticultural Association of Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Vegetable Growers Association, the Maryland State Horticultural Society and the New Jersey State Horticultural Society. Penn State University, University of Maryland and Rutgers University Cooperative Extensions all assist in organizing the three days of educational sessions. The Convention has become one of the premier grower meetings in the Northeast with about 1,800 attendees.

While there I ‘tweeted’ to my Twitter. As you may (or may not) know, Twitter posts are limited to 140 characters, i.e., they are brief. So, what follows are my ‘tweets’ from #MAFVC with a little more elaboration than Twitter allows. :-)

  • Easier to define what is NOT sustainable (soil erosion) than what is sustainable - David Granatstein #mafvc

Granatstein is with the Center for Sustaining Agriculture & Natural Resources at WSU’s Tree Fruit Research and Extension Center in Wenatchee. After trying to explain what IS sustainable agriculture, which most parties agree is farming that is environmentally, economically, and socially sustainable, Granatstein said it is a lot easier to provide examples of what is NOT sustainable agriculuture. Clearly, he said, soil erosion is not sustainable. Agreed?

  • Pests of increasing importance with 'soft' pesticide programs: PC, SJS, WAA, plant bugs, borers, EAS, and AMF. Dave Biddinger #mafvc

Biddinger is a long-time partner with entomology researchers (including Larry Hull) at PSU’s Biglerville Fruit Research & Extension Center. ‘Soft’/reduced-risk pesticide programs typically use newer chemistries targeted at controlling specific insects (usually the moth larvae fruit-feeders: codling moth, oriental fruit moth, oblique-banded leafroller, etc.) in lieu of broad-spectrum insecticides (organophosphates, pyrethroids, etc.). Mating disruption (MD) is also commonly used. Unfortunately, the softer pesticides and MD are letting certain pests ‘slip through’ and build up in orchards, resulting in more incidental but nonetheless important fruit and tree injury from Plum Curculio, San Jose Scale, Wooly Apple Aphid, European Apple Sawfly, Apple Maggot Fly, etc.

  • Only thing more contagious than passion, the lack of it. Harold Lloydd #mafvc

Lloyd was the inspirational and entertaining general session speaker “Am I the Leader I Need to Be?

  • #1 Worker Protection Standard infraction - failure to realize covered by WPS. Jim Harvey, PSU #mafvc

The Worker Protection Standard (WPS) is a federal regulation designed to protect employees on farms, forests, nurseries, and greenhouses from occupational exposures to agricultural pesticides. As a rule of thumb, all non-immediate-family members who work in a field or site that is within 30 days of a pesticide’s Restricted-Entry-Interval (REI, see ‘Agricultural Use Requirements’ on the label) and who receive compensation (of any kind, does not have to be money) are covered by the WPS. Hence, all requirements of the WPS -- including training, central posting, pesticide application notification, providing personal protective equipment, etc. -- must be followed by farm owners/operators/employers and (hopefully) employees.

  • 20th century IPM 'Industrial Age, time for another poison' vs. 21st century IPM 'Information Age, what management action, and optimized combination of tools.' John Wise MSU #mafvc

Wise, of Michigan State University’s Trevor Nichols Research Station says pest management is becoming much more complicated with new pesticide chemistries, which are more insect- and application timing-specific to be effective. Hence, the need to have more information about the pests current status, such as life stage and abundance, are necessary to be effective in this new ‘information age’ of pest management. Tools used to collect this information include research, weather monitoring, and pheromone traps. Growers are going to need help assimilating this information into effective pest management decisions.

  • Trying to use new chemistries on a calendar-based spray schedule is not going to be economically sustainable. J Wise #mafvc

Again, growers are going to have to time spray applications that target specific insect(s) at specific life stage timing vs. broad-spectrum applications on a fixed schedule or ‘time for another poison.’

  • Maxcel @ 200ppm effective at reducing fruit set (and hand-thinning time) in heavy-cropped Asian pears. Dan Ward #mafvc

Asian pears can set heavy crops, requiring labor-intensive hand thinning to produce large fruit that the market requires. Colleagues Dan Ward and Win Cowgill of Rutgers University have demonstrated that the apple and pear thinner Maxcel can be an effective tool under the right conditions for thinning Asian pears.

  • Fruit quality and yield are directly related to light interception and management-trees are solar collectors. Kevin Day #mafvc

Day is an extension specialist/researcher at UC Davis/Kearneysville. He gave the Ernie Christ Memorial Lecture -- ‘Training Systems in Peaches and Their Costs.’ The more light you can intercept (and distribute) by the orchard canopy, equals higher fruit yield and better fruit quality. We all know that, right? Oh wait, see next post. :-)

  • Short [peach] trees had greater ability to size fruit than large trees, yield did not suffer (need 70% light interception). K Day #mafvc

Interesting, because Kevin and his colleagues in California had been promoting the perpendicular-V peach planting and training system, which normally has tall (12-14 foot high) trees. But, he showed when the canopy grows together at the top, approaching 100% light interception, yield and quality did not increase above an orchard that is intercepting 70% light. Therefore, they are cutting perp-V and quad- and hex- peaches down to 8 foot height, while maintaining yield and quality compared to taller trees. In fact, fruit were larger in the shorter trees.

Enough said?

  • Our biggest limiting factor is to fill the space quickly (re. hi-density apples). Chris Baugher #mafvc

Chris runs Adams County Nursery's production orchard. When planting young, hi-density apple orchards using 3 to 4 foot spacing between trees, to make the economics work you need to fill the space between trees quickly (in 1-2 years) and begin producing fruit. Factors such as nursery tree quality, site prep, promptly supporting and irrigating, N fertilization, etc. need utmost attention.

  • 2.8% leaf N for peaches ideal. K Day #mafvc

This is a little lower than what we typically recommend in the east, that is 3.5 to 4%. Of course California is not the east too. Something to think about, could we have somewhat firmer fruit at mature harvest and/or overall better fruit quality and yields with N a little lower. I might try it.

  • Use monoammonium phosphate (MAP) @ 1/3 lb per tree at planting -- trees get off to much better start. K Day #mafvc
Phosphorous promotes root growth -- much work has been done on using supplemental P when planting new orchards. Highly advised for all new peach and apple orchards.

  • Monitoring with pheromone traps the basis of IPM. Larry Hull #mafvc

Hull is a PSU guru on insect management, particularly lepidopteran pests. Models that use a biofix -- typically when a certain number of adult moths have been captured or first appear -- are increasingly being used to time targeted pesticide applications. See the obliquebanded leafroller model.

  • Automated pheromone traps that send results by e-mail where we are headed. L Hull #mafvc

Pheromone traps that take pictures of accumulated moth trap captures and automatically e-mail (via wireless I presume) the results? I like it. Next step, just compute whether the threshold has been met or not -- that is all the end user needs to know. You heard it here first. :-)