Twenty fruit growers in North Central Ohio enrolled approximately 330 acres of apple and peach production in a scouting and monitoring program designed to offer alternatives to a strict calendar based schedule for pest control. The total acreage represented by these family orchards totaled 750 acres. Pest control management for these 750 acres was based on orchard conditions obtained from the monitoring of the enrolled 330 acres. The fruit farmers were located in five counties.
The 1997 growing season represented the seventh year of participation in an orchard scouting/monitoring program for most of the growers. These fruit producers have understood that the sustainability of their family operations is dependant upon social and environmental concerns as well as economic success. Participation in scouting programs has allowed growers to monitor pest populations to determine if economic damage to their fruit was occurring. Beneficial insects and mites were encouraged to provide natural control, particularly for control of summer populations of European red mite. Pesticides were applied judiciously only when necessary to assist natural control agents including predaceous mites and Stethorus punctum, a small black lady beetle.
PROJECT DESCRIPTION AND RESULTS
Previous observations and experiences have shown the presence of numerous beneficial arthropods in Ohio orchards. Monitoring and identification of both pests and beneficials is essential for the success of alternative tree fruit pest management. The use of natural control agents and the judicious use of pesticides was to be encouraged.
In cooperation with the growers listed below, two part time scout/technicians were hired to monitor orchard conditions. The monitoring program assisted in the selection of pest control measures based on economic thresholds for those pests present rather than on calendar schedules. Populations of beneficial insects and mites were encouraged by selection, timing and sometimes elimination of pesticide applications.
Growers – the Joe Burnham family, Lloyd Dayton, William Dodd, Rich and Betty Eshleman, the William Gammie family, Dean Hansen, the Haslinger family, the Kuns family, the William Lees family, the Malone family, the Dwight Miller family, the Moore family, the Phillips family, Carl Poorman, Rolland Schumaker, the Soviak family, the Steinbauer family, Ralph and Doug Walcher, Larry and Dona Mae Welch, and Vernon Wiersma.
Scout Technicians – Eugene Horner and James Mutchler
Ohio State University Extension personnel – Dr. Celeste Welty, Entomologist, Dr. Michael Ellis Plant Pathologist, Dr. Diane Miller Fruit Specialist, Cathy Weilnau Secretary, and Ted Gastier Agricultural Agent.
For the second season, beneficial arthropods were observed at sometime in all participating orchards. The presence of the Stethorus punctum and predator mites was particularly significant control of European red mite. That these populations of beneficials could exist was questioned after the introduction of several new European red mite control materials. After two season’s experience, the tolerance of beneficials to these new materials, the results are encouraging.
Application records showed a reduction of 36% in the number of sprays compared to a calendar based system across all enrolled orchards. One grower successfully produced quality fruit in the 1997 season with a 55% reduction in spray applications. It should also be noted that all summer applications were avoided due to good pre bloom control of the European red mite eggs and the willingness of growers to allow beneficials to flourish.
A side benefit of the monitoring program was the control of San Jose scale in older trees. The presence of the crawler stage was used as an indicator for application timing, and applications were limited to only those trees found to be infested. A post season harvest survey indicated that fruit quality losses related to insect or mite damage were to insignificant if present at all for the entire group of growers. The apple crop was less than usual due to a cool growing season.
Control of European red mite (ERM) is still considered to be a major importance to Ohio apple producers. The saving of spray applications through a monitoring program was of economic benefit to the growers’ families and helped protect the environment. Allowing beneficials a place in ERM control is dependant upon judicious use of control measures for some of the other important pests. Those pests include coding moth, apple maggot, the leaf roller complex, plum curculio, aphids, leafhoppers, and San Jose scale. A monitoring program, such as ours, is necessary for sustainable fruit production.
A newsletter, mailed weekly during the growing season was delivered to eighty addresses which included farm families producing fruit, Extension agents, Extension specialists, and other Extension personnel in the state. Means of delivery included surface mail and email.
An Alternative Apple Pest Management Training session was held at Eshleman’s Orchard on July 23, 1998 with 40 people in attendance. Included in the registration fee for that event were supplies of reference manuals and hand lens magnifiers. Participants were given to use those hand lenses while examining pests and predators in the orchard. The scout/technicians demonstrated how they perform their weekly orchard visits. Growers shared their success stories in controlling European red mite as well as other orchard pests.
SkyBit Weather Products, which became available after the application of this grant, were discussed and will be the focus of additional on farm research and study. The usefulness of weather information for establishing insect biofixes and disease infections is yet to be determined. Early looks at the products are encouraging with the wind forecasts being very well received as management tools for effective control windows.