Innovative Tart Cherry Orchard Systems: Design, Evaluation, and Demonstration

Final Report for LNC01-195.1

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2001: $90,742.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2004
Region: North Central
State: Michigan
Project Coordinator:
David Epstein
Michigan State University
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Project Information

Summary:

This project consisted of a comparative analysis of three orchard systems: conventional Integrated Pest Management (IPM), Alternative Insect Management (AIM, with mixed species hedgerows, alternative groundcovers, and other strategies to decrease pest abundance and foster beneficials), and System 3 (with six subsystems, ranging from conventional IPM with clean tillage to organic PERMaculture with groundcovers and inter-crops to improve biodiversity, soil quality, and income diversity).

This project was conducted in consultation with the NW Michigan Integrated Practices (IFP) Think Tank, a farmer-industry-researcher stewardship group. The IFP Think Tank helped to design the innovative orchard systems for tart cherry (Prunus cereasus) evaluated within the context of this project, actively guiding the research, education, and publications associated with the project in an advisory capacity. Finally, the project established and assessed organic tart cherry production systems on growers’ farms and perhaps for the first time on a Land Grant University Research Station in the United States.

Introduction:

The North Central region produces over 75% of the U.S. tart cherry crop with an estimated farm gate and value added of over $150 million, depending on the year. Fruit crops provide wholesome and nutritious food, contribute to the economy of many communities and are an important part of the “fabric” of the rural Great Lakes region. Tart cherries are grown primarily near Lake Michigan to take advantage of the lake’s effect on moderating temperature, yet orchards also contribute to the scenic beauty of the region. Tourism relies, in part, on maintaining the rural character of the state’s agricultural regions.

Ecologically sound orchard management systems have become increasingly important as tart cherry growers strive to transition to more environmentally sound and sustainable orchard production systems. While progressive growers are experimenting with various components of highly innovative alternatives, these systems have not been adequately developed, evaluated, or effectively implemented on a broad scale. In 1994, the IFP Think Tank began to investigate alternative production systems for tart cherry. Phase I was developed to identify alternative orchard floor and nitrogen management practices for existing orchards. The resulting research was located on a commercial farm. However, design of innovative orchard systems that incorporate significant changes in basic orchard design required the establishment of a new orchard (Phase II). In 1996, the Michigan Cherry Industry and the Michigan Department of Agriculture provided “seed money” to establish a Phase II orchard at the Northwest Michigan Horticultural Research Station. This research station is a fruit grower developed and governed facility, managed by MSU. The Phase II research site was immediately adjacent to the Phase I orchard.

Phase II provided a unique opportunity to enhance the partnership with the fruit production community, to design and test solutions, and to learn about holistic orchard management and potential alternative management strategies. Outreach efforts had an impact on how growers, industry representatives, and agricultural policymakers viewed the challenges involved in reducing pesticide usage and adopting increasingly sustainable systems in tart cherry production. This increased awareness was evidenced by the decision of the cherry industry to seek funding for this project to evaluate organic production methods in a series of on-farm grower trials.

Literature Review:

Michigan Tart Cherry Industry

More than 75% of the U.S. tart cherry crop is produced in the NCR, with a farm gate and value added worth of about $150 million per year. In 1996, Michigan had 27,300 acres of bearing tart cherry trees that produced 40 million pounds of fruit for a gross farm gate value of $31.2 million (1996-97 MI Agric. Statistics). In 1996, utilization included fresh market (<1%), canned (28%), frozen (69%) and other uses (2%); and 72% of the crop was produced in the northwest region, which was the area of this research project. Cherry production is managed through use of a conventional horticultural model and is impacted by numerous key insect, disease, weed and nematode pests.

Sour cherry is susceptible to a range of pests including the arthropods cherry fruit fly (Rhagoletis cingulata and R. fausta), plum curculio (Conotrachelus nenuphar), and mites (Tetranychus urticae, Panonychus ulmi); nematodes (several species); the diseases cherry leaf spot (Blumeriella jaapi), brown rot (Monilinia fructicola), and powdery mildew (Podosphaera clandestina); and weeds, among others. A production system had evolved that relied on pesticides applied on a weekly to biweekly basis to control pests. However, growers’ concerns about environmental quality, pest resistance to pesticides, loss of important pesticides, increasing input costs and urbanization of farmland have challenged them to change the way pests are managed. In the last decade, NW Michigan sour cherry growers have made significant reductions in the number of pesticide applications necessary to produce the high quality fruit demanded by the marketplace. Reductions in pesticide use have come primarily through the implementation of intensive Integrated Pest Management (IPM) that utilizes scouting for insects and diseases, current and predictive weather information, degree day models, alternate row middle and border spraying, innovative spray application technology and biological control.

Insect & Mite Pests in Michigan Tart Cherry

The key insect pest species in tart cherries that directly affect the quality of cherry fruit are the cherry fruit flies [cherry fruit fly, Rhagoletis cingulata (Loew) and black cherry fruit fly, R. fausta (O.S.], and the plum curculio [Conotrachelius nenuphar (Herbst)]. A complex of Sessidae moth species [peach tree borer (Synanthedon exitiosa (Say), lesser peachtree borer (S. pictipes (Grote & Robertson), and dogwood borer S. scitula (Harris)] may damage the root systems and scaffold branches of tart cherry. Other secondary pests that effect the tree canopy or winter hardiness include leafrollers, mites, aphid, leafhoppers, leafminers, plant bugs, rose chafers and scale insects.

Conventional insect pest management in tart cherries relies on cover sprays of organophosphate (OP), carbamate and pyrethroid insecticides (Hull et al. 1997). The leading insecticide applied by Michigan growers was azinphosmethyl; an OP applied to 79% of tart cherries in 1995 (USDA-NASS 1996). Other OPs applied were imidan to 37%, chlorpyrifos to 22% and methyl parathion to 8% of Michigan’s tart cherries. The carbamate, carbaryl, was applied to 10% of the cherries and the pyrethroids, esfenvalerate and permethrin, applied to 20% and 14 %, respectively. These insecticides are broad spectrum insecticides and are applied to control the wide range of insect pests in cherries. These insecticide sprays may be applied at dormant, petal fall, as three cover sprays and a preharvest cover spray.

Mite management may require applications of superior oil at dormant growth stage of tart cherry. Two miticides (Vendex or Apollo) may be applied at pre-bloom for the plum nursery mite [Aculus fockeui (Nal. & Trt.)], at third cover for European red mite [Panonychus ulmi (Koch)] and two-spotted spider mite [Tetranychus urticae (Koch), and at post harvest for two spotted spider mite.

IPM in Tart Cherries

Growers have strived to reduce their use of insecticides to control cherry fruit fly through the implementation of IPM strategies. Current strategies in Michigan include the use of yellow sticky boards to monitor cherry fruit fly, to avoid unnecessary insecticide applications (Howitt, 1993). Alternate row and border sprays are also used to mitigate the amount of insecticide applied (Edson, et al. 1998). Many growers use new spray application technology that improves distribution and coverage of spray materials. Growers who use this technology routinely reduce pesticide use by 30% or more (Edson, et al. 1998). These efforts to reduce insecticide use have been successful, yet these systems currently rely primarily on organophosphate insecticides. Growers need economically viable and ecologically sound alternatives that will effectively control cherry pests and meet the stringent quality demands of the marketplace.

The evolution of IPM and recommendations for the future have been reviewed in a comprehensive manner by Bird and Berney (1998), Benbrook (1996), Board on Agriculture (1996) and Bird et al. (1990). The IPM system to be used in the research will be based on the conventional management system (Hull et al. 1997), but will not include the pyrethroid applications that can lead to herbaceous mite outbreaks. All pesticide applications will be applied only when weekly scouting reports indicate that management is necessary. Furthermore, most pesticides will be applied as alternate row sprays to further reduce the amount of product required to manage those insect pests that are highly mobile, i.e. cherry fruit flies (Edson et al. 1998).

Alternatives

Hedgerow barrier

Living hedgerow barriers may be an underexploited and non-chemical means to prevent the movement of insect pests into an orchard. For the past 10 years, researchers at MSU have studied key insect pest movement into and out of Michigan fruit plantings (Whalon & Croft 1986, Whalon & Croft 1985, Larsen & Whalon 1988, Mowry & Whalon 1984, Whalon & Elsner 1982, Bush & Whalon 1995, Bush et al. 1997). Several key pest species including plum curculio, fruit flies, tarnished plantbug, certain leafhoppers (particularly X-disease vectors- Paraphlepsius irroratus and Scaphytopius acutus), rose chafers, and several leafrollers orient their flight below 3 m. Many of these species (tarnished plantbug, rose chaffer, P. irroratus leafhopper, etc.) prefer to fly just above the ground cover in the boundary layer of air. Physical net or screen barriers used in field situations to significantly reduced pest immigration into test plots (Yudin et al. 1991). Wipfli et al. (1991) showed that 1.2 m-tall screen barriers were effective in reducing tarnished plantbug immigration into plots. A 6.0 m-tall physical net barrier surrounding peach plots effectively reduced the immigration of aphids and reduced the number of lepidopteran pests (primarily leafrollers) captured in pheromone traps (Bush & Whalon 1995). These barriers may keep larger mammalian pests, such as deer and unwelcome humans out of the orchard. Finally, treating the hedgerow barrier with repellents or low rates of insecticides (pyrethroids) will repel many pest species that frequently invade orchards from outside sources, i.e., leafrollers and fruit flies (Maxwell 1968, Whalon & Croft 1985, Prokopy et al. 1990).

Orchard Decline and Replant Issues

Tart cherry replant and orchard decline problems are complex and involve a range of interacting pathogenic and abiotic factors. Nematode problems associated with stone fruit production are reasonably well documented (Bird and Melakeberhan 1995). In Michigan, low soil pH and high root-lesion nematode (Pratylenchus penetrans) were the most commonly observed factors in a survey of declining orchards (Melakeberhan et al., 1993). Nutritional imbalances, however, are also common in soils with low pH, and Melakeberhan et al. (1997) demonstrated that population densities of P. penetrans associated with cherry seedlings maintained under optimal soil nutritional conditions did not increase as much as population densities of this nematode associated with cherry root-stocks maintained under an environmental with nutrient stress. Recent nematology research (Berney and Bird 1998, and Freckman and Ettma 1993) has demonstrated that the nematode community ecology relationship between non-plant parasitic nematodes (bacterial and fungal feeders, etc.) and plant pathogenic nematodes can be an indicator of overall soil quality and used to differentiate among different types of farming systems. Similar results were observed in a 1997 comparison of alternative soil nutrient management systems associated with a potato research project. It has been indicated that soil-borne diseases associated with agricultural crops may be directly related to the type of overall system used for managing soil nutrients (Walters and Fenzau 1996). Innovative Tart Cherry Orchard Systems: Design, Evaluation and Demonstration is structured in a way that will test this hypothesis.

Orchard Ground Covers

Ground covers are critical components of orchard systems, both with and without the use of herbicides. They significantly impact both beneficial and detrimental soil-borne organisms (Bird and Berney 1998). Recent research on the role of covercrops in Michigan will be used in development of the alternative orchard systems associated with this project (Mutch et al. 1998). Orchard ground cover harbors at least one-third of the arthropod and most of the plant diversity in Michigan fruit plantings (Strickler & Whalon 1985). Most pest insects, mites and pathogens spend at least one life stage in the ground cover (Mowry & Whalon 1984, Whalon & Elsner 1982). Ground cover management is an important part of sustainable IPM programs in tree fruit production systems (Bugg & Waddington 1994, Flexner et al. 1991, Klonsky & Elmore 1989, Meagher & Meyer 1990, Meyer et al. 1992, Smith et al. 1989, Stinchcombe & Stott 1983). It can also have an impact on surface water runoff of nitrate and some pesticides (Merwin et al. 1996). In some regions of the United States, growers have relied on ground cover to harbor beneficial mite species that move into the apple canopy to control European red mite and two-spotted spider mites (Croft 1982, Coli et al. 1994, Alston 1994).

Furthermore, research has indicated that fungal endophytes (Acremonium spp.) associated with perennial ryegrass (Lolium spp) inhibit insect feeding and effect arthropod populations (Clay et al. 1985, Johnson et al. 1985, Kirfman et al. 1986). We have explored a unique endophytic rye grass-ground cover system that reduces the need for insecticidal control of leafhoppers and other pests in orchards (Rahardja et al. 1992, Garcia et al. 1991). Mowing ground cover at specific times has been experimentally successful in disrupting the life cycle of some insect pests such as the tarnished plantbug (Whalon, unpublished data). Thus, phenologically timed mowing of ground cover could serve as an additional nonchemical strategy to control important insect pests of fruit trees.

Novel Pest Control Chemicals

There are novel pest control chemicals that recently entered or will enter the market that may be used by growers to manage cherry pests. The key characteristics that make these products marketable include pest specificity, environmental friendliness and novel modes of toxic action on target pests. Two potentially useful products for cherry fruit flies are spinosad (Success, Spintor by DowElanco) and fipronil (Rhone-Poulenc). Both products claim activity towards dipteran pests and spinosad has been shown to have activity against cherry fruit flies in field trials in Michigan (G. Thornton, pers. comm.). Both products plus imidacloprid (Provado by Bayer) claim activity towards adult coleopteran pests. These products may be useful for plum curculio management and imidacloprid has been shown to be effective in reducing plum curculio damage to fruit in apples (Bush & Whalon 1997). Imidacloprid is also toxic towards several sucking insects that affect cherries including aphids, leafhoppers and scale insects. The pesticide tebufenozide (Confirm by Rohm & Haas) and spinosad have activity towards lepidopteran pests. These compounds are registered for use on apples in Michigan and have provided effective control for leafrollers (Biddinger et al. 1996, Waldstein et al. 1999, Waldstein and Reissig 2000).

Attraction Strategies

Attract and trapping strategies may have potential in the management of cherry fruit flies and plum curculio. For cherry fruit flies, yellow sticky traps baited with ammonium acetate are attractive and can be used to trap adults before oviposition begins. An apple maggot trap-out strategy with red spheres showed promise for maggot management with reduced or no insecticide applications. Prokopy (1991) placed sticky red spheres with a synthetic fruit odor around the perimeter of apple orchards to trap out immigrating adults and documented acceptable levels of damage without late season insecticide applications. Duan & Prokropy (1995) used red spheres treated with dimethoate, feeding stimulants, and red acrylic paint to effectively manage apple maggot in three of four orchards tested. A similar approach could be combined with the hedgerow barrier to intercept invading adults before they enter the orchard. The effectiveness of pesticide treated spheres for the control of apple and blueberry maggot has also been demonstrated in Michigan (Liburd et al. 1999, Liburd et al. 2000).

Another attraction and trapping program for fruit flies are bait attractants combined with photosensitive dyes. Several combinations have been shown effective against several species of fruit flies (Bergsten 1997). In a field study, this approach was as effective as malathion baits in reducing tropical fruit fly populations (Mangan & Moreno 1997).

IPM Technologies (Portland, OR) has contacted us about Sirene, new "attract and kill" formulations that utilize a pheromone plus insecticide combination. Sirene formulations have been developed and field-tested for codling moth and another coleopteran pest, the cotton boll weevil (Kirsh 1997). Recently, grandisoic acid was isolated as an aggregation pheromone produced by the adult male plum curculio (Eller & Bartelt 1996). Our field trials show that traps with grandisoic acid were more attractive to plum curculio than traps without grandisoic acid (Coombs et al. 1997).

Biological Control

Avoiding or reducing the application of broad-spectrum pesticides will enhance the potential for biological control of some pests in cherries. A program based on mating disruption allowed forbuildup of natural enemies that suppress primary pest and spider mite outbreaks (Westigard & Moffitt 1984). Knight (1994) found increased numbers of leafhopper parasites, Anagrus spp., and increased incidence of parasitized leafminers in pheromone-disrupted organic apple orchards. An pest management program based on attract and kill for apple maggot encouraged the buildup of natural enemies such as leafminer parasites and spiders within the fruit canopy (Prokopy et al. 1994). Furthermore, both the hedgerow barrier and ground covers should enhance biodiversity and the abundance of predacious arthropods. Hedgerow barriers can reduce predator movement out of orchard plots and be supplemented with nectar rewards that attract insect parasitoids. The effectiveness of predacious insects and mites was enhanced by protective environmental structures (Pree & Hagley 1985, Hagley & Miles 1987). Both studies reported a reduction in the number of pesticides applied for aphid and herbaceous mite management. Inundative releases of commercially available natural enemies within barriers was explored in a low-cost pioneering effort to provide Michigan apple growers with an alternative to insecticide sprays for aphid pests (Bush & Whalon 1995).

Ground covers and hedgerow barriers may serve as overwintering sites for plum curculio and plum curculio may spend up to one month in the soil while it pupates. Both life habits lend themselves to the management of plum curculio through entomopathogens associated with the soil, ground cover and high relative humidity. Plum curculio has been reported as susceptible to the bacteria Beauvaria bassiana (Tedders et al. 1982) and B. bassiana was identified as a mortality factor in overwintering plum curculio (McGriffen & Meyer 1986). A commercial formulation of B. bassiana is being developed by Mycotech and can be applied to curculio overwintering and pupal sites in the ground cover and hedgerow barriers to better manage plum curculio. Plum curculio is also highly susceptible to entomopathogenic nematodes, particularly Steinernema carpocapsae (Tedders et al. 1982, Olthof & Hagley 1993) and Heterorhabditis spp. (Brossard et al. 1989). Both B. bassiana and entomopathogenic nematodes may reduce the abundance of the cherry fruit flies that spend nearly 10 months of the year in the orchard soil.

Project Objectives:

Project Goal:
The goal of this project was to design, demonstrate, and evaluate innovative and holistic orchard systems for tart cherry production that are effective and practical, reduce pesticide risk and environmental impact, and sustain the economic viability of growers and their communities.

Specific Objectives:
1. To utilize a grower-research-industry partnership, the Northwest Lower Michigan Integrated Fruit Practices Think Tank (IFP Think Tank), to design solutions to cherry industry pest and production challenges within the context of holistic orchard management, sustainability, and environmental stewardship.

2. To assess the potential of two alternative orchard management systems: an integrated system of alternative insect management (AIM); and System Three, a continuum of six subsystems ranging from conventional IPM with clean tillage to a PERMaculture system (PER) based on the concepts of B.C. Mollison (1995). Both were compared to an intensive integrated pest management system (IPM). The three systems were designed to promote: effective arthropod, weed, disease, and vertebrate pest management; tree vigor, productivity and fruit quality; winter hardiness; plant, arthropod and nematode species diversity; soil quality; and economic sustainability.

3. To use orchard walks, learning circles and other interactive educational processes to examine the innovative orchard management systems and their components, and to facilitate discussion about holistic orchard management among Michigan cherry growers and processors.

4. To establish and assess organic production systems on growers’ farms.

Reference: Mollison, B.C. 1995. Introduction to PERMaculture. Tagari Publications. Tyalgum, Australia. 213 pp.

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand
  • George Bird
  • Charles Edson
  • Phil Korson
  • James Nugent
  • Mark Whalon

Research

Research results and discussion:

Objective 1.
Following project evaluation at the end of the 1999 season, the members of the IFP Think Tank recommended that a consultant/grower have a more prominent role in day-to-day management decisions. New subsystems, based on the recommendations of the IFP Think Tank (please see systems descriptions, below) were implemented in 2001 with further modifications made during 2002 for both the AIM and IPM systems.

The progress of the Innovative Tart Cherry Orchard Experiment was evaluated at a spring meeting of the IFP Think Tank during 2001 with a second meeting held in late December 2001. During the December meeting the IFP Think Tank provided both guidance with project direction and assistance with various aspects of the research, in particular investigating soil quality, control of the cherry leaf spot fungus, and methods for plum curculio (Conctrachelus nunuphar) control.

The IFP Think Tank and other fruit growers and consultants advised a working group at Michigan State University, in their production of a new book entitled, Fruit Crop Ecology and Management (MSU Bulletin # E-2759). This book provides fruit growers with information about ecological farming practices.

The IFP Think Tank met on December 28, 2001, to provide input into another publication, "Ecologically Based Farming Systems," under development by MSU scientists. In particular, input was sought from the group regarding a chapter on cherry production that is being written as an example of concepts applicable to ecological farming in a perennial cropping system. Tart cherry was chosen as the representative perennial crop due in large part to the work done as part of this SARE project.

At the December meeting, the IFP Think Tank also decided that the grower educational program for 2002 should focus on biological control of fruit pests. This educational program has been an annual event co-sponsored by MSUE and the IFP Think Tank, and is open to all growers, consultants, and agribusiness personnel. Program content is based on input from the IFP Think Tank. The daylong program on biocontrol was held on April 5, 2002, with excellent response from an audience of 42 growers, consultants, and MSU extension personnel.

The 2003 annual IFP Think Tank and MSU grower educational program was held on March 6, 2003. Thirty people attended the all-day Fruit CROP Ecology Workshop. The workshop featured results from this SARE project, and incorporated the MSU publication “Fruit Crop Ecology and Management” (published in 2003) with input and review by the IFP Think Tank, into the program. This book is volume three of a five-volume series on production ecology. Evidence indicates the first two volumes were successful in regards to this issue, with Volume One “Michigan Field Crop Ecology” selling over 4,300 copies and Volume Two “Michigan Field Crop Pest Ecology and Management” selling 3,000 copies. Volume Three appears to be having a similar impact (1000 copies sold to date).

At the March 2003 meeting, the IFP Think Tank also decided to co-host a second 2003 grower educational program at the NW Horticultural Research station in August focusing on entomological work associated with the SARE Project. This program featured an orchard walk of the SARE blocks.

The March 2004 IFP Think Tank meeting dealt with issues of water management without irrigation. This is a topic of increasing importance for farmers in the Great Lakes region, not only in terms of competition with the water needs of urban and suburban development, but also in terms of water quality as regards non-point source pollution. Data presented from this SARE project centered on the use of mulches, compost, and groundcover. Dr. G. Bird presented the role of microorganisms in carbon cycling and soil ecology.

Objective 2.
This project has resulted in one of, if not the only, organic tart cherry research site on a Land Grant Institution Research Station in the United States. It has demonstrated that tart cherries can be grown in Michigan under organic management practices. Organic research into insect and disease management faces many challenges, though, and integrated management approaches need to be emphasized to reduce the use of pesticides in organic tart cherry systems.

Disease Management 2001
Cherry leaf spot was treated in the organic plots using copper sulfate and lime. All other plots were treated with a conventional fungicide program. Copper is the only organically certified compound with known efficacy against cherry leaf spot (CLS). It was used for control of CLS during the first half of the 20th century, but was replaced in the 1950s by other fungicides. Grower experience with copper without lime in recent years has generally resulted in phytotoxicity, which causes leaf yellowing and drop. For this trial, hydrated lime was added to the copper to reduce the problem with phytotoxicity.

During 2001 the following fungicide treatments were applied: IPM and AIM: Conventional fungicides; PER-SUB1:CTR (Control) received 1 Bravo/Nova spray early, with no additional fungicide sprays; PER-SUB2:CON (Conventional management) and PER-SUB3:CON/M (Conventional management with mulch) received conventional fungicides; PER-SUB4:ORG1 and PER-SUB5:ORG2 (both with organic management) received copper sulfate/lime; and PER-SUB6:TEA (Organic management) received compost tea.

Disease Management 2002
Bordeaux mix was used for leaf spot control in PER subsystems 4, 5, and 6 in 2002. Trials comparing compost tea, Bordeaux mix, conventional fungicides, and no spray for leaf spot controls were conducted in the IPM plots in 2002 (Fig. 2).

Four fungicide treatments were used for leaf spot control: 1) conventional fungicide program, 2) Copper sulfate and lime, 3) Compost tea, and 4) No spray (one Bravo fungicide application was made in August to prevent excessive leaf loss, compromising winter survival). The conventional and CuSO4/lime both provided good leaf spot control (17% and 9% infected leaves respectively). The CuSO4/lime treated trees retained their leaves the longest through the season. The compost tea (42% infected leaves) and no spray (54% infected leaves) programs both yielded unacceptable leaf spot control. Dodine was applied to the compost tea treated trees after the trials were completed to prevent additional leaf loss. One additional finding that came from the trials in 2002 was the identification of a potential problem of phytotoxicity of the fungicide Dodine on the tart cherry cultivar, Balaton. Leaf yellowing, bronzing, and some leaf drop were noted after Dodine an application in early August. Balaton is a cultivar that has grown in popularity in recent years.

Despite poor results using compost tea for leaf spot control to date, interest in pursuing this option persists for both the IFP Think Tank and the project researchers. Overcoming problems with production methods and finding the right components for the tea mixture are key.

Disease Management 2003
Unusually dry conditions at the NW Michigan Horticultural Research Station during 2003 resulted in exceptionally low cherry leaf spot pressure and no brown rot. Cherry leaf spot infection periods occurred on May 11 (low), May 19 (low), May 30 (low), June 6 (high), June 10 (moderate), June 27 (high), July 6 (moderate), July 10 (high), July 21 (moderate) and July 26 (low).

Application of all treatments was made with a "Curtec" sprayer. "Curtec" is a highly effective, commercially available sprayer developed by MSU agricultural engineers. It utilizes rotary atomizers to develop relatively uniform, fine droplets dispersed in a horizontally directed "air curtain" pattern. This system achieves excellent uniformity of spray deposition and minimizes drift. Conventional treatments were applied at 30 gallon of water/acre (a typical rate used by growers utilizing a sprayer designed for low spray volumes). The copper and lime were applied at 90 gal/acre due to problems concentrating this mixture in such small water volumes. Again, this is typical application adjustment made by commercial growers when applying this mixture.

The organically certifiable disease control program using copper sulfate plus lime resulted in excellent disease control in 2003. Results were equal to the conventional program for the control of CLS. In a year with high incidence of powdery mildew, copper sulfate plus lime was observed to be more effective than the standard program. Results from copper sulfate plus lime in this study have shown so much promise that funding has been procured to conduct further research with Cu during the next four years. Organic tart cherry growers have adopted this strategy based on prior years' work in this project. In addition, these practices were discussed with growers and consultants at educational meetings held in Benzonia, Michigan during 2003 and 2004.

Yield data were collected in 2003 for the first time. No yield data were collected in 2002 due to a severe freeze event. Prior to 2002, the trees were too small for mechanical harvesting (trunk shaking). Five trees per sub-treatment were mechanically harvested with an OMC trunk shaker. Fruit weight was recorded as the fruit was conveyed off the catching mechanism prior to dropping into a tank of water. Yields were obtained from 2 of the 6 PERM sub-treatments.

Fruit load data was collected on July 1, 2003. Fruit were counted on 15 trees in each of the three replications for AIM, IPM, and System 3 (PERM) blocks. Although no significant differences were found, IPM blocks had the highest average fruit load at 386 ± 66 fruit per tree. When separating interior and exterior trees, fruit load was reduced in the exterior or border of PERM blocks.

Each block was inter-planted with Montmorency and Balaton tart cherries. Montmorency had consistently higher fruit load when compared to Balaton.

Yields were lower in System 3 than in the AIM or IPM treatments, reflecting the inadequate plant nutrition and cherry leaf spot control in 1997-98 resulting in poor overall tree growth. Yields in AIM and IPM treatments did not differ.

System 3, Soil Quality.
Data from the Tart Cherry SARE project confirmed that horticultural practices impact the total soil C and N, including their mineralizable forms. Alternatively treated soils (AIM and PER) showed consistently higher total C and N when compared to the IPM system. The AIM and PER systems had consistently higher N mineralization potential compared to IPM, indicating that these soils had enhanced their capacity to supply N to the trees. Increases in soil organic matter improve soil tilth, ion exchange capacity, water holding capacity and infiltration. Organic matter, especially the active C and N pools (as shown by 150-day laboratory incubations) is a major food source for most soil organisms. Management strategies that increase these pools stimulate microbial activity and growth, therefore enhancing the soil’s ability to provide nitrogen to plants and lowering the incidence of soil borne diseases. In addition, Dr. Bird’s research on nematode community structure has shown that a healthy and diverse community of non-pathogenic organisms can reduce populations of pest organisms, reducing the need for chemical pesticides.

On-Farm Soil Quality Assessment
Eight commercial cherry orchards, four organic and four conventional were selected for this study. One conventional orchard and one organic orchard were on land that was not used for production of an agricultural crop during the last 75 years. Both of these sites, however, had been used infrequently for livestock grazing. The mean soil organic matter in the upper 6 inches of the two pristine soil sites was 1.91% higher than that of the other six orchards. The following data are from the initial 2002 sampling date.

Soil population densities of flagellates, amoebae and ciliates were significantly greater (P = 0.001, 0.001 and 0.007, respectively) in the surface litter layer than at a 0-6 inch or 6-12 inch soil depth (Figure 8). Population densities of mycorrhizal spores were significantly different (P = 0.008) in the litter layer compared to a soil depth of 6-12 inches. No difference in vertical distribution was observed for oligocheates.

The mean population density of flagellates in the litter layers associated with the four organic orchards was circa 10-fold greater (P = 0.002) than that associated with the litter layers of the conventional orchards (258,344 and 21,235/100 cm3 soil, respectively). No similar differences were detected in the 0-6 and 6-12 inch soil depths. Population densities of non-plant parasitic nematodes (bacterivores, fungivores, omnivores, carnivores and algavores) at a 0-6 inch soil depth were significantly greater (P = 0.048) in organic cherry orchards compared to the conventional sites (468 and 303 per 100 cm3 soil, respectively). The mean population densities for the eight cherry orchards were 1,467 nematodes per 100 cm3 soil. The mean nematode community for these sites consisted of 92% bacterivores, 2% herbivores, 1% carnivores, 2% fungivores, and 2% omnivores.

2003 Soil Quality Status
Beginning in 2000, there were observable differences in the nematode community structure associated with in-row and alley soils. At the end of the 2003 growing season, a number of important differences were detected among the six system 3 subsystems. In general the highest population densities of bacterivores, mycorrhizae and oligocheates were associated with the organic systems; whereas, the highest population densities of root-lesion nematodes were recovered from the Subsystems 1, 2 and 6, those currently reflecting the greatest potential tree stress (Table 7). Nematode structure data has been collected three times per year. The most reliable soil quality index for agricultural sites appears to be a ratio of the population densities of Non-Plant Parasites/Plant Parasites.

The July and November 2003 nematode community structure analysis for the eight commercial orchards showed both an increase in an order of magnitude in population density throughout the growing season and major differences in the vertical distribution of the various guilds (Table 8). The significance of the soil o-horizon in sampling protocols for soil quality analysis is unique to this research project and is currently being investigated in other projects associated with both agronomic and vegetable cropping systems.

The project has contributed significantly to the hypothesis that soil science (not soil chemistry or soil physics) research cannot be conducted without a soil biology component that is far broader than bacterial aspects of soil microbiology. Based on this philosophy, most of the work done in this arena during the past 50 years would have to be considered “fertilizer technology” and not soil science. The SARE project has had a significant impact in getting some members of both the tree fruit producer and scientific communities to think about nutrient mineralization and ecosystem disturbance in new and most likely very different ways.

Insect Management.
Cherry Fruit Fly 2001
Alternatives for cherry fruit fly control.
In 2001, promising methods for management of fruit flies included improved monitoring practices with newly identified synthetic volatile compounds, novel sphere technologies involving attraction with fruit-mimicking devices, new insecticide chemistries (including bait formulations), and enhancement and integration of biological control techniques to suppress the immature stages of the cherry fruit fly. Dr. Oscar Liburd (formerly of the MSU Department of Entomology) joined the project team in 2000 and directed the effort in the IPM System blocks to evaluate the effectiveness of using biodegradable, pesticide treated spheres placed in the canopy of cherry trees for controlling cherry fruit fly. Dr. Liburd’s lab took a lead role in establishing insecticide-treated sphere technology (Figure 10). The newest sphere technology offers many benefits. There are less labor demands compared with older sticky sphere prototypes because there is no need for cleaning and maintenance. Also, the new spheres offer reduced impact to the environment and the potential for lowered pesticide residues on fruit. Work with biodegradable spheres has transitioned over the past three years to plastic pesticide treated spheres, with the insecticide incorporated into the paint on the outside of the sphere. Several scientists from the USDA-ARS and Dr. R. Prokopy of the University of Massachusetts have influenced this work.

During the 2001 field season, Dr. Liburd investigated the deployment of biodegradable pesticide treated spheres, applications of Surround (kaolin clay), and field-simulated studies using entomopathogenic nematodes. Spheres were treated with the insecticide imidacloprid (Provado) at 4.0% active ingredient, and deployed in the orchard, spaced every two trees. Plots were sprayed with Surround at a rate of 25 pounds per acre in 40 gallons of water. Fly populations were monitored with Rebell traps. The imadicloprid treated spheres were also compared with untreated spheres. The results indicate that significantly more cherry fruit flies were killed from spheres treated with imidacloprid compared with the control, and that significantly fewer flies were found in plots treated with Surround + biodegradable spheres compared to plots treated only with biodegradable spheres (data not shown). In addition, none of the plots treated with Surround and spheres or spheres alone suffered from cherry maggot injury.

In field-simulated studies, the entomopathogenic nematodes Steinernema carpocapsae and Heterorhabditis bacteriophora were evaluated for efficacy in controlling cherry fruit fly species. Five treatments included an untreated control and application rates ranging from 1 billion nematodes per acre in 50 gallons of water to 5 billion nematodes per acre in 200 gallons of water. In our field-simulated trials with nematodes, S. carpocapsae, at the high rate was the most efficacious treatment. Overall, the results support the potential for integrating Surround, biodegradable pesticide-treated spheres for adult oviposition control and the nematodes S. carpocapsae for larval/pupal control of cherry fruit flies if successful, this strategy could provide an alternative to help eliminate or reduce the need for broad-spectrum insecticides targeting CFF. The longevity of the biodegradable pesticide treated spheres is also being tested.

CFF 2003
Dr. Larry Gut (associate professor of entomology, MSU) joined the project team in 2003 to conduct trials of new insecticidal chemistries in the AIM block. The gut lab evaluated the efficacy of the naturalyte insecticide, spinosad, and the neonicotinoid, thiamethoxam (Acatara) for protection of cherries against this pest. The active ingredient, spinosad, was tested in two formulations, SpinTor, a foliar spray, and GF120, a baited formulation designed to attract and kill the flies through ingestion of the insecticide. Direct comparisons of these new chemistries are needed to help improve recommendations for their use in Michigan against the cherry fruit fly.

Four replicates of the following treatments were applied to 0.3 acre plots: SpinTor (spinosad), protein bait (no active ingredient), GF-120 and untreated control plots. An additional treatment, Actara, was applied to only three plots due to orchard size constraints. Due to differential spacing, plot sizes varied slightly: AIM plots, 4 x 10 trees, 0.29 acre; IPM plots, 4 x 12 trees, 0.35 acres; comparison plots, 54 x 10 trees, 0.32 acres. SpinTor (8 oz/acre; 53.9 ml AI/acre) and Actara (4.5 oz/acre; 99.8 ml AI/acre) every two weeks for a total of three applications. GF-120 and protein bait were applied such that each plot received 32 oz/acre (18.9 ml AI/acre). Initial applications of all treatments were made one week after the first fly was caught in monitoring traps. Experiments were arranged in a completely randomized design with at least a one-row buffer between plots.

Results
Captures of flies on traps in protein bait treated plots were significantly higher (df = 7, 68; F = 2.4; P = 0.03) than on traps hung in all other treatment plots (Fig. 12). There were no significant differences between the mean number of flies captured in Actara, GF-120, SpinTor and untreated plots. Infestation of fruit with cherry fruit fly larvae was too low for each treatment to be evaluated (< 1 larva per plot). The lack of differences between treatments in these plots is possibly due to the extremely small population of cherry fruit flies present in the orchard, as indicated by the low mean flies capture on traps placed in untreated plots (1.06 ± 0.41). The higher mean fly captures observed in protein bait treated plots (3.06 ± 0.84) may be attributed to the attractive components of the bait drawing flies into the plots.

Plum Curculio
Over the past three years of this project, we have evaluated a trap out strategy or mass trapping for control of plum curculio in AIM and IPM blocks. Each of these blocks was divided in half and 24 pyramid traps baited with plum essence and benzaldehyde were deployed in half of the block. Damage in half blocks with trap out was compared to half block without trap out.

PC 2001
Plum curculio research in AIM/PERM/IPM block at NWMRES during the 2001 Field Season. Plum curculio screen traps were placed in trees around the perimeter of each plot to monitor the movement of plum curculio into the plots early in the season and the activity of plum curculio in the border rows throughout the season. A total of 7, 10, and 12 traps were located in PERM, AIM, and IPM plots, respectively. Traps were deployed in early May and were monitored through early August. Plum curculio captures in screen traps were analyzed for differences between PERM, AIM, and IPM management strategies. Management strategy comparisons were conducted for the total number of plum curculio captured over the entire season and for each individual sample date.

The season average number of plum curculio captured in screen traps located were 3.4, 3.9 and 4.4 plum curculio per trap for IPM, PERM and AIM, respectively.

These averages were not statistically different from each other. In other words, there were no differences between the three management strategies when considering the total number of plum curculio monitored in border, which reflect relative plum curculio population size. The graph below represents the average number of plum curculio captured over time in the three management strategies. Peak captures occurred early in the season for all three management strategies. Captures continued with similar trends until the last sample date when plum curculio was captured in AIM and IPM block but not in PERM blocks. On this date, screen traps captured significantly more plum curculio in AIM and IPM blocks compared to those in PERM blocks.

Plum Curculio Damage.
Plum curculio damage assessments were also conducted to evaluate the relative performance of PERM, AIM, and IPM management strategies during the 2001 growing season. One damage evaluation was conducted in mid-June. For each tree in all plots, 100 fruit were observed for plum curculio feeding and oviposition scars. Plum curculio damage data were analyzed for differences between PERM, AIM, and IPM management strategies. Within each of these management strategies, border row and interior trees were analyzed separately.

Plum curculio damage in all management strategies was below 2.6%. Although there were no significant differences between all management strategy and location combinations, there were two trends in the data worth noting. First, slightly lower damage was observed in interior trees compared to border trees in each of the three management strategies. Plum curculio damage border affects are common, and at high infestations this difference is more profound. Also, the lowest damage, 1.6%, occurred in the interior of IPM plots while all other locations were above 2%. Therefore, IPM may provide the best control of plum curculio, barring plum curculio border damage effects, compared to AIM and PERM.

PC 2002
During the 2002 growing season, plum curculio was controlled using mass trapping, a control strategy where pest populations are suppressed by deploying numerous traps. IPM Technologies (Portland, OR) modified a trap that was used to control forest pests. This “Kill Trap” was deployed in half of each of the IPM and AIM blocks. Damage on trees with high density mass trapping (1 trap for every 1.6 trees) was compared to tress without mass trapping for both IPM and AIM (Fig. 15).

Mass trapping did not significantly reduce the damage seen on interiors trees for either AIM or IPM. A total of 77 and 37 curculio were removed from AIM and IPM, respectively. During the middle of the season, kill traps captured more curculio in AIM compared to IPM. The severe damage observed in 2002 was likely a result of abnormally low fruit load exploited by high plum curculio populations.

Each kill trap removed 0.73 curculio on average (Fig.16). Given an equal capture ratio of males and females, and that one female can result in 10 to 60 larvae, this equates to 1 kill trap removing anywhere from 4 to 20 larvae from the orchard.

PC 2003
During the 2003 field season, there was a slight, although not significant, reduction in plum curculio damage in the half blocks with trap out (mass trapping) compared to those without. Although this control strategy is difficult to evaluate on small research plots, we have found that pyramid traps can remove high numbers of plum curculio from orchards. Even more interesting is that summer generation plum curculio, or those adults that develop from eggs laid in the spring and will overwinter and mate the next spring, are active after harvest and can be removed from the population into the fall (figure 17). Of the 684 plum curculio that were captured in the SARE plots during the 2003, 502 or nearly 75% were summer generation plum curculio. This number becomes more significant when putting it into the context of the damage potential of one female plum curculio. One female plum curculio can make up to 600 oviposition scars and lay anywhere from 75 to 400 eggs which will results in 10 to 60 larvae and 5 to 10 summer generation adults.

Over the past three years of this project and other on farm trials, we have found that mass trapping not only removes large numbers of PC from orchards over the entire season, even after harvest, but it can also decrease damage. However, further research is needed to determine the long-term implications of mass trapping. In any event, season-long removal of PC from orchards, even after harvest, cannot be negative. Despite this success, zero tolerance for worms in processed fruit precludes sole reliance on mass trapping in commercial orchards.

In 2004, we plan to take this research to the next obvious level and remove the traps from this strategy. We have found that although our plum essence and benzaldehyde baits and pyramid traps attract PC into the area, only a portion of the PC that have been visually and chemically “called” into the area actually enter the collection device on the trap. As a result, we would like to move ahead with this research with a “bait and spray out strategy.” This will involve baiting border rows with plum essence and benzaldehyde and spraying just the border rows during peak PC activity (early spring and just after harvest).

Damage data was also collected on July 1 during the 2003 growing season. AIM blocks had the highest percent damage at 8.1% ± 2.5%. The most common damage seen in this sample was plum curculio stings. Green fruitworm accounted for 1 – 2% of the damage in each of the blocks but there were no significant differences between blocks.
Plum curculio damage was much higher on Balaton trees compared to Montmorency trees.

Mite Management
Mite populations were monitored throughout the summer in all plots. Populations remained very low in 2003 in all treatments. On August 15, leaf samples were collected, mites were brushed from leaves and mite counts were made. Samples were collected from each of the three replications in sub-treatments. Mite populations on August 15 ranged from 0.1 to 2.1 two-spotted spider mites per leaf. These values are all very low. Mite populations in all treatments remained so far below economic thresholds all season in 2003 that no conclusions about treatment effects on mites could be drawn.

Objective 3. The project has been discussed at numerous horticultural meetings, seminars, and workshops throughout Michigan, the North Central Region, and other fruit growing regions of the United States. It has been enthusiastically received by grower, industry, researcher, and community groups. In fact, at industry request we are pursuing funding to establish a larger, on-farm, organic tart cherry production project to expand that aspect of this work.

The permaculture component and results from the soil quality assessment, disease management, and insect management of the orchards associated with this project were presented to the cherry grower community at educational programs held at the NWHRS on March 6, 2003 and Aug. 28, 2003. The Aug. 28 program featured a walking tour of the SARE blocks. Approximately 45 members of the Michigan fruit growing community participated in this event. The audience included growers, MSU extension personnel, and crop consultants.

In April of 2003, the project team published a six-page color report summarizing the highlights of more than six years of research into orchard ground floor management generated from this project and another closely related project on groundwater stewardship funded by the Michigan Department of Agriculture. The publication, "Cherry Orchard Floor Management: Opportunities to improve profit and stewardship," focuses on the environmental and ecological benefits gained by adopting alternative ground cover and nitrogen management systems (Appendix 1). The Cherry Marketing Institute mailed the report to 1,100 commercial tart and sweet processing cherry producers in Michigan, Wisconsin, Utah, and New York, along with its spring newsletter. The report is also available through the MSU Bulletin Office (MSU Bulletin number E-2890, http://web2.msue.msu.edu/bulletins/mainsearch.cfm).

Objective 4
We assessed organic management practices in eight commercial cherry orchards in 2002-2003. Conventional blocks at these sites were included for comparison. It is interesting to note the changes that took place in these eight orchards during the past two years as many of the organic practices also were adopted by growers in orchards previously considered conventional. One of the original conventional orchards should no longer be included in this category because of the current major organic emphasis on the farm. This change has been reflected in the nematode community structure assessment. A second conventional orchard is currently under formal transition to organic. One of the original organic orchards was a leased site and is no longer receiving formal management, although it is still a certified site. These sites are also being used for the on-farm insect management component of the project. Four of the eight commercial sites applied compost tea to the ground cover on July 14, 2003. This was used as pulsing agent for nutrient mineralization, a concept that was not in existence at the beginning of this project.

Mass Trapping Plum Curculio in Tart Cherry Orchards
During the 2003 growing season, we tested the ability of mass-trapping techniques to control plum curculio in a large, on-farm trial in an organic tart cherry orchard (this work is described in objective 2 above).

Research conclusions:

This project has served as an educational tool and a catalyst for discussion for a wide range of audiences including fruit growers, consultants, industry representatives, consumers, educators, researchers, agricultural and environmental regulators, and policymakers. Many growers are already experimenting with alternative groundcovers and other new ways of improving the sustainability of their production system, while reducing pesticide risk and potential environmental impact. The idea of using groundcover to enhance predatory mite habitat has received particular attention (this concept was demonstrated in the earlier Phase I Orchard Floor/Groundwater project).

As the AIM and PER systems mature, we expect to see substantial interest in adoption of at least some of the insect management strategies that will have been demonstrated. In addition, we have sought to educate regulators, consumers and policymakers about the ecology of tart cherry production and tart cherry pest management, discussing how policies such as the zero tolerance for cherry fruit fly larva in fruit impact the implementation of innovative strategies in future orchard systems.

In related work, a working group at Michigan State University, in consultation with fruit growers and consultants, has completed a new book entitled, “Fruit Crop Ecology and Management. Chapters” based, in part, on information associated with this SARE project. The book includes: Introduction: An Ecological Approach to Growing Fruit, The Agricultural Ecosystem, The Natural Environment, The Fruit Plant, The Soil and Farm Biodiversity. Specific information from this project presented in the book includes: 1) relationships between plant and bacterial feeding nematodes in five orchard systems, 2) influence of tart cherry ground cover and nutrient management on the active carbon and nitrogen pool sizes, and 3) tart cherry yields as affected by orchard floor nutrients and water management systems. This book is volume three of a five volume series on production ecology. The series is designed to introduce conventional growers who farm under the concepts of the mechanistic worldview to the farming practices of production ecology and the associated ecological worldview. Evidence indicates the first two volumes were successful in regards to this issue, volume One “Michigan Field Crop Ecology” selling over 4,300 copies and volume Two “Michigan Field Crop Pest Ecology and Management” selling 3,000 copies. Volume Three appears to be having a similar impact (1,000 copies sold to date). All volumes were reviewed during the development process by farmers, NGO representatives, government, private business, and academia in accordance with the fundamental principles of SARE.

Economic Analysis

See appendix 1 of written report.

Farmer Adoption

This project was a continuation of earlier research work conducted in a commercial tart cherry grower’s orchard and at the MSU Northwest Michigan Horticultural Research Station on the Leelanau Peninsula in NW Lower Michigan. These projects were designed and conducted in consultation with the NW Michigan Integrated Fruit Practices (IFP) Think Tank, a farmer-industry-researcher stewardship group, and continue to evolve based on their input. The IFP Think Tank met at least two times annually during the course of these projects to advise on project management, publications related to project work, and educational programs jointly sponsored by the projects and the IFP Think Tank

Representatives from the IFP Think Tank met with project researchers to provide input for continuing work in this SARE project several times during the course of the spring and summer months of 2003. They provided both guidance with project direction and assistance with various aspects of the research, continuing to focus on research investigating soil quality, control of the cherry leaf spot fungus, and methods for plum curculio control.

We believe that the outreach efforts co-sponsored by the IFP Think Tank have had a significant influence on the consciousness of growers, industry representatives, and agricultural policymakers regarding the challenges involved in reducing pesticide usage in tart cherry production. Interest in alternative insect, weed, nutrient, and disease management practices can be seen in the decision by the cherry industry to support new projects to evaluate the viability of organic tart cherry production based on a series of on-farm trials. In addition to the four commercial organic farms included in this research, the work is currently being expanded to include additional organic orchards through new grants funded through the Michigan Cherry Institute, EPA Region V, EPA, American Farmland Trust and USDA/RAMP. This decision is significant, in that it involves both the IFP Think Tank growers, as well as the Michigan Cherry Committee (the MCC is the main grower/industry group that, among other activities, funds research and promotional programs using grower funds). Further, several of the scientists who worked on this SARE project are collaborators on a recently funded USDA RAMP grant for on-farm implementation of alternatives in tart cherry production. The RAMP project builds, in part, on the information learned as a part of this SARE project and helps provide some continuity in the SARE project team’s efforts. In addition, two Michigan cherry growers (who are also IFP Think Tank members) are part of the RAMP Project Multi-State Management Team. The IFP Think Tank will play a vital role in getting information disseminated to cherry growers in NW lower Michigan. These new initiatives would not have been possible with out the USDA/NCR SARE Research and Education Grant.

Participation Summary

Educational & Outreach Activities

Participation Summary:

Education/outreach description:

The Innovative Tart Cherry Orchard Project, together with the earlier Orchard Floor/Groundwater Study, have traditionally been presented to various target audiences (growers, consultants, processors, researchers, decision makers and consumers) through a combination of field tours, seminars, posters, and informal meetings. The 2003 effort continued to highlight a series of meetings and workshops at NWMHRS, and throughout the state. Five posters about the Phase I and II orchards have been developed along with numerous informal slide presentations. Several of these posters are on display in the conference room at NWMHRS, which is the site of hundreds of meetings involving thousands of participants each year (i.e. NWMHRS records indicate 138 meetings with 3,863 participants in 1999.) The station’s special status as a grower-owned and governed facility, and its central location on the Leelanau Peninsula, have guaranteed continued informal visits by local growers, who are very aware of the work being done on these projects because of the outreach activities in this and previous years. Field tours of these projects have been highlights of previous NWMHRS field days, and orchard walks were held again at the 2003 NWMHRS Open House.

Increased interest in alternatives/organic production strategies.
We believe that the outreach efforts have had a significant influence on the consciousness of growers, industry representatives, and agricultural policymakers regarding the challenges involved in reducing pesticide usage in tart cherry production. Interest in alternative insect, weed, nutrient, and disease management practices can be seen in the decision by the cherry industry to support new projects to evaluate the viability of organic tart cherry production based on a series of on-farm trials. In addition to the four commercial organic farms included in this research, the work is currently being expanded to include additional organic orchards through new grants funded through the Michigan Cherry Institute, EPA Region V, EPA, American Farmland Trust and USDA/RAMP. This decision is significant, in that it involves both the IFP Think Tank growers, as well as the Michigan Cherry Committee (the MCC is the main grower/industry group that, among other activities, funds research and promotional programs using grower funds). Further, several of the scientists who worked on this SARE project are collaborators on a recently funded USDA RAMP grant for on-farm implementation of alternatives in tart cherry production. These new initiates would not have been possible with out the USDA/NCR SARE Research and Education Grant.

New Outreach Publications.
Tart cherry will be used as a model system for tree fruit in an upcoming book produced at MSU, “Ecological Farming Systems,” scheduled for release in winter 2004. Tart cherry was chosen as the representative perennial crop due in large part to the work done as part of this project (see objective 1). Fruit Crop Ecology and Management (MSU Bulletin # E-2759) became available in December 2002. This book provides fruit growers with information about ecological farming practices. Several chapters are based, in large part, on information associated with this SARE project, including: Introduction: An Ecological Approach to Growing Fruit, The Agricultural Ecosystem, The Natural Environment, The Fruit Plant, The Soil and Farm Biodiversity.

In April of 2003, the project team published a six-page color report summarizing the highlights of more than six years of research into orchard ground floor management generated from this project and another closely related project on groundwater stewardship funded by the Michigan Department of Agriculture. The publication, "Cherry Orchard Floor Management--Opportunities to improve profit and stewardship," focuses on the environmental and ecological benefits gained by adopting alternative ground cover and nitrogen management systems (Appendix 1). The Cherry Marketing Institute mailed the report to 1,100 commercial tart and sweet processing cherry producers in Michigan, Wisconsin, Utah, and New York, along with its spring newsletter. The report is also available through the MSU Bulletin Office (MSU Bulletin number E-2890, http://web2.msue.msu.edu/bulletins/mainsearch.cfm).

A manuscript from the first SARE Tart Cherry SARE project on how horticultural practices impact total soil carbon and nitrogen, including their mineralizable forms, was published in 2003.

Sanchez, J.E., C.E. Edson, G.W. Bird, M.E. Whalon, T.C. Willson, R.R.
Harwood, K. Kizilkaya, J.E. Nugent, W. Klein, A. Middleton, T.L. Loudon,
D.R. Mutch, and J. Scrimger. 2003. Orchard floor and nitrogen
management influences soil and water quality and tart cherry yields. J.
Amer. Soc. Hort. Sci. 128:277-284.

Two additional manuscripts encompassing data from this project are being prepared for journal publications.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.