Partnering in plant health: Improving our understanding of fruit tree diseases in Kansas

Progress report for ONC20-074

Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2020: $39,583.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2023
Grant Recipient: Kansas State University
Region: North Central
State: Kansas
Project Coordinator:
Dr. Megan Kennelly
Kansas State University
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Project Information


This project will enhance knowledge of fruit production problems in Kansas while strengthening relationships between growers and Kansas State University/K-State Research and Extension. A group of growers have identified several fruit tree production problems as critical areas for research and extension. The central Great Plains is a challenging environment for fruit production due to weather extremes which drive abiotic stresses, disease problems, and insect pressure. The overall goal of this partnership is to increase our understanding of fruit tree disease development in Kansas to develop sustainable disease management strategies. A prime case study will be the apple disease fire blight, but we will gather data on other fruit tree diseases as well as environmental stresses and insect pests. The project will integrate aspects of research, education, and outreach and will provide growers training with data collection. The project will have short-term impact by increasing knowledge of the grower/university team of current disease/pest development and disease losses, and training growers on some data assessment methods. In the medium term we will share findings with other growers, prioritize and and plan for additional research and extension programs, and build collaborations. Long term the project will lead to more sustainable management practices.

Project Objectives:

The overall goal of this partnership program is to increase our understanding of fruit tree disease development and insect pests in Kansas to optimize sustainable management strategies. Our specific objectives are: to quantify losses in tree fruit crop yield and quality due to diseases and insects with a special focus on fire blight of apple, explore relationships between current grower practices and disease and insect development in light of Kansas weather conditions, train growers in on-farm disease and insect assessment, share information with industry, and establish a solid foundation to prioritize future extension and research programs and collaborations.


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  • Travos Carmichael (Educator)


Materials and methods:

In 2021 the lead PI visited all of these locations to tour the orchards and take notes on orchard history, production issues (including pest management concerns), and grower needs. At four of the orchards the local K-State Research and Extension also joined the visit/conversation. At two orchards the KSU Diagnostic Lab Director also participated. This was informal/qualitative research

Mike Gerhardt, Pome On The Range Orchards and Winery LLC, Franklin County
Gabe Spurgeon, South Baldwin Farm LLC, Douglas County
Rex Rees, Rees Fruit Farm, Shawnee County
Tom Brown, Meadowlark Farm, Butler County
Frank Gieringer, Gieringers Family Orchard & Berry Farm, Johnson County
Bob Karr, The Karr Orchard, Lyon County

Research results and discussion:

In our site visits we collected about 10 pages of typed notes regarding cropping systems, marketing issues, variety selection, rootstock selection, insect issues, weed pressure, diseases, etc, along with dozens of photos. These will be combined with visit and grower information notes from the upcoming 2022 field season to develop educational materials for a broader set of growers.

Participation Summary
6 Farmers participating in research

Educational & Outreach Activities

Participation Summary:

6 Farmers participated
5 Ag professionals participated
Education/outreach description:

The goal of 2021 was to collect some foundational baseline information. We will expand upon this in the upcoming 2022 field season for development into broader educational materials.

Project Outcomes

Project outcomes:

We met our 2021 goals of gathering some foundational/baseline information on production practices and challenges. We will build on these in the 2022 season.

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.