Appletesters.net, A grower directed research tool for growers to access apple variety characteristics in order to better make planting decisions

Final Report for ONE09-096

Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2009: $9,999.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2011
Region: Northeast
State: Massachusetts
Project Leader:
Winfred Cowgill
Rutgers University
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Project Information

Summary:

Appletesters.net is a new website designed to assist apple growers in variety and cultivar selection for new orchard plantings. It is also designed to provide a location for anyone conducting cooperative apple evaluation and testing to report and archive their findings using a unified protocol for apple variety fruit and trees.Appletesters.net includes 317 individual records of apple evaluation(s) of app. 134 different apple cultivar/strain from three states. Guests or registered users may access the database which includes a main report, a fruit maturity report, a picture(s) report, and a search function. (See the links for a sample record and photo record)

Sample Apple Tester Record

Introduction:

Variety and cultivar selection is the largest economic decision a grower can make

Variety and cultivar selection is the largest economic decision a grower can make when establishing a new high-density orchard block of a thousand trees or more per acre using a tall spindle production system.
Appletesters.net allows growers or potential growers to log on and view records of a variety from different locations over multiple years to assist making their planting decisions.
Appletesters.net is an on-line database and portal that allows cooperative apple testers to report -- using a unified protocol -- apple variety fruit and tree characteristics from different locations. Guest users may then view, search, and sort the variety records. Over time, the performance of apple varieties in different growing environments can be documented and easily accessed to provide producers and enthusiasts a useful tool to help them choose the best apple variety(s) for their location/orchard.

Project Objectives:
  • AppleTesters home page accessible at: http://www.appletesters.net
    AppleTesters home page allows guest access to database -- users may browse, search, and sort records
    AppleTesters home page allows registered user access to database -- users may browse, search, sort, create new, delete, and modify record AppleTesters database populated with 317 individual records through the 2011 harvest

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand
  • Jon Clements

Research

Materials and methods:

A portal website, appletesters.net, was initially set up to provide easy access to our database and supporting tools. The methodology involved in getting the database and related form(s) on-line was to utilize an off-the-shelf deployment of a Filemaker database using Filemaker Server and Instant Web Publishing. The database is hosted by Filemaker Server software, located on a server that is co-located at a commercial internet provider. Filemaker server is readily available at many vendors including http://www.filemaker.com/ There are many Filemaker pro solutions, but it is the key element to deploy and web publish this database solution. To duplicate this system you have several options. One is to purchase the software and own your own server. Filemaker server lists for $999 and a copy of Filemaker Pro 12 is needed for each computer that will input data. Then the cost of colocating a server is approximately $3000 year. The other option is lease space on a Filemaker server or utilize Filemaker as a cloud computing application with annual/monthly fees. This eliminates the need for owning Filemaker Server software and having you own server solution.

The appletester filemaker database has been populated with apple testing data from the 2009, 2010, and 2011 and 2012 growing seasons. Several web interface updates were created and uploaded to the database at the request of our clientele. Our goal was to include more information and improve usability. New fields including disease susceptibility, pictures of fruit and tree, and an enhanced navigation menu/bar.

Unfortunately, getting cooperators to enter variety data into the database was more difficult than expected. For one, apple growers are extremely busy during the time of year (harvest) when data is best entered into the database. Second, most growers do not have the equipment to measure firmness, soluble solids, etc. Third, some growers felt we were trying to collect too much information. Some felt a faster simpler process would help. And finally, because of lack of interest, soliciting growers to become apple testers became a secondary priority.

Directions for use

Point your web browser to: http://appletesters.net
Click on the apple testers database Guest Login
This brings you to our login page, select the guest account button and click login.
This brings you to a data base record; you are now in the system. The first thing you should do is familiarize yourself with the database layout. In the tool bar at the top, all the way to the right is a help button.
Click the help button to open a new window that contains the directions as to how the database works. Read through and see what it’s all about. This window will stay open for reference for you at any time.

Example of Use

Looking at one search as an example of one way to use the database. In the tool bar select the button Find. This will bring up a blank data base record, you can search on any criteria but lets select the cultivar box by typing a cultivar/variety, lets say Zestar. Then go back up to the tool bar and click the Perform Find button. This brings up 7 records for Zestar. You know this by again looking at the toolbar on top in the left hand corner at Found Records. With Zestar (As of 12/15/12) you will see 7 records that you can cycle trough using the arrows to the left of the Found Records icon.

Research results and discussion:

•AppleTesters database interface upgraded to more user-friendly layout
•5 layouts (appletesters, fruit maturity, maturity report, pictures, and search) available in AppleTesters database
•Appletesters layout includes pest susceptibility information
317 records included in database
3 states (MA, NJ, VA) in AppleTesters database
134 different cultivar/strain apple varieties represented in database

Research conclusions:
  • 1,197 visits; 1,117 unique visitors; 1,280 page views; 93% new visitors
    70% of visits from U.S and Canada
    appletesters.net has been used by the eXtension Apples Community of Practice (eapples.org) to develop their own apple cultivar information database.

    One outcome that was not totally expected, is that at least two private apple breeding/testing programs with multiple users are now using password-protected modification(s) of the apple testers database. And the apple testers database and website will be maintained and utilized by us and apple growers of the North East.

Participation Summary

Education & Outreach Activities and Participation Summary

Participation Summary:

Education/outreach description:

http://www.appletesters.net
http://jerseyfruitagupdates.blogspot.com/
http://virtualorchard.net/

http://GrowingProduce.com
http://njaes.rutgers.edu/pubs/plantandpestadvisory/

Outreach

Appletesters.net was discussed at multiple on farm twilight fruit meetings in NJ and Massachusetts in 2011 and 2012. The website and its use were presented at the North Jersey Fruit meeting in 2011 and will be reviewed again at the 2013 meeting March 5, 2013. An article was submitted to Growing Produce website of American Fruit Grower magazine, http://GrowingProduce.com and is also published on our New Jersey Fruit Blog http://jerseyfruitagupdates.blogspot.com/

A feature article is published in the 2013 Winter issue of Horticultural News Vol93.1 and Massachusetts Fruit notes- a pdf formated file of the article is attached to this report or can be viewed @ http://www.horticulturalnews.org/93-1/wxyzCover93-1.html The Horticultural News Web Site can be found at:
http://www.horticulturalnews.org/

Appletesters.net – A New Website to Assist Apple Growers and Apple Testers in Variety Selection.

An article will be published in the January issue of Rutgers Tree Fruit Plant and Pest Newsletter.

Project Outcomes

Project outcomes:

Establishing new apple orchards annually is a significant part of modern fruit production. We recommend growers replace 10% of their orchard acreage annually. The significant cost of establishment of a modern tall spinlde orchard at 1000 trees per acre is the tree cost which can reach 10-12,000 dollars an acre. Making the best informed selection of apple cultivars for the life of the orchard is essential. This data base will assist growers in making the cultivar choices that will impact their viability.

Farmer Adoption

AppleTesters has served as a model for nursery/industry to collect data to evaluate their new apple selections (password-protected). The 1,197 website visits; the 1,117 unique visitors; 1,280 page views; 93% new visitors in 2011-12 indicate a large number of farmers/fruit growers are utilizing this resource.

Assessment of Project Approach and Areas of Further Study:

Areas needing additional study

Recruiting contributors to the AppleTesters database has been much slower than expected. Three month window only per year where database records can be added. Need to evaluate marketing of appletesters.net and type of information collected. Also we need to look at adapting the user-interface to allow user feedback.

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.