- Fruits: peaches
- Crop Production: fertigation
- Education and Training: farmer to farmer
- Farm Business Management: whole farm planning
Synthetic chemical inputs for peach production in Michigan and the North Central regions of the United States have risen steadily since the turn of the century. It has been increasingly difficult for growers to control certain insects and disease problems through conventional means, and the marketplace is calling for a greater number of fresh products to be grown in a reduced chemical environment. This project brings together science and education from Horticulture, Entomology, Pesticide Research, Weed Science, and the Cooperative Extension Service with grower organizational involvement for the express goal of reducing crop chemical dependency (pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizer) for peaches, and integrates them into one project. It also compares the chemical residues of the more important compounds in the ground water and the fruit for conventional, moderate input, and low input systems under Michigan commercial conditions at the new Southwest Michigan Research and Extension Center (SWMREC), where its mission is direct outreach to growers and consumers. This has been accomplished in three phases. They are: (1) establishment of different orchard systems at SWMREC, (2) educational programs for growers concerning the effectiveness and incorporation of these techniques in grower operations, and (3) to monitor pesticide and fertilizer residues in the fruit and in the ground water.
Highlights of the 1992-94 funding period are as follows. Total synthetic chemical applications for the moderate and low input were reduced from 18 to 9 and 3, respectively, when compared with the control. Weeds were controlled in the low input treatment with straw mulch, and chemical fertilizer was reduced by half in the moderate input, and to zero by using horse manure in the low input. Yields in 1993 ranged from 346 bu/acre for the conventional, 134 bu/acre for the moderate, and 163 bu/acre for the low input. Fruit quality in terms of fruit color and size was greatest for the moderate level, followed by the low input, and the conventional was least, while the conventional had the highest percentage of blemish free at 97.5%, followed by the moderate level, 90.75 % with the low input at a very respectable 82.25%, thus indicating that a very high percentage of the fruit could be grown disease and insect free with a reduction in synthetic chemical applications from 18 to 2. Entophytic rye was effective in reducing Tarnish Plant Bug and leafhopper populations in the low input, and oriental fruit moth disruption was also effective in these plots. It was noted that peach scab became a problem in the low input plots. Through the 3rd growing year, there were no significant differences in winter hardiness, tree growth, leaf nitrogen, ground water nitrate contamination, or triazine residue due to the different treatments. The 1992, and 1993 crop residues indicate that all residue levels are far below EPA’s accepted tolerance, and that only iprodione was higher in the conventional than the other plots. In most cases residues were below normal detectable limits. Please see appendix 8 for more detail. Three major grower meetings have focused on this project and it has been the subject of several lay articles.
1. To integrate technological advances in the following areas: fertilizer and nutrition, ground cover management, insect and disease control, and horticultural practices into orchard systems and compare them with conventional systems.
2. To demonstrate to growers the effectiveness of these systems.
3. To reduce pesticide and fertilizer inputs into the system, while producing a high quality crop.
4. To monitor ground water and fruit for residues to determine the effect of these systems on contamination.