Determining the commercial viability of an exclusionary production system using disease-resistant columnar apple and sweet cherry cultivars

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2003: $137,169.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2007
Region: Northeast
State: New York
Project Leader:
Peter Jentsch
Poma Tech Inc.

Annual Reports


  • Fruits: apples, cherries, general tree fruits
  • Animals: bees


  • Crop Production: biological inoculants, foliar feeding, organic fertilizers, application rate management
  • Education and Training: demonstration, display, extension, on-farm/ranch research
  • Farm Business Management: community-supported agriculture, feasibility study, agricultural finance, market study
  • Pest Management: biological control, botanical pesticides, compost extracts, cultural control, flame, genetic resistance, physical control, precision herbicide use, row covers (for pests), weather monitoring, weed ecology
  • Production Systems: holistic management, integrated crop and livestock systems
  • Soil Management: organic matter
  • Sustainable Communities: public participation, sustainability measures

    Proposal abstract:

    Apples are one of the most pesticide dependent agricultural commodities produced in the United States. Conservative estimates show Hudson Valley fungicide, insecticide and miticide costs to exceed $400.00 per acre in commercial orchards with expenses continuing to escalate. Entomological research indicates that more than 500 species of arthropods feed on apple, 40 of which are present in the Hudson Valley, while disease, vertebrate pests, hail, and drought substantially contribute to fruit yield reductions . While greater restrictions are being placed on pesticide utilization, traditional management tools such as organophosphates, representing the core of fruit integrated pest management (IPM), are being lost due to regulatory decisions. Newer technologies including pheromone disruption and bio-rational chemistries, although considered less environmentally disruptive, often come with a higher price tag, frequently compromising management efficiency.

    Because commercial fruit production is heavily dependent on chemical application technologies, it must be constantly evaluated if there is any hope of finding cost-effective alternatives. Through the use of new fabric technologies, an exclusionary pest management system is presently feasible. A four-year project outlined in this proposal will assign both disease resistant and commercial columnar apple and sweet cherry trees in a v-trellis high-density production system. It will integrate proven technologies of ground cover mulches, micro-sprinkler irrigation, a fixed canopy spray system, structural tree trellis acting as a barrier support, and barrier netting. It will be assembled in three commercial fruit farm sites, one local CSA, and one research farm facility. The goal of this proposed research is to familiarize fruit growers, the agricultural community, and researchers, with a commercial production method that will yield high quality organic or ‘unsprayed’ fruit in a high-density planting system that is designed to exclude hail, invertebrate and vertebrae pests. While maintaining biological control of arthropod pests, employing fixed spraying for disease, weed, and irrigation management, the system will substantially reduce farm pesticide load and pesticide exposure, thus moving fruit production toward greater sustainability while lessening environmental impact.
    The need for fungicides will be diminished by cultivars with inherent disease resistance, while insecticide use will be eliminated by the use of barrier netting. Reduction in off site drift and potential reduction in worker contamination will be achieved using a fixed sprayer system with which to apply organic fruit thinning agents and fungicides when required, as compared to commercial airblast use. Synthetic herbicide use will be eliminated through the use of wood chip and organic herbicide applications as needed. Higher yield in cherry production will be achieved through avian and late season rain exclusion. High yield will be achieved using high-density tree spacing while reductions in pruning and limb training costs will be achieved through the use of columnar apple varieties that grow to a maximum of nine feet in height and produce fruit on the central leader with little or no side branching.

    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.