Peach Orchard Ground Cover Management to Reduce Arthropod Damage

1996 Annual Report for LNE96-074

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 1996: $55,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/1997
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $31,718.00
Region: Northeast
State: New Jersey
Project Leader:
Peter Shearer
Rutgers University

Peach Orchard Ground Cover Management to Reduce Arthropod Damage


Key Findings
This project investigates the effect different ground covers may have on insect populations in peach orchards. Our study suggests the following:

Properly managed peach orchard ground cover reduces certain insect pest pressure and subsequent damage to the crop.

Some ground covers can effectively reduce the population of certain nematodes but simultaneously have the potential to increase others.

None of the ground cover treatments appeared to have any effect on the level of peach disease.

1.Demonstrate how orchard ground cover management affects arthropod abundance and damage to peaches.
2.Demonstrate suitability of selected ground covers for use in integrated crop production strategies for peaches.
3.Determine how plant parasitic nematodes are affected by ground cover type and management strategies.
4.Determine if ground cover management affects the incidence of selected peach diseases.

Methods and Results
Results of this study clearly demonstrate that peach growers participating in this project had three times less damage caused by tarnished plant bug feeding in orchard blocks with managed sod ground covers compared with fruit grown with weedy ground covers or disked orchard floors. Tarnished plant bug levels were also lower in ground covers where herbicides were used to remove broad leaf weeds and alternate host plants of this pest. This project found that certain peach diseases including brown rot, cytospora canker, and bacterial spot were not influenced by different ground cover management practices.

Based on this study, our recommendations include the following:

Minimize insect pest problems and soil erosion by planting sod in drive rows instead of disking;

Manage orchard sod to minimize insect and nematode pest pressure;

Remove established broad leaf weeds and clover from the orchard;

Do not mow or disk if insects are present in the ground cover to prevent them from dispersing up into the trees;

Do not plant legumes, especially white clover, during rotations to rest the soil before replanting peaches. This should reduce plant-parasitic nematode populations and plant virus inoculum.

We expect that there will be positive impacts on overall farm productivity, the environment, and farm profits as growers adopt and successfully implement good ground cover management in their orchards. The benefits growers should see in the short-term are reduced damage from certain pests, reductions in pesticide applications because of lower pest levels, and increased profits resulting in better fruit packout (less damaged fruit) and reduced pesticide input.

Long-term benefits include reduced soil erosion because sod holds soil in place and increased soil organic matter in sod versus disked areas. Other benefits include decreased costs and energy use because of reduced frequency of mowing slow-growing hard fescue sods compared with typical orchard grass, reduced insecticide-related bee kills because the lack of white clover in well- managed orchard ground covers should reduce bee foraging in orchards after bloom, and potentially less frost damage to crops grown with sod versus disked row middles because orchard temperatures during frosts are frequently warmer with sod ground covers compared with temperatures found in disked areas.

Reported December 1997.


John Halbrendt

Penn State
PA 16802
Peter Shearer

Rutgers Univ.
NJ 08903