Improving design to minimize costs and risks associated with pest control in strawberries

Project Overview

Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2008: $9,971.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2009
Region: Northeast
State: New York
Project Leader:
Andrew Landers
Cornell University

Annual Reports


  • Fruits: berries (strawberries)


  • Education and Training: demonstration, mentoring
  • Pest Management: precision herbicide use

    Proposal abstract:

    Considerable pressures exist in the food and farming sector with many more challenges ahead. Farmers are under great pressure when applying pesticides. An increasing awareness of environmental pollution, along with concern about operator contamination and pesticide residue has resulted in increased legislation concerning pesticide use. There are many new developments in spray technology that will help reduce the costs involved in applying pesticides. The main costs associated with pesticide application are the cost of the pesticide materials, the cost of application, and the potential cost associated with inappropriate or poor applications. Any technology that reduces the amount of product necessary to control a weed, insect or disease, or improves its effectiveness, is welcome. The New York Berry Growers Association defined pest control as one of the primary challenges to their industry in a 2005 survey of members. Applying nutrients and pesticides is an important part of small fruit production. Recent developments in pesticide application techniques include new materials, management techniques, and application techniques. An increasing concern by the public regarding pesticide use in general and on food crops in particular has resulted in many novel pesticide application techniques. Strawberry growers find it difficult to obtain good disease and insect control when using conventional boom sprayers. Boom sprayers are difficult to modify to effectively compensate for changes in canopy density over the course of the season. Growers are getting poor coverage of undersides of leaves, lower leaves, and the fruit when the strawberry plant is in full canopy. This results in high levels of disease and insect activity translating to consumer rejection of poor quality fruit. Frequently the grower feels that increasing the number of pesticide applications or using more expensive pesticide materials will help alleviate the problem, but because the application equipment is inappropriate these actions only exacerbate the financial loss and may result in more drift onto neighboring, sensitive crops and waterways, along with increased run-off onto the soil.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    The proposed solution is to conduct field trials with a cooperating strawberry grower to evaluate a novel sprayer boom fitted with the different nozzles. Most pesticides are applied on a per acre basis, which is suitable for a flat 2 dimensional crop such as grass. A three dimensional crop, such as a strawberry plant, needs a different sprayer boom layout which will target the leaves and fruits from both sides and the top. Low drift nozzles will be evaluated to see if drift is minimized. As the strawberry plants grow they require differing amounts of spray to coincide with the developing canopy. This technique is used extensively in tree fruits such as apples and is known as tree row volume. We propose to develop a suitable “canopy row volume” for strawberries.

    In the past, researchers in Norway (Bjugstad N. and Sonsteby A., 2004), have conducted trials using various prototype booms with different application rates. Our trial will differ in that we will fit low drift nozzles and adjust the number and angle of nozzles as the season progresses to match canopy volume. Our project will also look at biological effectiveness as well as physical penetration, deposition and coverage of the plants under New York growing conditions.

    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.