- Fruits: peaches, general tree fruits
- Education and Training: on-farm/ranch research
- Pest Management: cultural control, integrated pest management, prevention
- Production Systems: organic agriculture, transitioning to organic
Peach growers in the Southeast must control many pests and diseases to be able to produce high quality fruit. As a result, conventionally produced, Southeastern peaches are probably among the most frequently sprayed peaches in the U.S. due to the favorable climate for pests and diseases and the absence of resistant cultivars. Many conventional growers are trying to reduce cost and resistance risk by reducing the number of pesticide applications to their crop to deliver quality products to their customers, but pest and disease control remains their main challenge. On the other hand, production of organic peaches is extremely difficult under the humid conditions of the Southeast, which is why very few growers have taken on this challenge. The only certified organic producer in South Carolina reports significant problems controlling plum curculio and brown rot despite weekly applications of organically approved pesticides. The low efficacy of available products sometimes require more than one application per in organic orchards especially before and after rainfall. In addition, consumer demand for high quality and residue-free fruit is growing, which poses a significant challenge for the sustainability of Southeastern fruit production. Thus, the need for practices to reduce insecticide/fungicide applications in conventional orchards, and to increase the production of high quality organic peaches in the Southeast is a critical issue that deserves attention and research.
A strategy that is being used in some other parts of the world to protect the fruit from pests and diseases, and to produce high quality fruit is the use of paper bags. This proposal seeks funding to investigate horticultural practices needed to apply bags to trees of an entire orchard. We will focus on two treatments [unbagged fruit (control) and bagged fruit], determine the effect of bagging on fruit quality and disease incidence, and perform an assessment of costs and benefits. This research will be carried out in two farms: one conventional farm (Titan Farms) and one organic farm (Watsonia Farms).
- To develop a strategy to increase yield of high quality peaches and reduce reliance on pesticides in conventional and organic peach orchards.
- To communicate results and disseminate this innovative strategy to growers in the Southeastern United States