Reducing Chemical Inputs in Arid-Climates Through Sustainable Orchard Management

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 1998: $261,044.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2002
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $46,383.00
Region: Western
State: Utah
Principal Investigator:
Schuyler Seeley
Utah State University

Annual Reports


  • Fruits: general tree fruits


  • Crop Production: application rate management
  • Education and Training: demonstration
  • Farm Business Management: whole farm planning
  • Pest Management: botanical pesticides, chemical control


    SUMMARY of Sustainable Orchard Management Systems

    Automatically Reporting Weather Stations (ARWS) have been accumulating data for four years. Arrays of HI/LO weather stations strategically located in orchards have also been accumulating data. These stations were in place for the 1999, 2000, 2001, and 2002 calendar years. The equipment has been incorporated into the various state weather station programs, and information from them will be used in fruit production for years to come. Cooperators in each state have downloaded the HI/LO information monthly and dispatched the information to the Utah State Climate Center. The Utah State Phenology models have been incorporated into a computer software package called Wintree that tracks fruit tree phenology in a fruit tree calendar. The fruit tree calendar begins on the first of September as trees go dormant. The Chill Unit Module tracks the progression of fruit tree development through dormancy and predicts emergence from dormancy. The Anthesis Unit Module tracks the progression of bud development and growth through full bloom. After full bloom the Apple Sizing and Foliation Unit Modules estimate fruit and shoot growth and development during spring. During summer, a Photosynthesis Unit Module tracks tree growth, development, and relative photosynthate production. Insect, disease, and fruit growth models added to the phenological fruit tree calendar provide accurate prediction of insect and disease activity for scouting purposes. Predictive information for the common insects and diseases in the intermountain area give hobby, part-time, and full-time orchardists information that can help them in pin-pointing their protection efforts and reduce chemical use. The data have been archived in the Utah Climate Center Database and are available* at, click on Interstate Orchard Project.
    *Computer hackers virally infected the Utah Climate Center Computers in the spring of 2001 and reduced them to virtual rubble. Archived historical and current weather data were not destroyed, but programs that processed the data were. Various attempts to get the programs back up and running have not yet been successful. To replace the role of the Utah Climate Center in the Sustainable Orchard Management Program and to make the program dispensable to the states and give them control now and after the termination of this project, we (James Frisby) produced computer programs for the Campbell Scientific Dataloggers used in the project. These programs have been distributed to collaborators on CD with instructions. With these programs, researchers and farmers in each state are able to download the raw data and run the programs to determine chill units, phenological dates, fruit sizing, and insect and disease prediction and susceptibility. This allows them the ability to control their exposure to Internet problems and educates them to do the job on their own.
    A program status meeting with cooperators from the various states involved was held on November 2, 2001 at Utah State University. We spent one day talking about our programs, distributing the most current program versions, and talking about results in 2001, and planning for the 2002 year. We also talked about other possible cooperative endeavors to serve the intermountain fruit production industry. A proposal was submitted to the Community/University Research Initiative in Utah and it was funded to help fruit growers monitor irrigation applications more closely to reduce water usage. The program will operate during 2002 and 2003. A booklet on irrigation strategy in drought situations will be produced and growers will receive Watermark blocks and readers so that they can learn to monitor their soil water levels more accurately.

    Project objectives:

    OBJECTIVES Sustainable Orchard Management Systems

    1. Develop an arid climate Sustainable Orchard Management (SOMS) Handbook/Calendar/Tool Kit to educate IPM inclined growers in horticultural association meetings, workshops, and mentor/grower relationships.
    2. Develop a climate center generated, climatically databased, electronic SOMS Calendar based on presently available phenology calendars for arid climate orchards.
    3. Develop mentoring of SOMS inclined orchardists via this program, extension fruit agents, and IPM growers.

    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.