Reducing Chemical Inputs in Arid-Climates Through Sustainable Orchard Management

2001 Annual Report for SW98-058

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

Reducing Chemical Inputs in Arid-Climates Through Sustainable Orchard Management

Summary

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) has been facilited in the intermountain states through the products of this project. IPM awareness has been greatly increased in every state with numerous growers using weather data and prediction programs to schedule cultural operations in their orchards. Programs in insect and disease control, pheromone release, irrigation, freeze prevention, maturity indices, and fruit damage have benefitted from weather data based prediction programs.

Objectives/Performance Targets

Objectives:

Objective 1. Develop an arid climate sustainable orchard management handbook and distribute:
Over 150 handbooks have been distributed to growers in the five state intermountain area.
Objective 2. Develop a climate center generated, climatically databased orchard calendar:
This calendar was operational on the Utah Climate Center (UCC) computer server for grower’s, cooperators, extension use and many growers have used it. Computer hackers virally infected the UCC computers and programs were destroyed and have not yet been returned to operational status. Therefore, we produced programs for the weather station Campbell Scientific Dataloggers and distributed them to collaborators on CD with instructions. With these programs interested users can download the data and run the programs for flowering, insect and disease phenology and susceptibility, predictions for scouting windows, and other items of interest from their station.
Objective 3. Develop mentoring relationships with orchardists, extension workers, and fruit agents.
Arizona: 15 growers, Colorado: 10 growers, Idaho: numerous growers – exact number unavailable, New Mexico: 30 growers, Utah: 12+ growers. Due to the poor economic situation with apples, many growers in each state are pulling blocks of trees and diversifying with other crops or subdividing. The most notable successes have come in Arizona where there are now 60% of the growers using codling moth disruption technology to produce “organic” apples. In Idaho, several legal cases have been resolved favorably to growers with the use of meteorological data from the program in addition to reduced chemical inputs. In Utah, James Frisby maintained the IPM operation during 2001 and an IPM personnel change.

Accomplishments/Milestones

Accomplishments by State

ARIZONA growers currently farm 3900 acres of apples, 60% organically. Fifteen main growers have the handbooks and are active in the program. Orchard climatic data are collected from 7 sites plus the automatic weather station, supplemented by the Bonita AZMET and Dragoon Climate Center stations. Data were used in spraying and mating disruption hangings. GLC studies of pheromone release from black mating disruption pheromone and codlemone dispensers show that the later are better. A new experimental dispenser gave 120 days of protection. Successful hanging protocols were developed for the growers.
COLORADO collaborators have taught growers to use the program in 4 workshops attended by about 20 growers each. The workshops were so successful that extension workers are expanding the number of topics covered and number of workshops offered.
Of 10 mentored orchardists (marginal growers who needed help) only two remain in the program. Eight have orchards for sale, sold, or removed.
Remaining growers are diversifying. IPM is more difficult on diversified farms.
IDAHO collaborators have three automatic weather stations in each of three main growing areas in addition to the remote stations. They have used weather information to calculate bloom phenology and predict bloom dates over several seasons. Growers have been highly interested in temperatures for freeze prediction in both bloom and apple maturation seasons. In addition to IPM, they have used the data for irrigation and growth regulator applications. “We have had a number of legal cases that were solved by the use of information from these stations. In these cases, we were able to present weather documents to both fruit growers and insurance companies (fruit crop insurance) and both parties were convinced and reached an agreement based on the facts shown in the weather data. Our graduate students, county agents, and other agribusinesses have used information from these weather station(s) many times. In summary, fruit growers in Idaho have been well served by this project.”
NEW MEXICO collaborators have served over 40 growers who use the handbook in their programs. Over 52 growers have been introduced or have gained hightened awareness of IPM through the program. Growers used the Utah Climate Center Web Page until it was contaminated. Subsequently, a set of computer programs provided by Utah’s James Frisby have been used for IPM work.
UTAH collaborators have supported the ongoing IPM program in the state during a changeover from Mike Reding to Carin Miller as State IPM Coordinators. James Frisby did all of the 2001 season predictions and issued warnings and watches for the growers throughout the state. Utah growers are hampered in any IPM program by the number of backyard trees existing in every fruit growing area of the state. Innoculation pressures from these “rogue” trees prevent efficient IPM and organic production. Utah does have an unsprayed tree removal program, but it has not served to remove enough trees to prevent significant insect and disease pressure on commercial orchards.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

Impacts:

This project has had significant impact in every state served. The greatest impact has been the large number of growers who have gained awareness of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) principles through the use of the Sustainable Orchard Management Systems handbook. Arizona has been most successful in implementing IPM and organic production because of the isolation of their orchards. Other states have not been as successful as Arizona because of scattered backyard trees and neglected orchards that continue to serve as sources of insects and disease. Although the measurement of reduced spray chemical use was not included in the program, it is estimated that chemical spray inputs have decreased by 20% overall. In addition to significant IPM services, other significant services in various states included freeze prediction, irrigation scheduling, fruit maturity, and pheromone delivery assessment.