By DAN WHEAT
WENATCHEE, Wash. -- University research scientists want tree fruit growers in Washington, Michigan and New York to complete surveys to help design systems to deliver pesticides and chemical bloom thinners in orchards without using tractors.
The solid set canopy delivery system for apples and cherries would spray orchards through tubing in trellises replacing tractors towing sprayers. It may be used in commercial orchards in three years, said Jay Brunner, entomologist and director of the WSU Tree Fruit Research and Extension Center in Wenatchee.
The two-year project is funded by the USDA and being done by Washington State University, Michigan State University and Cornell University.
The surveys, conducted by Haley Consulting Services of Chicago, will give researchers information about growers' orchards and pest management to help design the system.
The new system is intended to address several problems, Brunner said. The worst, he said, is that large orchards sometimes simply do not have enough equipment to cover the orchard in a timely manner.
Health risks could be reduced by removing tractor drivers from close proximity with pesticides and drift and application rates could be lowered, he said.
Grower costs might be less, and environmental safety for orchard workers and consumers may be improved, Brunner said.
The system will key on crop load management and include fungicides, insecticides and pheromones, but not nutrients, he said.
Pears and stone fruit were omitted since they are grown in traditional, not trellised, orchards, he said.
Researchers need to know the growers' greatest pest and disease challenges, what products they use, whether their orchards are trellised, tree density and types of sprayers they use, said Jean Haley, an agricultural sociologist working with Haley Consulting.
Apple growers in Washington and Michigan who have not received the survey can contact Haley at 812-320-0462 or firstname.lastname@example.org . New York growers and cherry growers in Washington and Michigan will receive the survey in early 2013.