Six Takeaways From My Trip To The Appalachian Fruit Research Laboratory

I write a lot about research being carried out throughout the country and globe. There are a lot of really fascinating projects that will impact you in a few years, or in some cases, many years from now. But, I don’t often get the chance to see this cutting-edge research firsthand.

Christina Herrick
Christina Herrick

So, when the Young Grower Alliance in Pennsylvania organized a trip to visit the USDA-ARS Appalachian Fruit Research Laboratory in Kearneysville, WV, I jumped at the chance to join them. What I learned along the way is that there’s a lot going on behind the scenes before you read the latest variety release or the latest innovation in stopping the pesky brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB).

Here’s six things I found interesting, and I hope you do too:

PEAR RESEARCH: Pears, which have been plagued in the East by fire blight and pear psylla, are getting a boost from research by Richard Bell, Research Horticulturalist. He’s studying some European and Asian cultivars to see how their genetics can help bolster resistance to pear psylla. This is good news for growers who may be interested in adding fresh-market pears.

HIGH-TECH BREEDING: In the Apple Biotechnology Lab, Tim Artlip, Plant Physiologist, is using an accelerated breeding program to evaluate potential tree fruit research cultivars quicker. This rapid breeding includes using some transgenic parent crosses to improve how cultivars and rootstocks respond to changes to stress from extreme high or low temperatures as well as changes in water and nutrient availability. With this fast-track breeding program, you’ll be able to see and grow any potential releases much sooner than with traditional breeding methods.

ROBOTS: Agriculture Engineer Amy Tabb, is leading a research project to develop a robotic imaging and pruning system. Tabb’s mobile robotic system develops three-dimensional modeling of the trees, and then applies a simplified version of the “7 Pruning Rules” from Penn State University’s Jim Schupp, to help the system decide which cuts to make. This in the early stages of development, but the research looks very promising, and anything – be it robot or simplified rules to follow – that helps take the guesswork out of dormant orchard tasks seems like an improvement.

UV RAYS AND PATHOGENS: Strawberry growers have constantly struggled with controlling fruit decay. Powdery mildew and Botrytis can be particularly tricky in a greenhouse or high tunnel. Wojciech Janisiewicz, Plant Pathologist, and Fumi Takeda, Research Horticulturalist, are studying some alternative methods to pesticides and fungicides with strawberries. One such approach is using UV rays to irradiate powdery mildew and Botrytis. A good takeaway is that Janisiewicz and Takeda are looking to extend the growing season and control diseases which can make greenhouse and high tunnel strawberries a challenge.

THOSE PESKY STINK BUGS: Growers are all too familiar BMSB. Brent Short, Biological Science Lab Technician, gave us an update on the trapping they’ve developed for BMSB control. What’s interesting is how the team at the Appalachian Fruit Research Laboratory is using traps and new pheromones to bring BMSB to specific trees, then spraying those baited trees to help growers reduce overall sprays in the orchard and injury to fruit.

SHORT TREES: When we reached the test block of peach tree architecture, we were surprised at how differently all the trees looked. Some were weepy, some were compact, some were forked, and some were dwarfing. And when I say dwarfing, I mean really dwarfing. A few trees were so compact they looked like ornamental bushes instead of peach trees. The overall goal is to reduce management costs, and although a tree that’s no higher than three feet may not be able to produce the type of yields peach growers are used to, the genetics could be used to crossbreed and create dwarfing, but more hardy, peach varieties. This research may seem unusual, but given the past few cold winters, getting a peach tree closer to the snowline may not be a bad thing.

Topics: ,

Leave a Reply

GenNext Growers Stories
overflowing beaker in science lab
GenNext Growers
September 4, 2017
New Collaboration Hopes to Boost Youth Interest in Science
Bayer, 4-H partner to increase interest in science among young people nationwide and cultivate the next generation of innovators shaping agriculture, food, and health. Read More
haskap berries
GenNext Growers
August 22, 2017
Top Alternative Crops GenNext Growers Should Consider
Now is a good time for you to think about what new selections might pay off. Read More
GenNext Growers
August 17, 2017
Young Growers See Evolving Orchard Production on Cornell Tour
A group of 30 got a chance to see operations boasting vertical integration and higher production per acre up close in the Champlain region of New York State and Vermont. Read More
GenNext Growers
August 8, 2017
Winegrape Society Awards $100,000 in Scholarships
American Society for Enology and Viticulture bestows awards at its 68th national conference. Read More
Carl and Dustin Grooms of Fancy Farms
Business Planning
July 11, 2017
Young Florida Farmers Ready to Take the Reins
As growers age, the next generation is stepping up and stepping into leadership roles on the farm. Read More
inspecting a citrus leaf for HLB symptoms
GenNext Growers
July 8, 2017
5 Crop Scouting Mistakes You Might Be Making
Inspecting fields for signs of pest pressure is critical to your farm’s success. But, are you doing it right? Read More
GenNext Growers
July 5, 2017
National Young Farmer Coalition Members Show Support for Farm Bill
Young growers speak up about issues that impact the next generation of growers. Read More
cash money in hand
GenNext Growers
July 5, 2017
Ag Trade Association Awards Give $117,000 in College Scholarships
Awards to 59 students this year and previous years now exceeds $1.3 million in total. Read More
GenNext Growers
June 29, 2017
Cornell Graduate Student Earns Grape Disease Research
Doctoral candidate recognized by American Society of Enology and Viticulture for work studying sour rot pathogens. Read More
girl on smartphone
GenNext Growers
June 24, 2017
Find the Food Safety Apps That Are Right for You
There are a lot of choices available for growers. We’ve sifted through them to help figure out which ones will best suit you. Read More
Online shopping graphic for GenNext Growers webcast
GenNext Growers
May 22, 2017
How to Make Dollars and Sense of Today’s Produce Marketplace Mayhem
Despite current challenges impacting the future of the North American fruit and vegetable industry, there are opportunities to be had. Read More
Gary Reeder of West Coast Tomato/McClure Family Farms in Florida
GenNext Growers
May 18, 2017
Five Delegates to Represent U.S. at Youth Agriculture Summit
More than 1,000 applied as delegates to help tackle global food security challenge at international event. Read More
GenNext Growers
April 22, 2017
Next Generation of Leaders Gets Yearlong Almond Immersion
Almond Leadership Program enters its ninth year with the 2017 class. Read More
Apples & Pears
April 19, 2017
Young Apple Growers Meet with Lawmakers
Apple leaders from across the country discuss ag issues such as labor, trade, and research. Read More
Vijay Kumar giving TED Talk on ag innovation
GenNext Growers
April 17, 2017
TED Talks Take on Agriculture Innovation
The popular short-form presentations address the future of food production. Read More