Aug 19, 2019
Tree fruit studies shine at Clarksville Research Center Field Day

Michigan State University’s tree fruit research shone at the Clarksville Research Center Field Day Aug. 14.

The 440-acre site is home to many of the experiments, trials and equipment development undertaken by the land-grant university for a variety of crops. The field day schedule had a heavy emphasis on fruit-tree research, but the event was well-attended, with roughly 50 attendees, some from as far away as Texas and New York state – notably, Cornell University applied fruit crop physiologist Terrence Robinson.

Presentations were not long – visitors covered nine stops during a four-hour afternoon tour – but even so, the depth and variety of the research was impressive. Some of the highlights included red-juiced apples that are being bred for commercialization, tart cherry breeding, a new system for dispersing sprays into apple canopies, and presentations of plant architecture.

Here are some photos and brief descriptions of the research presented at the field day.

– Stephen Kloosterman, associate editor

Plant pathologist Timothy Miles gave a brief presentation on the grape fungicide efficacy trials that take place in a vineyard. Established in the 1980s by Stan Howell, the vineyard has Vignoles, Niagara and Chardonel grapes. Phomophis, black rot and downy mildew are allowed a firm foothold on the property.
potato study
Noah Rosenzweig, a plant pathogist focused on vegetables, and his post-doctoral colleague Saltanat Mambetova, discussed trials examining the effects of seed potatoes inoculated with Potato Black Leg. Potato Black Leg is a seed-borne disease, and the trials are based on examining the effect on plantings with variable percentages of infected seed. The trials are being replicated in several states through the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture Specialty Crop Research Initiative. In line with the Michigan Potato industry, the trialed seed potatoes in his trials are for chip potatoes varieties.
pollinator study
MSU’s Jackie Albert, a research assistant to entomologist Rufus Isaacs, gave a presentation about trials of habitat management for pollinators. “This project is really about finding out the right recommendations to make to growers,” she said.
Julianna Wilson
Entomologist Julianna Wilson presented on a team research project she is leading that examines the phenomenon of orchard replant problems. Soil nematodes – root lesion, pin and dagger nematodes are the main types – are thought to play a big role in the orchard replant failure. The project recently planted an orchard as part of their research, with Honeycrisp on Bud 9 and G.214 rootstocks (G.214 is marketed as a nematode-resistant rootstock).
The MSU research project was earlier mentioned in this article about orchard replant disease.
Solid Set Canopy Deposition System
MSU professor Matt Grieshop and assistant Keith Koonter (right) discussed a Solid Set Canopy Deposition System that Koonter has been working on for applying sprays to apple orchards. The system of tubes runs above the orchard on its trellis system and is used to apply sprays from a trailer base. Their goal is to see if the system could be commercially offered for about $5,000 an acre.
MSU’s Bernie Zandstra
MSU’s Bernie Zandstra, who has long specialized in weed control, discussed a trial of weeds in an apple orchard. The trials are used to form recommendations to growers for weed control, depending on their particular soil types, prevalence of weeds, and management systems. He also discussed new labels for herbicides and the latest development in the EPA’s regulation of glyphosate.
MSU Researcher and Extension agent Phil Schwallier
MSU Researcher and Extension agent Phil Schwallier discussed trials looking at multi-leader tree architectures for apple trees. Super-spindle is looking more promising than multi-leaders, he said.
Todd Einhorn
Todd Einhorn spoke about quite a variety of his experiments at Clarksville, including the use of Metamitron and ABA for post-bloom thinning. In the case of ABA, thinning is also being examined for possible mitigation of bitter pit. Einhorn is also involved in a trial of various rootstocks for NC-140 Regional Research Project, where the Buckeye Gala cultivar is being used in trials of 13 different rootstocks on 13 different sites throughout the U.S. and Canada. He is also researching the use of Ellepot containers in apple tree nurseries and in the field, and evaluating various chemical compounds to abscise Montmorency tart cherry fruitlets.
red juice apples
Steve VanNocker of the MSU Department of Horticulture spoke about his efforts identifying red-juiced apple cultivars. His initial research identified more than 100 cultivars in the U.S., England and China. Ten were propagated at Clarksville, and three – Irene, Otterson and Cranberry – were selected for further trials including commercial hard cider making. Otterson has been used in hard cider making by Short’s Brewing and Left Foot Charlie.
Christopher Gottschalk
MSU graduate research assistant Christopher Gottschalk – who is also involved in Great Lakes cider apple collection – spoke about trials of plant growth regulators for regulating apple flowering – specifically, during “on” years of apple cultivars like Honeycrisp that have a propensity towards biennial bearing. Valent’s ProGibb has been the most promising regulator trialed so far.
Greg Lang
MSU’s Greg Lang discussed his research into sweet cherry training systems. One project, “Competitive Orchards 2020: Integrating Sweet Cherry Production Technologies,” examines the advantages of a planar, fruit wall training systems, specifically various upright fruiting offshoot (UFO) systems.
MSU researcher Amy Iezzoni
MSU researcher Amy Iezzoni spoke about her efforts into tart cherry breeding. Her research has included looking for resistance to cherry leaf spot and SWD pressure. She displayed a few experimental cherry cultivars ripen earlier that Montmorency cherries, a red-fleshed tart cherry with an “air-free” stone cavity, and a tart cherry with sweet cherry characteristics.
Graduate Research Assistant Andrea Kohler presented about research in Courtney Hollender’s lab into better tree architecture including peach tree architecture and apple germplasm collection.

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