Jul 18, 2017
Extension researchers show off trials on last day of IFTA tour

Extension researchers showed their work Tuesday, July 18 during the final day of the 2017 International Fruit Tree Association (IFTA) Summer Study Tour in Michigan.

Michigan State University (MSU) researchers gave presentations at several sites.

At MSU’s Clarksville Research Center, research professor Gregory Lang led a tour of a project where sweet cherries are being grown in three high tunnels measuring 28 by 159 feet. The objective is to provide a more controlled environment for trees with just the right air and soil temperature, light, water, humidity and wind. Lang’s research also includes trials of different cherry tree rootstocks and cherry branch training systems.

Also at the Clarksville stop, MSU Extension educator Phillip Schwallier led a tour of Gala and Honeycrisp apple trees in trials to examine the effects of the herbicide Metamitron when used for apple thinning. Metamitron limits photosynthesis, and the number of fruit produced by creating a carbohydrate deficit. A limited application of the herbicide induced a reduction in photosynthesis for about two weeks.

MSU Associate Professor Matthew Grieshop demonstrated the use of a Solid Set Canopy Delivery System at Clarksville. The canopy system consists of a network of small sprayers connected to a mixing and pumping station.

“We’ve put all this together with off-the-shelf parts,” he said.

The system has a variety of applications including distributing nutrients or other agricultural chemicals. Another application could be delaying the bloom of fruit trees by mist cooling.

At a bus stop later in the morning, plant pathology researcher George Sundin led a tour of test orchards on the MSU campus in East Lansing where he and his associates test fungicides. Sundin said he and his team create “disease pressure” not only by exposing the trees to the disease, but by choosing varieties with low tolerance for disease, and making other choices about the tree’s climate that tip the balance in favor of the disease – all show how well how well the fungicides work.

The site included a plot with 30 different hard apple cider varieties that were being tested for their resilience to disease, but Sundin’s other areas of study are testing new treatments for fire blight and apple scab.

Most popular apple varieties remain susceptible to blight, Sundin said, so the disease is an ongoing concern.

“We’ll test any (treatment), and hopefully see that it works,” he said. “We’ve got a high susceptibility to blight that we need to deal with.”

The IFTA conference ended with lunch at MSU Horticulture Gardens, where the group was also introduced to a project testing the growth of apple trees in Ellepot containers, in an effort to reduce transplant shock and improve early growth, especially in Honeycrisp.

Photo above: Michigan State University’s George Sundin discusses disease management techniques.

Stephen Kloosterman, Assistant Editor

See more from the IFTA Summer Tour:

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