Anna Wallis, an apple production specialist for Michigan State University, led a session with presentations from several companies with products and data analysis services for precision agriculture.

May 11, 2022
Trellis systems, events helped by Michigan Tree Fruit Commission mini-grants

Evaluating alternative building materials for trellis systems, providing support to Michigan State University Extension field staff to monitor orchards throughout the season and providing the resources for virtual and hybrid programming were goals of two mini-grants recently awarded by the Michigan Tree Fruit Commission.

“This is the goal of the mini-grant program – to provide the resources for MSU field staff to respond to emerging issues and to address growers’ immediate needs,” said Jim Nugent, Michigan Tree Fruit Commission (MTFC) chair and cherry grower from Suttons Bay, Michigan.

The mini-grant awards went to Anna Wallis, Michigan State University (MSU) Extension apple production specialist, and Emily Lavely, MSU Extension tree fruit educator for west central Michigan.

The availability of building materials for support systems has emerged as a concern because of supply chain breakdowns and other issues.

“Wooden posts have become very expensive and sometimes are simply not available,” Wallis said. “Growers approached us with questions about what other materials can be used,”

Other materials for posts may include metal, concrete, plastic or repurposed fiberglass. “We’re hoping to provide growers a summary and an analysis of the materials,” Wallis said.

The mini-grant will also establish a demonstration trial on alternative materials at MSU’s Clarksville Research Center at Clarksville, Michigan.

Wallis’ mini-grant will also help pay the expenses of monitoring orchard sites throughout the season and could pay for transportation or research assistance.  The mini-grant will also support programming which can be virtual or hybrid.

“We are working in different times now,” Wallis said. “Growers need to have these options.”

Hybrid programming is programming that has both an in-person and a virtual component.

Lavely’s mini-grant will evaluate the costs associated with high-density apple establishment at MSU’s West Central Michigan Research and Extension Center in Hart, Michigan.

“We’ll be planting about 6,000 apple trees this spring,” Lavely said. Orchard establishment costs for items such as wooden and cement posts, training wire, coated wire, bamboo, plastic clips, and drip tape will be evaluated. Instructional videos on constructing trellises and irrigation systems will also be developed.

Lavely’s mini-grant will also help pay the expenses of monitoring orchards throughout the season.  It will also pay for equipment to evaluate fruit maturity by measuring soluble sugars and fruit firmness.

“Maturity testing in the fall is important to growers but it’s not part of the research infrastructure that the MTFC typically funds,” Nugent said.

Wallis’ and Lavely’s mini-grant awards were both about $24,000.

“Anna and Emily are new to MSU Extension and the MTFC is supportive of new staff,” Nugent said. “We wanted them to have the funding to establish quickly in their new positions.”

Dean Peterson, FGN Correspondent

Emily Lavely, MSU Extension tree fruit educator for west central Michigan, speaks during a farm presentation near Grand Rapids, Michigan. Photo: Stephen Kloosterman


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