Mar 24, 2015
Wind machine donated to Clarksville Research Center

A state-of-the-art, $35,000 Orchard-Rite wind machine has been installed at the Michigan State University (MSU) AgBioResearch Clarksville Research Center (CRC), thanks to a donation from the manufacturer in Yakima, Washington, and its service company in Caledonia, Michigan.

Superior Wind Machine Service arranged the contribution of the equipment, which helps protect fruit trees – and current and future tree fruit research projects – from frost damage. A wind machine is a large fan on a tower that blows air almost horizontally so that higher layers of warmer air mix with the cooler air below to raise the orchard air temperature during frosty spring nights.

“We wanted a unit at MSU because it is Superior Wind’s base state and where much of our business comes from,” said Lee DeLeeuw of Superior Wind Machine Service. “Although our company covers the entire northeastern United States, MSU is a major research center for fruit growers, so it was a good fit and time to give something back to show our support.”

Wind machines were introduced in California during the 1920s but were not widely accepted until the 1950s, and then mainly in West Coast fruit-growing areas. Their popularity is growing in Michigan – which ranks first in U.S. tart cherry production and third in apple production – especially after growers suffered substantial fruit losses from freezes in April 2012.

“Tree fruit is one of Michigan’s largest and most valuable crops, so it’s critical that we do everything in our power to keep our research relevant to current issues facing the industry,” said Douglas Buhler, director of MSU AgBioResearch.

In addition to the wind machine, the MSU tree fruit research program received a $3,100 Infaco Electrocoup battery-powered electric pruning system donated by Peach Ridge Orchard Supply of Sparta, Michigan. It will be used to prune the cherry, apricot, nectarine and plum trees at the CRC and the MSU Horticulture Teaching and Research Center on campus.

“We are truly thankful for the continued support of the Michigan tree fruit industry,” Buhler said. “Contributions such as the wind machine and pruner are testaments to the strength of the partnerships and good will between MSU researchers and Extension educators and the fruit industry that we’ve built over the years.”

The donations are part of the initial in-kind support efforts by tree fruit supplier and manufacturer industries associated with the Michigan Tree Fruit Commission, which was established in March 2014. Michigan apple, cherry, peach and plum growers passed a referendum to improve the economic position and competitiveness of the Michigan tree fruit industry by investing in support of the MSU fruit research centers and research and Extension programs.

“Our recent history of innovative horticultural tree fruit research at CRC has not only provided valuable new concepts and techniques for Michigan’s tree fruit growers but has also drawn international visitors and forged important research collaborations with scientists worldwide,” said Gregory Lang, professor of tree fruit science at MSU, who helped arrange the donations.

“The protection of these important, highly visible research projects from spring frosts in our increasingly variable climate and the ability to utilize modern orchard equipment in conducting the projects provide excellent demonstrations of new technologies. It also increases research efficiency, meaning greater returns on the investment of support funds provided by growers, granting agencies and taxpayers.”

CRC is a 440-acre site hosting research on small fruits and tree fruits, as well as potatoes and chestnuts. It is one of 13 outlying MSU AgBioResearch centers throughout the state.

Holly Whetstone, Michigan State University

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