Microclimate and Columnar Apple Tree Performance within Insect-exclusionary Cages

in HortScience

A barrier system for pest control consisting of insect-exclusionary cages covered with three types of mesh material was placed over columnar apple (Malus domestica Borkh.) trees. This system has been shown to provide arthropod control equivalent to insecticides. Light intensity, evaporation, and air and soil temperature were reduced inside the cages. Shoot elongation of columnar apple trees grown inside insect-exclusionary cages was significantly greater than that of trees grown outside the cages. However, this increased shoot growth was not due to etiolation. Tree performance was unaffected by insect-exclusionary cages. Fruit set and fruit soluble solids concentration were not reduced by the cages; however, fruit color intensity was reduced as the degree of shading from the mesh increased. These findings, in conjunction with high levels of arthropod control by insect-exclusionary cages, may allow insect-exclusionary cages to be used for evaluating integrated pest management thresholds, predator-prey relationships, and apple production without insecticides.

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