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  • Author or Editor: Ricardo Bessin x
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Apple growers in Kentucky normally control pests on a preventative schedule involving fifteen or more chemical applications annually. IPM technology designed to provide growers information about the threat of diseases and insects was used in a demonstration plot in a Daviess County orchard and in the U.K. research orchard, Princeton. The IPM systems used in Daviess County resulted in 6 less applications of pesticides than the traditional system, a savings of approximately $130 per acre. When compared to the traditional preventative spray schedule, the IPM treated apples showed no differences in fruit quality and in orchard diseases and insect infestations. The decreased pesticide use has the potential to reduce applicator exposure, residues on fruit, and the environmental impact of these chemicals. The results of this demonstration were shared with and received an enthusiastic response from growers, Extension personnel, students, consumers, and the news media. The project demonstrated the feasibility of using apple IPM by a Kentucky grower, and it provided students an insight into applied biology.

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The brown marmorated stink bug (Halyomorpha halys) is a nonnative insect that damages vegetables and other crops in the United States. Because of the current lack of effective control options for organic growers to combat this pest, barrier screens with different mesh sizes were evaluated in their ability to exclude the brown marmorated stink bug, provide entry to beneficial species, and to produce a high percentage of marketable yield. Barrier screens with 1/6-, 1/8-, and 1/25-inch mesh sizes, along with unscreened controls, covered ‘Aristotle’ bell pepper (Capsicum annuum) plants at field sites in Kentucky and Tennessee in 2013–14. In Kentucky, where brown marmorated stink bug pressure was low, overshading decreased the marketable yield under dark, 1/25-inch mesh screens in 2013. Outbreaks of aphids (Aphididae) under light-colored, 1/25-inch mesh plots in 2014 suggest a higher risk of secondary pests proliferating under these screens. In Tennessee, where brown marmorated stink bug pressure was higher and light colored, 1/25-inch mesh screens were tested in 2013–14, the 1/25-inch mesh plots produced the highest yield, due to the general exclusion of insects and protection from sunscald. In areas with small brown marmorated stink bug populations, lighter colored, and/or wider meshes (1/8-inch or 1/6-inch) may be required to allow the entry of sunlight and beneficial species. In areas with higher brown marmorated stink bug pressure, finer meshes (1/25-inch) may be appropriate to exclude larger populations of pests and to protect the crop from sunscald.

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The goal of this study was to develop a systems-based strategy for organic muskmelon (Cucumis melo var. reticulatus) in Pennsylvania (PA), Iowa (IA), and Kentucky (KY) to manage bacterial wilt (Erwinia tracheiphila) and nutrients while safeguarding yield and enhancing early harvest. Spunbond polypropylene rowcovers deployed for different timings during the growing season were evaluated for suppressing bacterial wilt and locally available compost was applied based on two different estimated rates of mineralization of organic nitrogen (N) to manage nutrients. In KY only, the use of rowcovers suppressed bacterial wilt incidence compared with not using rowcovers. However, the timing of rowcover removal did not impact wilt incidence. Under lower cucumber beetle [striped cucumber beetle (Acalymma vittatum) and spotted cucumber beetle (Diabrotica undecimpunctata howardi)] pressure in PA and IA, rowcovers did not consistently suppress season-long incidence of bacterial wilt. In four of five site-years in PA and IA, more marketable fruit were produced when rowcovers were removed 10 days after an action threshold (the date the first flower opened in PA; the date when ≥50% of plants in a subplot had developed perfect flowers in IA and KY) than when no 10-day delay was made or when no rowcovers were used. In addition, the no-rowcover treatment consistently had lower weight per marketable fruit. In KY, the same action threshold without the 10-day delay, followed by insecticide applications, resulted in the largest number of marketable fruit, but did not affect marketable fruit weight. In PA, marketable yield was higher using compost compared with the organic fertilizer in 1 year. No yield differences were observed by nutrient treatments in 2 years. In IA, marketable yield was lower with the low amount of compost compared with the organic fertilizer and yields with the high amount of compost were not different from the low amount or the organic fertilizer in the year it was evaluated. In KY, marketable yield was unaffected by the nutrient treatments in the year it was evaluated. Given these results, muskmelon growers in PA, IA, and KY who use compost may choose the lower compost rate to minimize production costs. Overall, these findings suggest that rowcover-based strategies for organic management of bacterial wilt need to be optimized on a regional basis, and that fertilization with compost is compatible with these strategies.

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Although the interest in and production acreage of organic fruit and vegetables has grown in recent years, there are questions about the viability of perennial crops such as apple (Malus ×domestica) in an organic system in Kentucky because of the long, hot, and humid growing season. Thus, the objective of this project was to assess the severity of the challenges to organic apple production in Kentucky. A high-density, organic apple orchard was established in 2007 in the University of Kentucky Horticultural Research Farm in Lexington. The orchard of apple scab (Venturia inaequalis)–resistant ‘Redfree’, ‘Crimson Crisp’, and ‘Enterprise’ trees on ‘Budagovsky 9’ (B.9) rootstock, trained in a vertical axis system, was managed using organically certified techniques and materials for disease and insect control since its inception. Tree growth, tree and fruit injury from insect pests and diseases, and yield over the period 2011–13 were studied. Periodic, shallow cultivation kept the ground beneath the trees free of vegetation once the lower limbs were pulled up and away from the path of the equipment. Vole (Microtus sp.) damage was a continuing problem despite the use of trunk guards and cultivation to remove habitat around the trees. Total fruit yield ranged from 1.2 to 8.1 kg/tree across years and cultivars, with the marketable proportion of the total yield averaging 68% for Redfree and 43% for Crimson Crisp and Enterprise over the 3-year period. The unmarketable fruit exhibited a high incidence of plum curculio (Conotrachelus nenuphar) damage, with generally less damage from codling moth (Cydia pomonella) and sooty blotch (Glosodes pomigena)/flyspeck (Schizathyrium pomi). In addition, in two of the three seasons, ‘Crimson Crisp’ and ‘Enterprise’, which were harvested at later calendar dates then ‘Redfree’, had significant levels of powdery mildew (Podosphaera leucotricha) injury, ‘Enterprise’ had significantly greater bitter rot (Glomerella cingulata), and ‘Crimson Crisp’ showed fruit and foliar damage from cedar apple rust (Gymnosporangium juniperi-virginianae). Because ‘Redfree’ was the only cultivar with an acceptable marketable proportion of the fruit crop, the use of early ripening disease-resistant apple cultivars may have the greatest potential for successful organic apple production in Kentucky and the surrounding region.

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