Apples are a critical component of Vermont’s specialty crops industries, with a total value over $20 million annually (Bradshaw 2013, NASS 2016). Winegrapes, while a relatively new crop to the state, are planted on over 160 acres and produce approximately $5 million in wine value annually (Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund 2013, NASS 2015, Bradshaw, Hazelrigg et al. 2016). Vermont apple and grape growers have a critical need for IPM information, with an evolving complex of over 15 disease, 35 arthropod, and diverse weed pests that require season-long management programs that integrate cultural, biological, and chemical strategies in a horticulturally and economically-appropriate framework (Agnello, Chouinard et al. 2006, Wilcox, Gubler et al. 2015). For both crops, consequences of failure to manage insect or disease pests can be catastrophic and may completely devalue a crop. Vermont apple growers are also diversifying to new production systems which require adaption of traditional IPM practices for their success, including: adoption of modern, high-density planting techniques; planting of cider apple orchards which presents an opportunity to reduce pesticide applications on fruit destined for high-value fermented cider production; and transition to organic orchard management (VTFGA 2011, NASS 2012, Becot, Bradshaw et al. 2016). The activities performed under this proposal will provide interdisciplinary extension information to Vermont apple growers including arthropod, disease, horticulture, and weed management strategies that address IPM needs in an economic, environmental, and socially sustainable framework. Additionally, the Vermont Apple IPM Program is considered a regional leader on organic orchard management practices, and we will continue to provide this expertise through this proposal (Berkett and Bradshaw 2013). In a 2017 survey (Bradshaw, unpublished), 92% of respondents reported using information from UVM Fruit Program in their decision-making, 77% reported using that information to determine if pesticides were needed in their orchard, and 69% reported using IPM information to reduce pesticide use. While 100% of respondents reported using a monitoring program for orchard pests, only 50% reported scouting regularly using traps and methodical evaluation criteria. Pollinator issues were also commonly cited, with a majority of respondents reporting using multiple pollinator conservation practices and 45% relying on wild pollinators for pollination. Issues with balancing crop protection and pollinator conservation in orchards are critical to Vermont fruit growers (VT Pollinator Protection Committee, 2017), but sustainable IPM programs that do that are nuanced and require continued research and outreach efforts (Biddinger and Rajotte 2015). There is a continued increase of new growers in Vermont who are starting vineyards with limited or no background in agriculture, and it is imperative to not only continue the Vermont Cold-Climate Grape IPM program but to also expand transdisciplinary educational outreach and training demonstrations so that those growers will start, from the beginning of their operation, to make vineyard pest management decisions that minimize health, environmental and economic risks. The Vermont Grape IPM Program has become the acknowledged resource in northern New England for IPM information and is committed to increasing IPM implementation in commercial vineyards across the state by continuing to deliver an integrated extension program that addresses the priorities identified by growers, IPM advisors and other industry service providers. Weather-related damage and disease management were ranked first and third, respectively, of perceived threats to vineyard operators in a recent survey (Berkett, et al., 2014; Bradshaw, Hazelrigg et al. 2016). Attendees at stakeholder IPM trainings taught by UVM Fruit faculty in New Hampshire (2015), New York (2016, 2017), and Vermont (2015, 2016) report increases in knowledge of disease identification, IPM concepts, and how to develop IPM programs (Bradshaw, unpublished data). Two recently updated IPM Fact Sheets from the UVM Fruit Program are used throughout the region for development of core IPM programs in cold-climate cultivar vineyards (Bradshaw and Berkett 2017, Bradshaw and Berkett 2017). Specific priorities identified for this program include timely delivery of IPM information to apple and grape growers; implementation of regional orchard and vineyard monitoring programs; and development of baseline data on pollinator diversity in commercial orchards (see Priority Area IPM for Pollinator Health). We will continue to highlight the Plant Diagnostic Clinic as a resource for insect, weed and disease diagnosis and IPM recommendations.
- Orchard and Vineyard Scouting Network In Year 1, six orchards in four counties will participate in weekly coordinated orchard pest monitoring (Clements, Autio et al. 2015). Weekly results will be communicated to participating orchards and apple producers to guide pest management decisions. An online reporting platform will be developed to track state-wide trap captures. In Year 2, growers will be trained to scout and report. By Year 3 growers will be responsible for their on-farm scouting and reporting. Fruit will be sampled at harvest from evaluated orchards and assessed for pest-related damage and defects (Bradshaw, Berkett et al. 2016).Two vineyards will be evaluated each year at veraison and harvest for incidence of disease and insect pest damage following standard protocols (Berkett, Bradshaw et al. 2014). The same orchards and vineyards will be monitored in each year of the project to evaluate trends in pest populations within the region.
- Apple and Grape IPM Guideline Assessment From 2014-2017, a selected group of advisory stakeholders participated in a pilot assessment of crop-specific IPM practices in their operations and identified practices to adopt by using UMass guidelines (http://ag.umass.edu/integrated-pest-management/ipm-guidelines/apple, http://ag.umass.edu/integrated-pest-management/ipm-guidelines/wine-grape). The information gathered from this pilot assessment will now be used to develop a self-assessment of crop-specific IPM practices tailored to Vermont growers. The assessment will be available as an online tool to facilitate IPM education and assist grower decision-making.
- Extension Outreach Education Timely IPM information for apple and grape growers will be distributed via electronic communications platforms including a program website and email lists with over 400 subscribers. At least 12 newsletters, blog posts, and/or factsheets containing time- and crop-sensitive IPM information including arthropod, disease, and weed management as well as horticultural, food safety, risk management, and economic issues will be published each season. At least one on-farm workshop will be held annually to demonstrate IPM practices. Outreach communications will integrate site- and region-specific weather and pest models provided by the Cornell University’s Network for Environmental and Weather Applications (NEWA) and from monitoring commercial orchards and vineyards to provide timely information to growers. Growers will be provided with one-on-one consultations when necessary to provide specific information applicable to unique farm operations. Dr. Bradshaw will contribute to annual revisions of the New England Tree Fruit Management Guide and with planning and presentations at regional grower meetings including the VT Tree Fruit Growers Annual Meeting and New England Fruit and Vegetable Meetings.