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Increasing Environmental, Economic and Social Sustainability
The multi-disciplinary tree fruit team works with stakeholder advisors to implement research based programs to ensure a production-to-consumer system that is environmentally, economically and socially sustainable.
Focus on Industry Priorities
- Advanced Integrated Crop and Pest Management
- Innovative Technologies
- Next Generation Growers from Diverse Backgrounds
Adoption of Sustainable Practices and Technologies
Tree fruit producers representing over 32,000 acres of production told us in post-program surveys how their interaction with Extension impacts their operations.
- 82%, 80%, and 87% indicated their management of diseases, insects/mites and crop load, respectively, improved as a result of extension meetings, newsletters and/or pest alerts.
- 88% said they learned something that will make their business more profitable.
- 49% adopted a new strategy to manage fly and scale pests; 73%, changes to improve efficacy of copper application; 44%, a new strategy to predict disease infection; 44%, a new measure to manage plant nutrition; 47%, a measure to better comply with the new worker protection standard.
- 88% (and 92%) of young and Latino growers, respectively, indicated that Extension's interactive, bilingual training on orchard scouting will help them apply a new integrated fruit production strategy on their farm.
- 100% of beginning growers improved their overall success in fruit production as a result of webinars/workshops for new commercial growers.
Regional and National Leadership
Extensive monitoring programs developed by Penn State entomologists allow growers to eliminate at least 50% of direct brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB) treatments. University scientists have also found several native biological control agents of spotted wing drosophila (SWD) and BMSB.
Engineering Solutions for Specialty Crops
Innovations supported by USDA NIFA, PDA and Penn State innovation grants include:
- pruning aids and sensors for future pruning automation
- technologies to increase harvest efficiency
Robotic pruning investigations have led to the development of simplified rules and a pocket guide that growers can apply now to increase efficiency of pruning. Harvest efficiency is increased by 30% with harvest-assist systems matched to "fruiting wall" orchard production systems.
Economic Impacts of Extension Outreach and Applied Research
- More efficient use of copper for disease control, a potential savings of $15,000 to $20,000/year.
- Savings of $90/acre on peaches and $20/acre on apples due to IPM scouting-based program for BMSB.
- Increased biological mite control which saves $1 million/year in miticide costs and reduces the potential for chemical resistance.
- Increased precision management, with 80% of new orchards now planted on dwarfing rootstocks that increase net cumulative returns by $20,000//>acre.
- Improved labor efficiency, resulting in net returns of $200 to $1200 per acre.
- Improved Honeycrisp management, resulting in a potential increase of $1800 per acre.
Bilingual Courses for a Next Generation of Horticulturists
Bilingual certificate short courses were offered for growers with potential interest in becoming specialized managers or start-up farmers:
- 74% improved a horticultural skill
- 82% improved a pest management skill
- 76% said the course certificates helped their employers have a better sense of their increase in knowledge; 53% said the certificate courses helped them become better qualified for advanced positions
Extension Tree Fruit Team Members
Co-Chairs: Tara Baugher, Rob Crassweller; Members: Mike Basedow, David Biddinger, Tim Elkner, John Esslinger, Montserrat Fonseca Estrada, Tom Ford, Greg Krawczyk, Rich Marini, Andy Muza, Kari Peter, Bob Pollock, Kathy Salisbury, Jim Schupp; Affiliates: Tanner Delvalle, Kathy Demchak, Jayson Harper, Paul Heinemann, Lynn Kime, Luke LaBorde, Jude Liu, Tom Maloney, Marley Skinner, Lee Stivers; Program Director: Mike Masiuk