Good Fruit Grower

November 2012

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Page 19 of 55

New Technology AIRBLAST SPRAYING? T No more hink of all the materials you put on your orchard through your airblast sprayer: Insecticides, fungicides, antibiotics, chemical thinners, plant growth regulators, sunburn protectants, foliar nutrients, anticracking agents. Now suppose that, instead of lugging them up and down the alleys in dozens of trips and thousands of gallons of water in all sorts of weather, there Goal is to perfect a Solid Set Canopy Delivery System for all sprays. by Richard Lehnert and Geraldine Warner was a fixed-in-place spray application system that could do all those things—and others as well. How about dispensing pheromones using emitters instead of putting up twisty ties? How about cooling the orchard with mists of water, or applying water for irrigation or frost control? And how about doing these things in seconds instead of hours— putting on all your fungicide at the exact proper time instead of dragging the process out as the apple scab and cherry leaf spot spores ripen and infect new tissue or the critical time for apple thinning passes by. Developing such a system is the goal of a $4.5 million, two-year project funded last year by the Specialty Crops Research Initiative. The system is called the Solid Set Canopy Delivery System, using the image of a solid-set irrigation system suspended in an orchard canopy. Dr. Matt Grieshop, Michigan State University entomol- ogist, is lead investigator. Twenty-six scientists across the country are co-investigators, exploring the idea of installing a stationary spray application system in the tree canopy, supported by the trellis, that could apply spray materials in a fraction of the time it would take using a tractor and sprayer. Modern orchard systems—with densely spaced trees supported by trellises—were designed primarily to improve production and make it easier for workers to access the trees and fruit. Scientists now hope to take advantage of modern tree architecture to deliver another benefit— the ability to apply pesticides to the orchard without needing to drive a sprayer through it. Two-year project Originally, Grieshop said, the grant proposal asked for $12 million and five years. Only two years were approved, with a proviso that, if the work looked promising, the scientists could apply for more funding. The scientists jumped into the new project this year, hoping to gener- ate the data that would extend the project, which they think could lead to a paradigm shift of huge proportion—but can't be done in two years. "Airblast spraying was designed for orchards with huge canopies," Grieshop said, "not for fruiting walls. It is outmoded technology." (Continued on page 22) , MSU horticulturist Ron Perry, left, worked with engineers to design and install the system. Here he works with two technicians. 20 NOVEMBER 2012 GOOD FRUIT GROWER Emitters like this one are used to apply spray materials. They fit into a continuous loop of tubing that carries spray materials from a fixed site, through the lines, and back to the original container. PHOTO COURTESY ART AGNELLO, CORNELL UNivERSiTY

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