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Friday, April 29, 2011

Practicing what we preach - Implementing IPM at the Ideal Track

Last February, I planted a research block of blueberries as the Ideal Track, the blueberry research field at the Horticultural Crops Research Station, Castle Hayne, NC, with the intention of setting up various insect management trials. Because Ideal Track is home to the "#1 public blueberry breeding program in the world", as their website proudly proclaims, the station-wide insect management program was necessarily very conservative. Meaning that insecticide sprays were scheduled on a calendar basis, and the entire farm was treated. This practice essentially eliminated populations of fruit feeding insects such as cranberry and cherry fruitworms and blueberry maggot and pathogen vectors such as sharpnosed leafhoppers. While preventative treatment makes sense in the context of a breeding program where every berry might be meaningful, a very conservative insect management program doesn't work well with insect management trials, which by their nature, require some population of insects to manage!

Nor do I recommend a calendar-base spray program to blueberry growers. Instead, I recommend scouting for pests and treating only when potentially damage populations are present. In some cases, like that of sharpnosed leafhopper which can vector pathogens to blueberry plants, very low numbers of insects can be damaging. While other insects, including fruitworms and blueberry maggot, may result in some fruit loss by do not impact overall plant heath and can be tolerated to a certain degree, especially at a research station, where science, not blemish free fruit, is the goal.

Station superintendent Kent Rorem, plant pathologist Bill Cline, and I agreed that insecticide treatments may be necessary for some pests on the station but that we did not have enough information about the biology of these insects to support all the calendar treatments. In order to determine what key blueberry pests are present at Ideal, and therefore what treatments may be needed, I placed several traps throughout the roughly 50 acre planting over the past 3 weeks. Specifically:

13 yellow sticky traps for sharpnosed leafhoppers. Placed on 22 April 2011.

3 cherry fruitworm traps, baited with pheromone lures. Placed 15 April 2011.

3 cranberry fruitworm traps, baited with pheromone lures. Placed 15 April 2011.

All of these traps are checked weekly, and pheromone lures, when used, are changed monthly. We will be using these and other traps placed at the Ideal Track to determine if the traditional calendar pesticide sprays are necessary. As of today, no insecticide applications have been made in 2011. We hope to decrease the up to 6 insecticide applications which have been applied on a preventative basis in previous years. This will be a true win-win-win for my research, the station's pocket book, and the surrounding environment. As Bill Cline said when I first spoke him about this idea, "It's time to start practicing what we preach." I am excited to demonstrate to growers the feasibility of a monitoring based pest management program on the research station.

Monitoring trap countsData from the monitoring traps at the Ideal Track will be available here through the end of the blueberry growing season. Next week (May 2), we will be placing blueberry maggot monitoring traps, and these data will be added to this list. We are also monitoring spotted wing drosophila (SWD) at Ideal but have yet to catch any flies at this location. This location is "New Hanover 1", and SWD trap capture data will be linked shortly.

These counts should not take the place of monitoring for growers or homeowners, since conditions will vary between locations. However, the population dynamics we observe may be useful for growers and homeowners conducting their own monitoring.

UPDATESpotted wing drosophila (SWD) trap captures for Ideal Track are now available here. The site name for Ideal is "New Hanover 1". All SWD monitoring sites are anonomized using county names and site numbers to protect the privacy of cooperating growers.

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