Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Technological advances in agriculture focus of 76th annual hort meeting in Chelan


CHELAN - Fruit is the beating heart of agriculture in North Central Washington. Be it apples, pears or cherries, people both local, domestic and abroad enjoy the fresh fruit that this region, with its fertile soil, offers each harvest. Far fewer people likely appreciate or understand what it takes to keep that produce healthy and tasty.

Those topics and more were on the agenda at the 76th annual Lake Chelan Horticultural Meeting held Jan. 21 at Chelan High School. Several dozen local farmers and orchardists attended the event to ask questions and learn more about how to maximize their crops.

The Tree Fruit Research and Extension Center, a branch of Washington State University, hosted the event. Tianna DuPont, Tree Fruit Extension Specialist, emceed the gathering. For the 76th edition of the meeting, she wanted to focus on technological advances in the field.

“The Lake Chelan Horticultural Meeting is designed to provide orchardists with research based information to improve their productivity and profitability,” she said. “This year we focused on technology and labor efficiency to help our producers keep up with a rapidly changing industry.”

DuPont first spoke about replant considerations. Among the threats she mentioned were rodents, replant disease, phytophthora (a pathogen), and nematodes, a species of roundworm. She followed that on a talk which mentioned X-disease and Little Cherry Virus. She mentioned some of the symptoms of the latter virus included small fruit, discoloration, bitterness and tastelessness. As far as how to specifically help the orchardists, DuPont discussed how to take cherry samples that can be sent into the research center. She also mentioned the dangers of winter injury and sunburn, adding that Honey Crisp apples were particularly susceptible to that.

Betsy Beers, of WSU entomology, then gave a presentation entitled “From Campyloma to Cut Worms- Strategies for Pests from 2022.” She mentioned that campyloma were “basically unheard of before 1995, then all of a sudden, these started to crop up all over the basin in particular and down in Oregon.” The apple variety they target the most is the Golden Delicious.

Beers added that another recent scourge in orchards is the Lacanobia Fruitworm produces two generations in a year: a leaf feeder and a fruit feeder. Beers said the key to killing the bugs was to get to them early.

“It’s easier to kill the little ones than it is the big ones,” she said.

Other species that Beers warned orchardists to look out for were the speckled green fruitworm, the spotted cutworm, the green fruitworm and the pyramid fruitworm.

Dr. Robert Orpet, of WSU entomology, spoke about integrated pest management and how it works for pear psylla, which he mentioned is the number one pest in Washington. Symptoms of this bug include sticky leaves and fruit. Orpert talked about the studies of his team and gave recommendations for mite management in early spring, summer and fall management.

Following Orpet was Tory Schmidt of the Washington State Tree Fruit Research Commission. He gave a presentation entitled “Bi-annual Bearing 101.” Bi-annual bearing refers to trees that have irregular crop loads from season to season. When the branches have excess weight, it causes them to break. Schmidt, who has a pear orchard himself in Dryden, said he noticed on the drive to Chelan trees like his that have leaves that didn’t fall off. He said that this is bad since orchardists want thosenew  buds to become flowers for the next season. He discussed the purpose of alterations as having a balance between roots, fruits and shoots.

After lunch which was provided by Future Farmers of America, Rob Curtis, of WSU entomology, gave a pre-recorded talk about codling moth management.

After Curtis’ talk, the focus of the meeting shifted to labor efficiency and technology for increased profitability in the final three presentations. Lav Knot, of WSU Biological Systems engineering, spoke about tools to monitor crop water use. This included ground and aerial systems imager and ground truthing, which involves direct observation or measurement of the soil. Closing the meeting were Bernardita Sallato and Karen Lewis, both of WSU extension. Sallato spoke about soil mapping and testing methods while Lewis presented on deleafers for high color fruit.

Also throughout the day, different companies providing services for farmers and orchardists sat at booths in the Chelan High School commons to offer help and consultation.

DuPont mentioned how vital the orchard industry is to the region. Events like the Lake Chelan Horticulture Meeting are vital in providing quality produce for others to enjoy.

“Orchardists provide healthy food for our communities,” DuPont said. “Orchardists rely on new information for their pest management and horticulture to be profitable and productive.”


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