With the adoption in commercial apple orchards of fully dwarfed trees and ultra-high-density planting/training systems, containment or tunnel spraying becomes a feasible alternative to conventional airblast spraying. By spraying only within a canopy extending on both sides of the row being treated, tunnel spraying can dramatically reduce drift of agricultural chemicals to non-target areas and substantially decrease the quantity of chemical required. The potential environmental benefits are unmeasured. The quality of pest control should be enhanced, while at the same time, significantly reducing the quantity of pesticide used. A change in methodology such as this can only enhance the sustainability and competitiveness of apple farming in a steadily urbanizing part of the Country.
The Massachusetts Fruit Growers’ Association (MFGA), in partnership with the University of Massachusetts Fruit Program (UMass), will address the following objectives:
- demonstrate the feasibility of tunnel-sprayer technology in Massachusetts orchards, some with uneven terrain and small blocks;
- measure pesticide delivery to target trees and estimate drift to demonstrate that this approach will reduce environmental risk within and near orchards;
- assess efficacy of much-reduced pesticide application rates per acre in an effort to adjust rates and recommendations to account for much smaller tree volume per acre;
- compare the economics of higher technology application procedures and much reduced application rates to conventional approaches, assessing the economics of expensive but greatly reduced-risk alternatives; and
- institute educational programs in the forms of grower demonstrations, workshops, written and web-based factsheets, and videos.