Good Question: And the greatest breakthrough in orchard pest control would be...?
We posed the question to researchers and extension educators around the country. Pest management has changed dramatically in the last decade as growers have moved away from organophosphates to more selective pesticides and nondisruptive techniques. Scientists continue to seek alternatives to insecticides for control of major and secondary tree fruit pests.
Larry GutMichigan State University, East Lansing
"Totally effective mating disruption."
Gut and his colleagues have set a goal to develop a high-performance mating disruption system that would stop mating completely, even when pest pressure is high, and eliminate the need for supplementary sprays.
"We think mating disruption is a nice addition to pest management, but it generally only works when pest densities are low, and you generally combine it with companion insecticides, and you generally don't get 100 percent disruption," he explained.
Gut is working on a different, more effective type of technology that probably will be patented.
"This is my career dream," he said. "If I could end my career with having actually disrupted codling moth at that level, I would be ecstatic."
Alan KnightAgricultural Research Service, Yakima, Washington
"Get off the pesticide treadmill."
Many new pesticides are available, and growers are adopting them as fast as they can, Knight observed. This has resulted in more problems with secondary pests and more spraying. Natural enemies that had built up tolerance to organophosphates don't have tolerance to some of the new products.
"I just look at ourselves right now, and we're excited because we have all these new tools. We're on a pesticide treadmill."
Knight would like to see growers adopt a nondisruptive codling moth program based on mating disruption using improved pheromone systems together with the granulosis virus. A combination of pheromones and the virus is used successfully in Switzerland by conventional and organic growers alike, he said. Knight thinks the barriers to adopting it in the United States are: a perception that it's not very effective, a concern about having to apply multiple sprays, and unwillingness to accept a certain amount of fruit injury initially until the codling moth population declines.
Ideally, Knight would like to see an areawide codling moth suppression program, such as sterile-insect release, or a totally nondestructive technique, such as trees genetically modified to incorporate the Bacillus thuringiensis toxin, but he thinks it unlikely those would be implemented in the United States.
Rachel ElkinsUniversity of California Extension, Lake County
"Cheaper, more effective mating disruption."
Helmut RiedlOregon State University, Hood River
"Wider adoption of new tools."
It would be a significant breakthrough if growers were to take advantage of more of the newer developments in pest management, such as monitoring and decision tools, including thresholds, Riedl said. "I think growers could really benefit from adopting some of these tools more than they actually do."
He'd like to see university and U.S. Department of Agriculture entomologists provide information to growers via publications and the Internet to educate them about new pest tools, but said their programs have been facing financial constraints.
Extension cannot work with individual growers one on one, and there are too few private pest management consultants, he said. The chemical dealer field representatives who advise growers are focused on selling them products. He would like dealers to offer growers the option of paying for pest management services without necessarily buying products, too.
Vince JonesWashington State University, Wenatchee
Art AgnelloCornell University, NYSAES, New York
"More effective pheromone technology."
Jay BrunnerWashington State University, Wenatchee
Ultimately, it might be possible to use genetic engineering to introduce a plant defense system into apple trees that reduces the ability of codling moth to reproduce so that it can be managed more easily with pheromones and biological control, Brunner imagines.
"There might be naturally occurring plant defenses that are already present in some apple species that could be incorporated into commercial cultivars," he said, noting, however, that society might not be ready yet for that kind of approach. "That's out there a ways."