A research report from Drs. Vincent Jones, Gary Grove, and Jay Brunner, Washington State University

While the tree fruit industry is no stranger to change, in terms of pest management, the magnitude of the changes we are currently experiencing are greater now than in the past 40 years. In particular, we are moving away from codling moth control programs based on organophosphate insecticides and towards programs based on mating ­disruption and softer insecticides.

This change has already begun, and while the overall result has been acceptable, it is clear that the change has not come without growing pains. In part, the problems are related to the large number of new insecticides that typically require better coverage and better timing to achieve acceptable control. It is good that there are a large number of OP alternatives, but their impacts on nontarget insects and mites are poorly known, and we are finding that the new integrated pest management programs are typically less stable than the ones being replaced. Because so many changes in IPM are happening at once, it is difficult to tease out cause and effect, and users of the new materials are faced with a bewildering combination of options, timing, and nontarget effects.

The entire problem is magnified by the fact that IPM is by nature dependent on time-sensitive information that can change drastically within days.

Time sensitive

The time-sensitive nature of IPM information, the need to integrate data from numerous sources, and the increasingly widespread availability of high-speed Internet connections makes this a perfect time to develop Web-based tools to help IPM managers make decisions. At WSU, we have been working on such a program for the past two years. The WSU-Decision Aid System integrates weather data, insect and disease models, management recommendations, and a pesticide recommendation database to provide a "one-stop" shopping experience for time–sensitive IPM information that can be predicted. You can find WSU-DAS at das.wsu.edu, where first-time users are required to set up an account and to choose the sites and models they want to use.

The models on WSU-DAS are driven by weather data recorded statewide by the WSU AgWeather Net system and predicted site-specific weather data (out to 10 days) obtained from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The combination of near real-time weather and the projected weather data make WSU-DAS a powerful tool for planning IPM activities well ahead of time. For the 2008 season, there will be nine insect models, three disease models, and the storage scald model available to all users (see Table 1).

The model outputs provide the current status of the pest/pathogen, the ten-day projections, and management actions that would be appropriate currently and in the ten-day window (see Figure 1).

The pesticide databases in WSU–DAS allow users to directly compare materials in terms of efficacy on the target pest and other key pests in the orchard (see Figure 2).

In addition, the impacts of the materials on natural-enemy populations are also provided, allowing users to choose materials in a way that should help preserve natural-enemy populations, resulting in a more ­stable IPM program.

WSU-DAS was opened to the public last March and operated continuously throughout the 2007 growing season. We started with only our 11 beta testers, but by the end of the season, we had 610 registered users and during peak times of the season, averaged 70 hits per day on the Web site. We expect the number of users will increase even more this season.

The near future

Development of the Web site is still under way, and numerous changes will occur in the next few years and further into the future. The system was designed to be adaptable so that we can integrate new sensors, new models, and different ways for users to obtain important data. In the 2008 season, we will add to the graphical output options, add two new models (peach twig borer and cherry powdery mildew), and allow users to add weather data from their own weather stations.

In 2009, you can expect more models (shot hole of stone fruit and a thinning model), different ways to access the model (e-mail, text messaging, phone browsers), the addition of organic recommendations, and an ability to look at historic data to evaluate timing as a potential problem in orchards.

In terms of features that are three or more years down the road, we expect that we will have general improvements on the interface, such as a Spanish version, more extensive help files, an executive overview for each site, other pest models, and models for natural enemies. We will also work to make the models interactive with each other and with the pesticide recommendations to fine-tune which materials would give the best results in a given situation.

A look-back feature will also be added so that a user can evaluate the effect of their pesticide timings or differences between when a pesticide was recommended and when it was actually applied. Some of these features may come much sooner, depending on our ability to develop an interface that integrates the features without overwhelming the user.

At present, use of WSU-DAS is free and available to all, although we will require all users to take a short survey to help us improve the Web site to better fit their needs. Development of the system has been funded for the past two years and for the next two years by the Washington Tree Fruit Research Commission and recently by the Washington Commission on Pesticide Registration. Future funding of the system is in flux, but we hope to continue the free and open-access policy. However, if long-term funding cannot be acquired, it is likely that user fees will have to be ­initiated at some point to keep the system on-line.