Cherry growers soon will be able to have powdery mildew alerts delivered through their cell phones, says the director of Washington State University’s AgWeatherNet.

The cherry powdery mildew model can be accessed on WSU’s AgWeatherNet Web site and will also be part of the university’s Decision Aid Program, an online program for tree fruit growers that integrates phenology models of insects and diseases, said Dr. Gary Grove, AgWeatherNet director. With almost 125 weather stations located throughout Washington State and 3,500 subscribers, the free network collects data and provides weather updates. Such information, when coupled with short-term weather forecasts, can be useful in predicting pest outbreaks.

The cherry mildew model identifies critical disease events and tells growers when to start and stop spraying, and how often, Grove explained. It also provides a list of fungicides that can be applied and their efficacy rating against various degrees of disease severity that has been developed through years of fungicide testing.

WSU is working to develop "push" outputs for the AgWeatherNet program to deliver weather and pest model information to growers with cellular phones that can receive voice mail or text messages.

"We want to get information to growers on the go and save them critical time," Grove said. Receiving a powdery mildew alert in the middle of the afternoon when a grower is in the orchard—instead of at night when he or she is near a computer—could mean the quick addition of a fungicide to an already-scheduled spray, he added.