Apples and peaches, high-value crops in eastern United States, were the focus of a regional research project aimed at finding solutions to problems resulting from reduced availability of and increased resistance to organophosphate and other broad-spectrum pesticides.

The research project, titled “Reduced-Risk Pest Management Programs for Eastern Tree Fruits,” was funded by a $1.9 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Risk Avoidance and Mitigation Program, known as RAMP. The project was conducted in seven states—Michigan, New York, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia.

Since the broad-sweeping Food Quality Protection Act was implemented nearly a decade ago, pesticide registrations have been reevaluated for worker exposure, dietary impact, and residues. The new regulatory process has reduced the availability of certain pesticides, like organophosphates and carbamates. Additionally, insects, like codling moth, are developing resistance to broad-spectrum pesticides such as Guthion.

Scientists, recognizing the difficulty that East Coast peach and apple growers face in controlling pests without organophosphates, embarked on a four-year effort to help growers learn how to use reduced-risk pest management strategies. They wanted to find answers to the challenges of growing apples and peaches under an integrated pest management approach. The project began in 2002.

Objectives of the multistate RAMP project were to determine the effectiveness of reduced-risk pest management practices; evaluate the economics of reduced-risk tactics for managing key pests; measure changes in the biological systems resulting from the tactics;
and, develop and deliver educational programs for implementation.

The field trials studied a variety of pest control tactics for peaches and apples, including selective insecticides and acaricides, mating disruption, conservation of natural enemies, and cultural practices. A wide range of selective materials was evaluated—insect growth regulators, antibiotics, microbials, nicotinoids, oxadiazines, kaolin, horticultural mineral oils, tetrazines, and hexythiazox.

Tart cherries

A similar, four-year RAMP project for tart cherries, involving the states of Michigan, Wisconsin, and Utah, began in 2003 and will continue through September 2007. The tart cherry RAMP project is focused on developing and delivering reduced-risk integrated pest management strategies to keep the industry viable.