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Extension Fruit Program Projects


Dr. Maria Gannett (Extension Weed Specialist) and Matthew Bley (Extension Educator) have been awarded funding from the Massachusetts Fruit Growers' Horticultural Research Fund. Quinstar 4L has been demonstrated to provide excellent control of bindweeds on the West coast and Chateau EZ is a new formulation of Chateau SW, which will be phased out of production in the coming years. Their project aims to document the field efficacy of these pre-emergent herbicides, Quinstar 4L and Chateau EZ, at different rates. They also will also investigate the benefits of nitrification inhibitors when applied with standard ammonia fertilizers. Since ammonia is blueberry’s preferred form of nitrogen, by slowing the process of nitrification we hypothesize that weed pressure will be reduced as off-target fertilization is reduced. Their work at the Cold Spring Orchard will evaluate these different controls in combination with one another to develop season-long weed management recommendations.


Today’s consumers process a lot of information when selecting food products, using sustainability as a decision criterion, and coordination mechanisms for collective action organizations for new sustainability standards and practices need to be explored. The proposed project aims to investigate the adoption of sustainable business practices among Western Massachusetts wine producers and the social and environmental factors that may impede the adoption of these practices. The project will collect qualitative data through interviews with local wine producers and industry representatives. The overarching questions that will guide this research include the legitimization of claims of sustainable food production, awareness of existing sustainable practices in wine production, the role of collective action organizations in the adoption of sustainable business practices, grape growing practices with respect to sustainable land use, and environmental planning and policy dimensions that impact local viticulture in terms of regional economic development.

Honeycrisp is one of the most popular and profitable apples grown in the United States. However, it does have a plethora of problems that make this apple difficult and expensive to grow. One of the most serious and prevalent problems on Honeycrisp is the development of the disorder bitter pit. Corky areas appear on the fruit surface on fruit and their appearance disqualifies afflicted fruit from being brought to fresh fruit markets. Recent work by scientists from Michigan State University have shown that several foliar applications of NAA and ABA early in fruit development may mitigate this problem, but details and confirmation are lacking. This project is to test the effectiveness of NAA and ABA in reducing bitter pit on Honeycrisp apples growing at the UMass Cold Spring Orchard. 

College graduates with expertise in food, agriculture, urban agriculture, renewable natural resources, and the environment are essential in securing our food and energy supply. There is a need to train students with diverse ethnic social, and cultural backgrounds in research and Extension to provide them with better job opportunities. This project is four summer internships at the University of Massachusetts Amherst where students will learn about state Extensions and agricultural sciences. Throughout the program, student interns will evaluate perennial cropping systems, analyze soil health, monitor pests and diseases, and manage automated weather stations, among other activities. Designing and delivering oral presentations will also allow interns to develop their communication skills, especially regarding the translation of science for public use.

Massachusetts is on high alert for the potential invasion of the spotted lanternfly (SLF). Specialty crop producers are dealing with increased pressure from the brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB), an invasive pest that has become established and is already causing economic injury in hotspots throughout the state. Two University of Massachusetts Extension programs (the Landscape, Nursery, and Urban Forestry Program and the Fruit Program), the Stockbridge School of Agriculture, and the Department of Environmental Conservation are joining forces to monitor for SLF in MA, to conduct Extension/outreach on both invasive pests, and to conduct applied research aimed at (1) identifying attractive lures for SLF and (2) monitoring for the Samurai wasp, an egg parasitoid of the BMSB. This information is important given the potential implementation of biological control of BMSB in agricultural areas while potentially reducing urban and suburban home invasions of BMSB. 

This applied research project aims at evaluating trap cropping in association with the brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB) pheromone and insecticide-treated netting as a potential IPM tool to manage this invasive pest, particularly near crop harvest. In Massachusetts and other New England states, BMSB is affecting the fruit industry. Fruit growers face tough choices about protecting crops from BMSB near harvest, when pest populations are higher. Broad-spectrum insecticides are effective but also kill beneficial insects and some materials cannot be applied near harvest. Our main research goal is to pull stink bugs to the trap crop areas where they can be killed, away from the cash crop. In year 1, we will quantify BMSB response to sunflower and buckwheat combinations either, alone or in association with the BMSB pheromone. In year 2, we will select the most effective treatment and will assess the effectiveness of this approach at managing BMSB in commercial orchards.



This project seeks to develop a permanent trap cropping system involving grafting selected perimeter-row trees with six pest-attractive apple cultivars. In 2018, over 100 trees were grafted with 6 cultivars each at 11 orchards in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine. Those cultivars were selected based on grower input and published information. Apple cultivars were compared by measuring their attractiveness to plum curculio, a key economic pest. PC injury, ovipositional scars, were recorded to determine whether particular apple cultivars are more susceptible to PC than others based on fruit injury levels.

Advanced apple variety selections from the Midwest Apple Improvement Association breeding program are being planted as they become available and casually evaluated for tree growth and fruit characteristics. In the past, numbered selections have been named, giving apple growers a heads-up on new apple variety selections worthy of planting in their orchards.

A modern, pedestrian apple orchard system(s) comparison using a disease-resistant rootstock (Geneva 11) and variety (Crimson Crisp) was planted in 2022 at the UMass Orchard. The multi-leader systems comparison includes super-spindle (single leader), bi-leader, and multi-leader cordon. Annual data collection to include fruit quality and yield as well as casual observation of training systems differences.

The NC-140 Regional Research Project is designed to address a number of high-priority areas within the North Central Region as well as other parts of North America. This project seeks to enhance economically and environmentally sustainable practices in temperate fruit production by focusing on rootstocks. At the UMass Orchard: 2014 NC-140 Vineland-Geneva rootstock planting on 14 rootstocks with Honeycrisp as the scion, tree growth and yield data collected annually 2014-2023 (10 years). 2023 was the last year of data collection; Porters Perfection cider apple rootstock planting on 8 rootstocks in Spring 2023.

Controlling the final fruit number on an apple tree is one of the most economically critical management practices in apple growing. Through this project we will further develop precision crop load management tools consisting of computer models, machine vision, robotics and decision support tools to which will allow apple growers to accurately calculate a target fruit number for each tree and then quickly count flower buds and later fruitlets using machine vision and geo-referenced maps to guide the severity of pruning and later guide bloom and post-bloom chemical thinning, and lastly to guide human workers when hand thinning to maximize crop value. This project directly addresses SCRI priority area number 3 “to improve production efficiency, handling and processing, productivity, and profitability over the long term” using a systems approach of plant physiology, crop management, computer vision, robotics, economics, sociology and Extension.

Prior to the turn of the 21st century, most U.S. states produced few to no grapevine, primarily because of limitation in cold hardiness and disease and pest resistance of the Vitis vinifera, the European grapevine species that comprises most commercial cultivars grown in the U.S. in traditional production regions.  The recent introduction of new, interspecific hybrid cultivars that incorporate more of the world natural diversity of grapevine species and thus, more climate resilience and disease and pest resistances, has allowed the development of grape industries in regions previously considered unsuitable.  The major V. vinifera cultivars grown worldwide were selected over decades or even centuries for best suitability in European regions and were then spread to California's and other arid western U.S. states.  Therefore, in comparison to V. vinifera, the evaluation of the new hybrids for non-traditional regions needs more time.  Moreover, in face of climate change, continued evaluation of V. vinifera and hybrid cultivars is critical to maintaining the grapevine industries in both traditional and non-traditional grapevine growing regions.  Economically, grapevine cultivars evaluation is one of the most significant components of grapevine industry: “Planting a poorly-adapted cultivar in the wrong place is a costly mistake.”  As new grapevine regions experience continued growth, the subsequent economic impact that comes with it is dependent on improving quality and quantity of grapes and wines produced. Continued discovery, development, and evaluation of grapevine cultivars is critical for maintaining sustainability and growth within the whole grapevine industry sector.  To respond to the need created by climate change and the growth of the grapevine industry in non-traditional regions, new cultivar selections are produced by breeding programs.  Testing of new cultivars is typically limited to a few areas.  Coordinated, multi-state testing is needed to evaluate adaptation in a variety of environments.  With changing climate and increased weather variability, cultivar adaptation, including physiological hardiness and robustness to changes in insect and disease pressure will be an increasing issue.  This project leverages substantial investments made in breeding programs and helps evaluate genotype x environment interactions.

Named and numbered peach and nectarine selections are under casual evaluation and demonstration at the UMass Cold Spring Orchard. Most of them are varieties/selection from Paul Friday/Flaming Fury and Rutgers/Adams County Nursery breeding and variety introduction programs. Data collected includes flowering, yield, and fruit quality (size, color, firmness, brix, maturity, and taste/consumer acceptance), and  pest susceptibility. Results/variety recommendations are available to growers at meetings, personal consultation/visits to UMass Orchard.