• Evaluating experimental and registered insecticides/acaricides for the control of the major pests attacking tree fruits, and tolerance by their natural enemies.
  • Describing the gene flow between resistant and susceptible tufted apple bud moth populations in an orchard ecosystem, studying the fitness differences between susceptible and insecticide-resistant populations.
  • Continuing with long-term laboratory and orchard studies to investigate the potential of the tufted apple bud moth and the obliquebanded leafroller to develop resistance to various insect-growth-regulator products and whether these two pest species are cross-resistant to the organophosphate insecticides.
  • Assessing the baseline susceptibility of Oriental fruit moth pest populations from Pennsylvania to commonly used insecticides and to develop an egg hatch model for accurate timing of control measures.
  • Determining the effectiveness of various pheromone-mating-disruption dispenser systems (i.e., hand-applied, sprayable formulations, microsprayers, and "puffers") for disrupting the mating of various moth pests of tree fruits.
  • Management strategies are needed to minimize the development of pesticide resistance in pests and pathogens and to promote resistance in natural enemies of pests.
  • Evaluation of multispecies pheromone blends for disrupting the communication of various moth pests of fruits via a single-release mechanism.
  • Pesticides with different modes of action that are highly effective, environmentally safe, and practical for use in commercial orchards will be evaluated.
  • Investigate the potential to use Global Positioning System (GPS) technology in site-specific pest and natural enemy sampling, fertilizing, plant spacing, and yield monitoring.


  • Investigating the vigor and production efficiency of experimental rootstocks and interstem combinations for apples as part of the NC-140 national rootstock testing program.
  • Effect of controlled atmosphere storage on storage quality of Ginger Gold, Gala, Braeburn, and Fuji apples (cooperative with USDA, Beltsville).
  • The potential of new untested apple varieties to perform in the southcentral area of Pennsylvania is being investigated. Over 50 varieties are now planted as part of the NE-183 national apple variety testing program.
  • Evaluations of new plant growth regulators including Apogee® that can reduce the vegetative vigor of apple and pear trees may dramatically change the way that apples are grown and may reduce the severity of fire blight epidemics.
  • Develop apple thinning programs for the major apple varieties in the Mid-Atlantic area to overcome alternate bearing, a major limitation in annual production.
  • Major efforts will continue in the testing of apple varieties and rootstocks that can thrive in the Mid-Atlantic area. Both varieties and rootstocks must be able to overcome the environmental limitations here and must be able to efficiently produce the quality of fruit demanded by the fresh and processing industries.
  • Continue research on plant growth regulators in large orchard trials to determine effects on orchard management and productivity.
  • Refinements to the current recommendations for thinning apples will most likely focus on environmental and plant growth regulator factors. Less emphasis will be placed on an optimum fruit size, and effective programs will be available to thin apples from full bloom to the 20 mm fruit size.

Plant Pathology

  • Determining the susceptibility of apple cultivars and rootstocks to fire blight, a major bacterial disease.
  • Evaluating efficacy and usefulness of bacterial antagonist, systemic-resistant action (SRA) compounds and improved formulations of copper compounds for management of fire blight in apple and pear orchards.
  • Evaluating mode of action and residual efficacy of new fungicides for control of major apple, pear, and stone fruit diseases.
  • Determining the most feasible disease management strategies for tree fruit, including disease-prediction models and precision in application timing.
  • Refinements in expert systems orchard management programs to improve diagnosis and management of tree fruit pests and diseases. Investigations to evaluate the potential of developing transgenic Prunus rootstocks with resistance to the tomato ringspot virus will be conducted.

Fruit disease and pest fact sheets from Penn State Extension

Lake Erie Regional Grape Research and Extension Center - extensive grape plant pathology research by Bryan Hed

Automated and Precision Agriculture

  • Investigating a novel mechanical end-effector for an automated robotic pruning system for tree fruit crops, especially for apples and peaches.
  • Increasing irrigation system efficiency for apple and peach orchards by monitoring crop water stress (CWS) using an infrared thermometer with integration of soil water content and climate.
  • Measuring the energy transfer in branch-fruit sections under vibrations being explored for a mass harvesting system for fresh market apples.
  • Investigation of fruit accessibility with different tree architectures or different pruning treatments to gain guideline information for robotic fruit picking.
  • Autonomous ground vehicle development with adjustable worker position for human assist orchard operations or fully automated systems for tree fruit production.
  • Robotic tree branch training for forming modern narrow tree wall systems.
  • Investigations of Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) applications and decision making in precision agriculture, including crop water stress monitoring, crop health as well as orchard mapping.

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