Speakers & Sessions

Focus on Fruit and Vegetable Technologies Morning General Sessions 

Pollinators: The Latest Buzz about Bees

Speakers: Julianna Wilson and Kelsey Graham

While honeybees may be the best known for pollination services, did you know that up to half or more of the bees that pollinate fruit and vegetable crops in Michigan are not honeybees?

In fact, more than 500 different species of wild bees make their home in Michigan and have very different lifestyles than the honey bee. Many of these bees are important as crop pollinators and in some cases are more efficient than honeybees.

In this session we will dispel the myth that eliminating “competing” flowers will lead to better crop pollination. Instead, attendees will learn about how to manage and incorporate more non-crop flowers in order to improve the health and reproductive potential of both managed and wild bees that provide pollination services in fruits and vegetables.

High Tunnels: Create Your Own Climate Change with High Tunnels

Speakers: Gregory Lang, with Jay Budd, Ron Goldy, Eric Hanson and Judson Reid

In our technology-driven society, one challenge in fruit and vegetable production is the weather. Every grower has experienced the apparent increasing frequency of damaging weather events that are difficult to predict, add risk and reduce profits.

High tunnels can reduce weather-related risks associated with spring frost, rain, hail, wind or other adverse conditions. However, tunnels also provide the potential to change the production climate around high value horticultural crops by altering temperatures, light quality and quantity, pest and beneficial insect populations, and diseases – all of which impact fruit and vegetable development, quality, and marketing windows.

This session summarizes the high tunnel strategies and economic factors that can alter micro-climatic conditions and impact production and marketing opportunities for vegetables, berries, wine grapes and tree fruits.

Drones: Drone Technologies: What Growers Need to Know

Speakers: Bob Goodwin

Learn what the latest drone and sensor technologies can do for crop management. Get the information you need to determine if drones have a place on your farm and gain an understanding of how you can put these technologies into action.  

Best Practices for Spray Applications: More Where You Want it and Less Where You Don’t

Speakers: Mark Ledebuhr 

Achieving success in the fruit and vegetable industries is partly due to how farmers can balance the many factors impacting their spray program to combat pests and disease. Mark Ledebuhr of Application Insight, LLC, will show how to measure wind speed and direction as well as targeting and calibrating sprayers for better coverage, less waste, and maximum pest and disease control.

Irrigation: Getting the Most from Your Irrigation Inputs

Speakers: Lyndon Kelly, Steve Miller, Phil Ausra, John Nye and Ron Goldy

Irrigation is important even in Michigan’s high rainfall climate for risk reduction in fruit and vegetable crops. Efficient water use maximizes production and minimizes economic inputs while protecting a valuable natural resource. Many growers also use their irrigation system for nutrient delivery. Efficient water use helps maximize nutrient uptake and prevents loss due to leaching. Demonstrations in this session will help producers understand efficient water application.

Afternoon Focus Sessions: Fruit, Vegetable and Grape Specific

Vegetable Focus

Cover Crops: Making Cover Crops a Priority

Speakers: Dan Brainard, Christina Currell and Colleen Foresteri

Cover crops can play a vital role in building and maintaining soil health. However, success depends on finding the right cover crop for the right window to achieve your desired results. This session will demonstrate innovative strategies for incorporating diverse cover crops into vegetable production systems.

Fungicides/Diseases: Managing Diseases for Higher Profitability and a Safer Environment

Speaker: Mary Hausbeck

Explore management strategies that tackle a persistent, soil-borne mold called Phytophthora capsici that kills plants and rots fruit. Producers will have the opportunity to observe field studies in squash and peppers to see how new fungicides can be used to combat this mold. Different stages of infection will be demonstrated and participants will learn how to develop application programs to more effectively protect both the plant and fruit.

Irrigation: Insights on Fine-Tuning Your Vegetable Irrigation

Speakers: Lyndon Kelly, Steve Miller, Phil Ausra, John Nye and Ron Goldy

A comparison of nutrient flow and potential movement in soil using different drip systems will be demonstrated during this session. After dye injection, trenches will be dug exposing flow patterns. We will examine effects of different emitter spacing and potential benefits of pulsing irrigation applications. Outputs from soil moisture sensors will be discussed as a method to verify checkbook irrigation scheduling and improve water use efficiency.

High Tunnels: Niche Market Vegetables: High Tunnels, High Yields

Speakers: Judson Reid, Cornell Extension, and Ron Goldy, MSU Extension

High tunnels have been adopted by a diverse group of farmers to enhance productivity, harvest windows and crop quality for warm weather vegetables and cut-flowers. High tunnels eliminate some pests and diseases, while accentuating others, and can facilitate improved deployment of beneficial biological control agents. 

Recent research has revealed a need for long-term nutrient planning, crop rotation, cover crops and pest control for in-soil (vs. soil-less media bags or pots) high tunnel vegetable production. Without long-term planning, nutrients such as calcium, phosphorus and magnesium, along with pH, become elevated, leading to decreased yields and economic loss. The economics for high tunnel production of standard and specialty vegetable crops also will be addressed.

Fruit Focus

Frost and Micro Climate Modification: Precision Management of Tree Fruit Orchards – Integrating bio-regulators, predictive models and technology to manipulate plant development, vegetative growth and fruiting

Speakers: Jim Flore and Todd Einhorn

Explore the latest techniques to improve tree fruit cropping by implementing predictive models, technology, and plant growth regulators. Strategies to mitigate spring frost damage using techniques that delay flower development and alter orchard microclimate such as overhead misting, under-canopy microsprinklers and wind machines will be demonstrated in this session. Growers will also learn the value of inversion towers to inform frost protection decisions and learn about the efficacy of current and future plant growth regulators to alter crop load and manage vigor of apples and pears. New plant growth models designed to improve the use of plant growth regulators for precision management of crop load and fruit quality will also be discussed.

High Density Peach Hedging/Platforms for Labor Savings: Taking a Narrow View: Precision Stone Fruit Orchards

Speakers: Bill Shane and Greg Lang

Promising new stone fruit production technologies include improved varieties with bacterial spot resistance, potentially dwarfing rootstocks, fully- or partially-mechanized orchard tasks (such as mechanized blossom thinning, hedging, and worker/picker platforms) and even climate modification with high tunnels.

A key factor for utilizing many of these technologies is the re-development of stone fruit canopy architectures into “fruiting wall” orchard systems. A narrow tree wall optimizes canopy light distribution, resulting in higher and more uniform fruit quality, greater labor efficiency, easier adoption of protective orchard covers or high tunnels and improved spray coverage with reduced drift. Such technologies, and the strong “eat local/regional” fresh produce movement, may herald a renaissance of high value stone fruit production opportunities for Michigan growers.

Insects: New Techniques for Outwitting Insect Pests in Tree Fruit Orchards

Speaker: Larry Gut

Insects view orchards as great places to find food and multiply. There are many innovative ways to confuse, mislead, or eliminate insect pest problems, thus maintaining fruit quality and reducing the use of insecticides. Synthetic insect sex pheromones and volatile feeding attractants influence insect behavior and can be used against them to our advantage. Innovative technologies for dispensing attractants, trap designs and new research on how best to deploy them have led to new strategies for effective insect management in tree fruit crops.

New tools and methods have imaginative names such as mating disruption, attract and kill, push pull, ghost traps, pyramid traps and drone delivery of sterile moths. This session introduces some newer tactics based on manipulating insect behavior for improved and environmentally sound insect pest management in orchards.

High Tunnels: Can High Tunnels Make Berry Growing More Profitable?

Speaker: Eric Hanson, MSU Horticulture

Michigan’s cold winters and humid, variable growing seasons can limit the profitability of raspberries and strawberries, as well as the survival of blackberries. High tunnels alter the crop environment in ways that improve both bramble yields and quality. New production systems utilizing potted raspberries and blackberries have the potential to increase marketing options with more flexible harvest times and can be used even where soils are poor. Although early studies indicated that in-ground strawberries did not benefit greatly from high tunnels, new single-, double-, and triple-row integrated high tunnel strawberry substrate support systems have potential benefits for both production and labor efficiency.

Grape Focus

High Tunnels: Tuscany on Lake Michigan: High Tunnels and Wine Grapes?

Speakers: Jay Budd and Sean O’Keefe, Mari Vineyards, Old Mission Peninsula

Michigan’s cold winters, moderate summer heat and relatively short growing season limit its award-winning fine wine production to cold-hardy, relatively short-season wine grape varieties. However, the potential for high tunnels to capture additional heat, extend the growing season and protect ripening grapes from damaging fall rain events, may opens up new possibilities for fully ripening some of the classic, long-season vinifera wine grape varieties that exhibit adequate cold hardiness, like Nebbiolo and Petite Verdot.

Many of the same principles and benefits of high tunnel production for berries and cherries also pertain to wine grapes, including reduced pesticide use and enhanced yields without negative effects on wine quality. Attendees will learn about high tunnel management effects and challenges both grape growing and wine making, in the context of fine wine market niches and returns-on-investment.

Mechanical Leaf Removal: Canopy and Cluster Zone Management

Speakers: Paolo Sabbatini

Grape growers in cool climate viticultural areas like Michigan are increasingly recognizing that grapes with greater sun exposure and increased temperature, develop more aroma and color and are less susceptible to powdery mildew and botrytis and sour rot infection. As a result, leaf removal around the cluster zone has become a pivotal tool to optimize grape quality at harvest and in turn has brought several technical development in leaf removal equipment.

A new class of leaf removers operate by blowing compressed air with enough force to break the leaves, contrarily to the old systems that were sucking the leaves into the path of a cutting tool. The utilization of this new equipment in Michigan vineyard has the potential to produce the kind of incremental reduction in rot and vineyard management costs that can change the course of the state industry. The demonstration will help our industry to better understand how removal, a practical canopy management tool, can be used to influence several fruit and must quality parameters under conditions of varying degrees of rot severity

Vineyard of the Future

Speaker: Mark Longstroth

Juice grape growers are looking for new means to improve profitability. This session will discuss the results from MSU’s Vineyard of the Future study that is working to increase the efficiency of Concord vineyards using rootstocks, new training systems and mechanical pruning strategies to increase yields.

Vineyard Mechanization

Speaker: Mike DeSchaaf and David Francis 

Increasing the use of mechanization is an ongoing theme across Michigan agriculture and it is no different for the grape industry. A local grape grower will talk about mechanization of traditionally manual tasks in vineyards so to reduce labor costs and maintain grape quality and vine health.
 

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