WOOSTER, Ohio — The trick to outsmarting insects and diseases on peppers may lie in the way chemicals are applied to the vegetable crop.
A team of Ohio State University and USDA entomologists, plant pathologists and agricultural engineers are tackling the task of finding more efficient ways of managing pests and diseases through new research in sprayer technology.
"The standard way of applying chemicals to vegetables involves a small droplet application with high pressure and high volume," said Richard Derksen, a U.S. Department of Agriculture engineer who holds an adjunct appointment with the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center in Wooster, Ohio. "You may get good coverage with that treatment, but sometimes you don't always get coverage or penetration where you need it. And you always have to think about drift hazards."
Derksen, along with other OARDC researchers, is conducting various sprayer experiments to determine the effectiveness of controlling such insects as European corn borer and such diseases as anthracnose and bacterial soft rot, while providing the best coverage with the least amount of application.
Derksen will present the findings of the research at the Ohio Fruit and Vegetable Growers' Congress, being held Jan. 19-21 at the Toledo Seagate Convention Centre and Radisson Hotel in Toledo, Ohio. The annual conference, which consists of general sessions, workshops, a trade show and other related events, is geared toward individuals and businesses interested in fruit and vegetable crop production and marketing.
Sprayer technology research that was conducted on pepper plants included:
• Large droplet, low-drift nozzle: improves penetration and has a positive impact on the environment, but may not always provide growers the coverage they are seeking.
• Fine droplet, twin-fan pattern nozzle: improves coverage by changing the angle spray enters the canopy compared to traditional fan nozzles.
• Air assistance technology: small droplets combined with air to improve coverage, but there may be problems in treating the underside of the plant leaves.
• Electrostatic charge: placing an electric charge on very small droplets (40-50 microns compared to the standard 200 microns) and adding air to blow the droplets throughout the canopy. The charge provides the opportunity for droplets to be attracted to its opposite charge; in this case, the leaf. And the low volume treatment (1/5th the volume of 6.5 gallons of water per acre versus the standard 30 gallons of water per acre) could make for a less expensive application for growers.
"We wanted to compare insects and diseases provided by of each of those technologies and see if any of these treatments provides better control," said Derksen. "We want growers to start thinking about modifying management practices on a need basis — optimizing plant management practices that not only provide better pesticide control, but also save time, save money and help provide better quality fruit while still maintaining a safe food supply with less impact on the environment."
Researchers are also looking at spray interval and sprayer speed to determine how those variables impact application performance. Other OARDC researchers involved in the project include plant pathologist Sally Miller, entomologist Celeste Welty, horticulturist Mark Bennett and graduate student Salvador Vitanza.
For more information on the Ohio Fruit and Vegetable Growers Congress, log on to http://www.ohiofruit.org, http://www.ohiovegetables.org or call Susan Gaughan at (614) 246-8292, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
The conference is sponsored by Ohio State University Extension, Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center, Ohio Vegetable and Potato Growers Association and the Ohio Fruit Growers Society, Ohio Direct Agricultural Marketing Association and the Ohio Christmas Tree Association.