Mary Rogers and student in the field.

Improving Yield and Quality of Small Fruit in Organic Production Systems Through Controlled Environment Agriculture

Principal Investigator

Mary Rogers

Department and College

Department of Horticultural Science in the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences

Project Number

21-077

Funding Type

Hatch

Partnering Organizations

  • USDA-ARS (Agricultural Research Service)

Project Start and End Date

October 1, 2018-September 30, 2023

Project Summary

Fresh fruit is part of a healthy diet and organically grown fruit is in high demand, in large part due to increasing consumer concerns with pesticide residues. Additionally, demand for localized production is strong. Currently, the biggest challenge to increasing the production of small fruit, including raspberries, strawberries, and blueberries, is the invasive spotted wing drosophila (SWD, Drosophila suzukii). This fly is an emerging invasive pest of soft-skinned fruit and berries, responsible for significant economic losses globally. Adults lay eggs in ripening fruit, rendering it unmarketable as larvae develop within the flesh. Consequently, there is zero tolerance for larvae in fresh fruit. Organic producers have few options for chemical pest management. Better management tools are needed in order to protect the organic fruit and berry industry and meet societal needs for fresh, high quality fruit. Multiple complementary strategies are required for integrated, sustainable pest management.

To address this challenge, this project will investigate cultural, biological, and chemical management strategies to reduce infestation by SWD in small fruit in an organic production context, using controlled environment agriculture (CEA). Controlled environment agriculture (CEA) is used by a many organic growers to produce high quality fruit and extend the growing season in temperate regions. Innovations in plastic coverings and netting to exclude SWD may be an easy-to-implement practice to maintain organic status and fruit quality. Additionally, CEA is ideal for augmentative biological control, or the release of natural enemies that may suppress pest populations. Organically approved pesticides may work better in CEA, as rainfall is eliminated and plastics may reduce pesticide degradation. Results from this project will be used to make recommendations to growers and shared with other researchers to improve knowledge of sustainable horticultural fruit production practices.