Extension educator putting fruit research into practice

“Research is pointless unless you can convey the results to people who can use it. They go hand-in-hand.” This quote from Visiting Associate Extension Educator Mary Concklin reveals her desire to combine science with education as she works with fruit and those who grow it.

Since 2012, Concklin, who is now in a 100 percent grant funded position, has been doing research and “getting the word out” through on-farm demonstrations, grower conferences and one-on-one training. Her primary audience is in Connecticut.

Controlling insect pests with IPM

One of Concklin’s recent research projects involved finding a control for spotted wing drosophila (SWD), a relatively new invasive insect pest that lays its eggs in maturing berry crops and renders them unmarketable.

SWD was not eliminated in previous tests with traps placed throughout berry plantings, and the technique was too expensive. The only control seemed to be one or two pesticide applications per week.

Concklin turned to an integrated pest management (IPM) method used successfully in vegetable crops called perimeter trap cropping. In this two-year project, the goal was to protect a late season strawberry crop from a peak population of SWD by surrounding the strawberries with a fall red raspberry planting.

No insecticides were applied to the strawberries, but the raspberries were sprayed from the inside of the block outward. As a result, 96 percent of the strawberry fruit was free of SWD and marketable. “This could provide another management tool for berry growers,” Concklin said.

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