Utah Pests News Winter 2007-08

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Grower Profile:  IPM Practitioner and Apple Orchardist Dale Rowley 

Spring brings abundant blooms to the Rowleys’ Cherry Hill Farms orchards.  
For the past 16 years, Dale Rowley and his two brothers have run Cherry Hill Farms, a 600 acre orchard located in the heart of Utah’s fruit growing region. There they grow apples, tart and sweet cherries, and peaches. Dale manages the 110 acres of apples, which include ‘Fuji,’ ‘Golden Delicious,’ ‘Gala,’ and others.

Dale and his family are at the forefront of pest management, and strongly believe in using the least toxic materials available. He has been a member of the Utah State Horticultural Association (USHA) for the past 22 years and stays current on the newest technologies and materials. "We have made a practice to be involved in the industry by attending meetings in other states and learning what is going on," says Dale. "We have friends in other areas that we visit with and ask for suggestions. Our local farm supply store helps us with new products, and Utah State University has a great Extension program and we work closely with them."

Dale was one of the first growers in Utah to use mating disruption to manage codling moth on his apples. He learned about the technique from entomologists at Washington State University, and in 2000, set up a small experimental plot to test its effects in Utah. He expanded the program to his entire apple acreage the following year.

"Using mating disruption has changed the way we manage many of the apple pests," says Dale. "We now hang pheromone traps and scout the orchard regularly for a variety of other pests, including fire blight." When Dale’s schedule is too hectic (he manages 40 summer employees), his daughter or niece will fill the role of scout. They both have been trained to identify the major pests in Dale’s apples, including spider mites, leafhopper, and aphids. "Since using mating disruption, some other pest problems have increased, such as thrips and woolly apple aphid. We’re using fewer chemicals; the "traditional" codling moth spray program would normally knock down those pest populations."

Dale knows the importance of monitoring when not following a traditional spray program. He has codling moth traps throughout his orchard. If the moth count exceeds six in one trap, then a spray is applied to that specific block, not to the entire orchard. "I feel that using mating disruption has greatly reduced the amount of infested fruit on our farm. But you have to be careful. If you don’t monitor your traps and stay on top of it, you could get a lot more damage than a standard spray program."

And the Rowley’s apples are some of the best around. Dale says that Utah County is prime fruit-growing country due to the ample water supply (underground wells and the Strawberry Reservoir), good soil, and optimal year-round temperatures. Although nature has not always been nice. "We have had total freeze outs where no fruit was harvested at all. Each year brings its own challenges and we have grown from each one. Hopefully we have become better because of having gone through them."

Interested in some of the Rowley’s apples? You can find them at Wal-Mart, Smith’s Foods, local markets, and fruit stands in Orem, Layton, and Santaquin. (The USHA also maintains a Web site on where to buy Utah fruit at utahfruit.com.) Dale, however, has his fill of apples every day, and loves every minute. "But I escape from the apples when I come home. We have such long days that the apple trees I used to have at home died from lack of attention." He certainly cannot say that about his farm! To learn more about Cherry Hill Farms, visit cherryhillfarms.com.

Dale has been a cooperator on several USU Extension’s research projects for many years, and we are grateful to him for his service.

-Marion Murray, IPM Project Leader