Tree Fruit Research & Extension Center

Jay F. Brunner

Research Objectives

While reliance on conventional broad-spectrum insecticides is still the dominant insect pest control tactic used on apple in Washington, development of resistance in pests, especially codling moth and leafrollers, has brought new urgency in the quest for alternative tactics. This, coupled with regulatory action, most notably the Food Quality Protection Act of 1996, and concerns from environmental, consumer and farm worker advocacy groups over pesticides, will hasten the loss of the "traditional" chemical controls.

Alternative pest control tactics include new highly selective insecticides, biological control, cultural control and behavioral control. The challenge for research isto develop alternative pest control tactics as part of a complete management program that maintains yield and quality expected by growers and demanded by consumers. To address the concerns of the fruit industry and the citizens of the state of Washington, specific objectives are given below.

  • Implement mating disruption as a control for codling moth on an areawide basis.
  • Evaluate the efficacy of new insecticide chemistries on pests which attack fruit directly and the impact of these chemicals on their natural enemies.
  • Develop sampling procedures and guidelines for making control decisions.
  • Develop biological control programs for leafrollers and other pests.
  • Determine the potential for producing apples without the use of neuroactive insecticides.

Research Philosophy

Dr. Brunner's philosophy is that pest management evolves naturally from an understanding of biological processes. His research examines fundamental biological interactions that determine how a control tactic influences pest and natural enemy populations. His research has demonstrated that the use of pheromones (mating disruption) to control codling moth is a viable tactic in combating this "key" pest of pome fruits. Removal of conventional insecticides from orchards has resulted in the elevation of leafrollers to key pest status. Research on controlling leafrollers with a combination of "soft" chemical controls, especially bacterial insecticides and insect growth regulators, and biological control is very promising.

Moving from pest control programs that depend upon broad-spectrum insecticides to those that utilize a variety of more selective control tactics results in a change in the orchard environment. The advantage comes in the form of a safer workplace and enhanced opportunities for biological control of some pests. The challenges come in the form of increased costs and expertise required to manage orchards and an increased threat from pests which might invade orchards from native habitats. Managing pest problems, such as stink bugs, will require some new thinking. The challenges for the future of tree fruit pest management are tremendous, as are the opportunities.

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