Excitement for the fruit industry is a Wise thing
posted on May 16, 2011 8:54am
When asked about his research, John Wise can’t help but perk up. His positive attitude emanates through the telephone line.
“I have lots of projects I’m working on, but I will admit that there is one that makes me more excited than most of my research in the last decade,” he shared.
Wise is an associate professor in the Department of Entomology at Michigan State University (MSU), where he coordinates the Applied Insecticide Toxicology Laboratory and is also the research and Extension coordinator for the Trevor Nichols Research Center (TNRC). TNRC is one of four AgBioResearch (formerly Michigan Agricultural Experiment Station) off-campus facilities devoted to researching issues in the fruit industry.
“During the winter, I spend most of my time working in the lab on campus. During the growing season, though, I am usually at TNRC. You can imagine my fuel costs!” he joked.
Projects at the TNRC specifically look at pest management problems and strategies for Michigan’s fruit growers, an area that Wise is very familiar with. His research focuses on understanding performance characteristics of new and old pesticides used in fruit production.
“In the ten plus years that I’ve focused on this area of research, I’ve expanded the work to include areas such as pesticide delivery systems for fruit crops, rain fastness and environmental degradation of insecticides and pest management recommendations for new insecticide products in the fruit market,” Wise said.
This continual development of his research leads back to the new project that has become a source of high excitement for Wise, but is, he admits, possibly a “wild” idea.
“Research is progressive. You ask one question that leads you to another question that leads you to yet another,” he explained. “Finally you come to something that’s wild and crazy, but the potential is incredibly significant.”
The wild and crazy project involves studying trunk injection as an alternative delivery system for crop protection materials to fruit trees. Historically, pesticides have been delivered to fruit trees with tractor-pulled sprayers. Despite changes in regulations and the nature of pesticide tools themselves, growers are spraying trees in the same way they did 50 years ago. It seems to Wise that it’s time for a paradigm shift that matches the new ideas and tools of the 21st century.
“What makes trunk injection delivery exciting is that it has the potential to greatly lower the amount of pesticide needed to protect the crop, virtually eliminate pesticide drift and worker exposure risks, as well as reduce negative impacts on non-target organisms,” he enthused.
According to Wise, the potential associated with trunk injection is much better than the spray application techniques currently in use. He recognizes creative research on the idea is still minimal, but that there is a good probability success will be realized.
“I may find after several years that it’s not the answer, but it’s exciting because the potential is so good,” he said.
Even beyond this project, research will continue to be important to improving Michigan’s fruit industries. The industries are healthy and vibrant now, according to Wise, but all systems must continue to change and evolve with time to remain sustainable. He will continue to develop research that addresses regulatory issues, public perception, environmental risks and fruit crop productivity issues related to insect pest management
As he added, “I’m always thinking about what can make our fruit systems better.”