Behavior of diseases, insects identified in high tunnels
PENNSYLVANIA FURNACE, Pa. — Two-hour long high tunnel tours at Penn State’s Ag Progress Days offer tour-goers the chance to study different production methods and crops. On Tuesday and Thursday, Aug. 13 and 15 two tours are from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., and 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. One tour is scheduled for Wednesday, Aug. 14 which starts at 1:30 pm and continues until 3:30 p.m.
The tours include research on strawberries and raspberries growing in the tunnels.
Penn State’s small fruit specialist Kathy Demchak’s research has discovered altered insect behavior patterns plus differences in diseases with specific plastic high tunnel coverings in the high tunnels.
For example, some speciality plastics can diffuse light and alter the spectrum. Studies also show that modifying the quality and intensity of light can improve both yield and quality of berry crops. “The chemistry is getting better,” Demchak notes.
Ultraviolet light, also known as UV radiation, consists of shorter wavelengths than visible light. UV wavelengths are classified as UV-A, UV-B and UV-C radiation, longest to shortest.
In high tunnels, insects use UV-A for vision and navigation. It appears that the characteristics of certain plastics interfere with the vision of Japanese beetles—their numbers have been lessened with specific materials. Under ordinary covers, Demchak observes, “Japanese beetles can skeletonize leaves.”
In addition, with some plastics the incidence of the disease anthranose diminishes.
Demchak’s research is also evaluating four varieties of strawberries—Albion, Cabrillo, San Andrea and Sweet Ann. Interestingly, she has found the plants show different strains of anthranose. Accordingly susceptibility among the four cultivars varies.
Some plastics can prevent stored daytime heat from passing through at night. Others can block IR radiation to keep the tunnels cooler. “Berry crops,” Demchak says, “are especially sensitive to high temperatures. Both strawberries and raspberries like cooler temperatures.”
Significantly, the advantages of high tunnels—season extension, greater temperature and moisture control, and improved pest management—are actually boosted with some of the new coverings.
The research in containers affords other advantages, including ease of movement due to temperature concerns, and for harvest reasons.
Her collaboration with other university researchers in the U.S. and abroad reinforces her findings.
Demchak is continuing to measure the light intensity over the visible and invisible spectrums.
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