Michigan State researcher studying trunk injection for fruit-tree pesticides

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EAST LANSING, Mich. — When asked about his research, John Wise can’t help but perk up.

“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 says.

Wise is an entomologist at Michigan State University, where he coordinates the Applied Insecticide Toxicology Laboratory and is also the research and extension coordinator for the Trevor Nichols Research Center.

His research focuses on understanding performance characteristics of new and old pesticides used in fruit production.

“In the 10-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.

Wild idea

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.

Alternative to sprays

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.”

According to Wise, the potential associated with trunk injection is much better than the spray application techniques currently in use.

Scientific process

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.”

Wise said all systems must continue to change and evolve with time to remain sustainable, and 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 explains, “I’m always thinking about what can make our fruit systems better.”

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