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Bethany Schulteis

Appley Ever After

Hey y’all, welcome back to the (last) blog. Today I wanted to wrap up my experience at FREC and summarize what I learned.

During my time at FREC, I learned the most about general orchard maintenance, such as different pruning methods, tree training methods, how many fruit you should thin down to, and I also learned how to recognize different plant diseases and insect damages. My favorites to find and look at are Plum Curculio damage in apples and Stink Bug gummosis in peaches. I will post pictures below.

In addition, one of my favorite things to do was to test the ripeness of apples with starch iodine. Unfortunately I only got to do this a couple of times because it’s not apple season, but I still had fun the two times that I did do it. The testing was for a color experiment in Gala. I will put pictures of it below. The pictures below are the same treatment, but about a few days apart.

Unfortunately, I was only able to harvest apples once, on my last day. I wish that I had been able to stay there all through apple harvest because that seems so fascinating to me. This is mainly because I would then be able to help with the experiment that Dr. Schupp gave Megan and me. Further, I wished that I was able to work in all of the departments at FREC (entomology, plant pathology, and precision agriculture) because I take interest in all of those areas as well.

I had so much fun at FREC this summer. Most days, it seemed like just hard work, but overall it was very rewarding. I got to do so many cool things like identifying bugs, picking fruit, pressure testing apples and pears, and many other things. Further, I had a fun time writing this blog, it really helped me reflect on my experience at FREC. It helped solidify the knowledge that I gained working there.

Peachy Keen

Hey y’all, welcome back to the blog. This week, I wanted to talk about a peach experiment that I briefly mentioned in my last blog post. These peach trees were planted in 2014, so the block of peaches is aptly named “P14”. The experiment is a rootstock trial that spans a three year period and this is the last year they are collecting data.

The peaches are planted on about five different rootstocks, such as Bailey and Lovell. Additionally, they are all the same variety: Coral Star. There are five rows of peaches in this experiment, each row being 79 trees long, with only one guard row due to some technical difficulties in orchard planning. The trees were grown in a Quad V formation, meaning that they have two scaffolds per side, creating four scaffolds.

In regards to experiment set-up, each plot of trees was five trees, and each row was a new replicate. From the five trees in each plot, only the best two were data trees.

In order to maintain good orchard maintenance, like most trees, these needed to be pruned. Megan and I were given this task at the beginning of June and worked on it on and off until the first of July, so it felt like it took and eternity. In addition, the trees are so tall, that we needed to prune them from the ground and we also needed to use the N. Blosi, which is a scissor lift platform, but with an expanding platform on either side. Needless to say, Megan and I were (very) relieved when we finished. Below, I will put some pictures of some of the cool creatures we found while pruning.

To add to the fun, nutrient samples needed to taken from the leaves and soil. To collect the leaves, I was sent out to pick fifty leaves from waist to top-of-hand height from mid-shoot from each plot. I then put them in correctly labeled brown paper bags and put them on a greenhouse bench to dry out. For the soil samples, I had to collect a sample from each tree in the plot, put them in a bucket, mix them together, and scoop about two cups worth into another correctly labeled brown paper bag. They were also put in the greenhouse to dry. The sad thing about that step was that some of the soil was too heavy for the brown paper bags and they ripped. I had to go collect more samples. It was not a good day in my book. A couple weeks later, the samples were taken up to Penn State Main Campus and they had nutrient testing done on them.

Then, on August first, we did our first harvest. The peaches were picked into correctly tagged crates and then we ran them through our grader, which counts, weighs, and categorizes them. Then, the data is collected and the peaches are packaged for sale. Our second harvest, which was our largest, was done on August fifth. Unfortunately, our grader broke and the counts, weights, and measures had to be done all by hand. It was torturous work. Luckily, I had already scheduled two days off, so I got to miss that load of fun. The third harvest was done on August ninth, Most of the trees had been stripped in the second harvest, so it was the easiest to pick. By then, the grader had been fixed and we were back in business. This completed the seemingly never-ending arduous task of P14, but it was quite rewarding in the end.

In my next (and last) blog post, I wanted to sum up my experience at FREC and everything I have learned this summer.

Painting the Roses Red, Painting the Apple Trees White

Hey y’all, welcome back to the blog! This week, I wanted to take a moment and discuss/write a list of all of the odds and ends kind of jobs to keep the FREC orchards running.

1.) The first task I wanted to talk about was tree training. It was the task that I feel like we did the most of throughout different parts of the orchard. Tree training was used to keep the trees growing in the correct direction. We would use a variety of different tools to get the trees growing correctly. This usually included tree tension clips, CEP tape, a thinner red tape, electrical tape, bamboo sticks, pruners, and a lot of patience. I will include a photo below of Megan and I tree training. This was also one of my favorite tasks because you could always find cool looking bugs or birds nests with eggs (and sometimes baby birds!).

2.) The next task was a real cow and probably one of my least favorite tasks: pruning trees. This was especially awful in a large block of peaches because it felt like it would never end. The trees were five years old and had been trained into a quad-V formation, meaning they had four scaffolds tied to trellis wires. The trees needed to be pruned on both side of the row because of this type of training and because they were tall, they needed done on both the tops and the bottoms. Additionally, the trellis wire was plastic, not metal wire, so it was very easy to cut and break with your pruners. Unfortunately, I did that twice.

3.) The third task that I did was also quite painful and also in the same aforementioned block of peaches. I had to take soil samples of the different plots of trees. There were seventy five plots of five trees each and I need to get a soil sample from each tree. That’s 375 samples, 375 holes in the ground. Additionally, the soil probe is ineffective in the soil we had because it was so rocky, so I had to use a shovel. Ever since I did that, I have compared every other task we did to that one.

4.) This next task was pretty fun. I was helping work on a chemical thinning experiment and I had to take the sample apples and collect data on them. I had roughly seventy apples where I had to weigh them and take their diameter. Then, I had to cut each one open and count their viable seeds. I was given a very large knife, a very small knife, and an envelope opener to complete the task. I had fun! I have attached a picture below.

5.) One of the other fun things I got to do was paint our new baby trees! We have a new block of apples of roughly 1300 Premier Honey Crisp apples and 400 EverCrisp apples. They are painted white to protect from herbicide and sun scald. We used outdoor latex paint and painted them all in a day. In addition to this, all tenth trees are painted specific colors so when you are out there it is easier to know what tree you are on. For example, every tenth tree is yellow, but the 30th is painted red, 60th is blue, 90th is purple, and 120th is orange. Any tree that is out of the study due to illness or replacement is lime green. This was done in more than the new apple trees, but also in any block that needed it. Below is a not-so-great picture of the newly painted baby trees.

6.) The next job is repainting the graft union of top-worked treed with sealant. We have a few rows of trees that have been top-worked, meaning that they grew an apple tree normally, then decided they wanted them to be a different variety, but wanted a quick turn around. In order to do this, they cut off the tree where the scion joined the rootstock and grafted new healthy buds of a different variety there. to ensure they stay, they wrap it in grafting tape and come back later with an antibacterial sealant to ensure it stays. The sealant need reapplied about once a year, so this year Megan and I got the joy of reapplying it. The sealant had the color of Kraft mac and cheese, and an absolutely awful smell. Unfortunately technology has not advanced to allow you all to smell it, but I will post a picture of it below.

7.) Another task that we did a lot of was thinning apples and peaches. However, one experience really stuck out to me, which was thinning very large Honey Crisp apples. Because they were so large, you would pull one off to thin a cluster down from a triple to a double and all three of the apples would fall off. Pulling just one off without all of the rest coming with it was almost an art form. I did find this one apple that had seen all kinds of challenges, but still managed to grow. It had grown around the clip that held the tree to the wire, around the tree itself, and around the wire. I’ll put pictures below.


There are dozens of other tasks to keep the orchard in tip-top shape, but I won’t bore you with the details. In the next blog post, I am excited to write about some other experiments I helped with!

The Pirate Apples

Hey y’all, welcome back to the blog. This week, I want to write about an experiment that Megan and I worked on together. This experiment is called “Apple Adjuvant Russet 2019”. It has been nicknamed “AAR19” or “The Pirate Apples”.

AAR19 is a chemical experiment that involves making 2 sprays of Captan 80WDG at first and second cover, with various adjuvants to evaluate chemical injury in fruit set and lead phytotoxicity. The experiment is set up in three tree plots, with eight treatments and five replicates. Megan and I had to pick 30 fruit from each plot all around the green from waist to top-of-hand height. Additionally, we had to pick 30 leaves from the mid shoots and 30 leaves from spurs in each plot as well.

From there, we evaluated the fruits and the leaves. First, we manually visually rated the russeting on the fruit. Megan and I both did this so that we weren’t just relying on one person’s rating. We used a numeric scale to represent a range in percentages of russet. For example, if the apple had 0-20% russet, it was given a rating of one, and so on and so forth. Below, I will attach a picture of what I would give a one. Secondly, we looked at the leaves to count how many had damage from the sprays. This was done by both Megan and Edwin, one of the main research assistants in the horticulture department.

After, we took photos of the AAR19 apples to run through the digital image analysis program that I described in my last blog post. We had to take three photos of each set of apples: the stem bowl, the most russeted side, and 180 degrees from the most russeted side. Below, I will insert a photo of the set up we use to take photos. Because each set of apples slightly varies from one another, the thresholds of what to consider russet in the code of the program needed to be adjusted. This was a meticulous job because the three values needed to be accurate down to the hundredth decimal place. It took Megan and I almost a whole afternoon to agree on the correct numbers.

After this, we ran the pictures through the program and came up with percentages for each photo. We then entered them into a data sheet and Edwin ran them through some statistics. We found that because the p-value was so high, there was no significant difference between the different treatments.

In my next blog post, I want to talk about all of the odds and ends jobs that Megan and I do to maintain the orchards. Some of them were quite disgusting, while others were actually kind of fun!

Sweet & Cheeky!

Hi y’all, welcome back to the blog. These last couple of weeks at FREC, my fellow summer research assistant, Megan, and I have been focusing mainly on our project given to us by Dr. Schupp.

Our project focuses directly on a new club variety of apple called Sweet Cheeks. They are a cross between Honey Crisp and Pink Lady apples. Unfortunately, it has a fruit finish issue, mainly with russetting. This project will study which general sector of the tree has the most russet and which side of the apple it is prominently featured on.

The trees we were given to use are top worked trees, which mean the were planted as one variety, in this case, Gala, and then they were cut off where the rootstock and the scion join. Then, scions of the new variety (this is where the Sweet Cheeks come in) are placed in notches in trunk that is still in the ground. The scions are secured and left to grow.

We were given 5 of these trees, which we then divided into 6 sectors using flagging tape. Fist we divided the tree horizontally, determining an upper and lower canopy. This line was placed equidistant between the second and third wire of the trellis system. Second, we divided the tree into outer and inner canopy by dividing the tree vertically into three sections, creating an outer north, inner, and outer south.  If you’re lost (don’t worry, I was), refer to the picture below. With these divisions, we created 6 sectors of the tree. These sectors are: upper outer north, upper inner, upper outer south, lower outer north, lower inner, and lower outer south.

After this, Megan and I counted all of the apples in each sector. Then, we went through and counted the apples with signs of russet. We also rated whether the russeting was “low”, “moderate”, or “severe”. Russet usually initially appears as small black dots around the sides of the apple, typically on the exposed side that receives the most sun.

From there, we determined percent russeted in each sector. Just from this, we noticed that apples in the upper canopy had more russet because of their increased exposure to sun.

Additionally, to quantify severity, we harvested around a dozen apples from the surrounding sweet cheeks trees of which we considered “low” severity and around a dozen of which we considered “moderate” severity. We then took pictures of them and ran through a digital image analysis program that gives us a percentage of russet on the apple. To do this, one of the researchers there, Edwin, built a photo box using PVC pipe, poster board, and lamps. It has boards and pipes at the top, which can hold a camera that is used to capture the images. All you have to do is slide the apples in on the apple tray covered in blue fabric and click the capture button. I will insert a photo of the photo box. It is a picture taken from above because I was the one adjusting the camera.

We will survey the Sweet Cheeks again in August and at harvest time to determine whether the russet is early or late onset.

Next week, I hope to delve deeper into the other research projects that Dr. Schupp is working on and share with you how much I have learned!

So Much FRECin’ Fruit

Hey y’all, my name’s Bethany and I will be a junior this fall. I am from Biglerville, Pennsylvania and I have a background in fruit trees, but specifically apples. This summer I am an intern at FREC, Penn State Extension’s Fruit Research and Extension Center, conveniently located also in Biglerville, PA. At FREC, there are 5 lead scientists, each conducting research on horticulture, plant pathology, agricultural engineering, or entomology. I am working as an intern for Dr. Schupp, the horticulturalist there. He works specifically with apples, pears, and peaches, but mainly with apples because they are popular in the surrounding area. Within apples, I noticed that he has mainly been working with different types of thinning, pruning, and tree training to produce the most amount of apples. Additionally, he is also working on some interesting projects with the agricultural engineers for automated pruning and picking.

I spend most of my days outside, tending to the trees or modifying them to the produce the desired result. Recently, I have been thinning and pruning a lot of peach trees, thinning apple trees to define a strong terminal bud, and clipping up the recently planted Ever Crisp and Premiere Honey Crisp apples.


Pictured above is the NBlosi, a scissor lift with a shifting platform that allows us to easily reach into the trees. On the right are the Gala apple trees that we trained.

Further, I have also become fascinated by the different bugs around the orchard; I usually take a picture of them and show them to the entomology interns during lunch. I’ll post some of my favorites below:

Pictured above on the left is a leather wing, also known as a soldier beetle. In the middle is a common leaf beetle that caught be by surprise. On the right is a praying mantis nest that I found pruning.

Every year, Dr. Schupp hands his summer interns their own project to take charge of. This year, we get to run a project that deals with a new club variety of apple called Sweet Cheeks. However, it has many fruit finish issues. Our job is to determine whether the russetting is early or late onset and suggest ways to prevent it. I am excited to explain about it more in my next post!

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