A warning system for the sooty blotch and flyspeck (SBFS) fungal disease complex of apple, developed originally for use in the southeastern United States, was modified to provide more reliable assessment of SBFS risk in Iowa. Modeling results based on previous research in Iowa and Wisconsin had suggested replacing leaf wetness duration with cumulative hours of relative humidity (RH) >=97%as the weather input to the SBFS warning system. The purpose of the present study was to evaluate the performance of a RH based SBFS warning system, and to assess the potential economic benefits for its use in Iowa. The warning system was evaluated in two separate sets of trials—trial 1 during 2010 and 2011, and trial 2 during 2013–2015—using action thresholds based on cumulative hours of RH >=97% and >=90%, respectively, in conjunction with two different fungicide regimes. The warning system was compared with a traditional calendar-based system that specified spraying at predetermined intervals of 10 to 14 days. In trial 1, use of the RH $97% threshold caused substantial differences between two RH sensors in recording number of hours exceeding the threshold. When both RH thresholds were compared for 2013–2015, on average, RH >=90% resulted in a 53% reduction in variation of cumulative hours between two identical RH sensors placed adjacent to each other in an apple tree canopy. Although both the SBFS warning system and the calendar-based system resulted in equivalent control of SBFS, the warning system required fewer fungicide sprays than the calendar-based system, with an average of 3.8 sprays per season (min = 2; max = 5) vs. 6.4 sprays per season (min = 5; max = 8), respectively. The two fungicide regimes provided equivalent SBFS control when used in conjunction with the warning system. A partial budget analysis showed that using the SBFS warning system with a threshold of RH>=90%was cost effective for orchard sizes of >1 ha. The revised warning system has potential to become a valuable decision support tool for Midwest apple growers because it reduces fungicide costs while protecting apples as effectively as a calendar-based spray schedule. The next step toward implementation of the SBFS warning system in the North Central U.S. should be multiyear field testing in commercial orchards throughout the region.
Available at: http://0-works.bepress.com.library.simmons.edu/philip-dixon/54/