2018-03-29 / Front Page

Stress management for growers

By Jay Bushen
of the Enterprise staff


WHILE SEVERAL problems are causing stress within the cherry grower community, cherry bud development hasn’t moved much. These buds were photographed in Suttons Bay Township. WHILE SEVERAL problems are causing stress within the cherry grower community, cherry bud development hasn’t moved much. These buds were photographed in Suttons Bay Township. Times are tough in the Leelanau County cherry industry.

Jeff Send can attest.

“Even when we were making very good money and it was fun, there was still a lot of stress because you’re totally relying on Mother Nature,” said Send, owner and operator of Send Receiving and S&E Farms. “Now, as far as the tariff issues, the oversupply, labor — will we have labor or won’t we have labor? — there are a lot of issues we have to contend with. You also have to put in there that the price is probably the lowest it’s been in years.”

Not to mention integrated pest management (IPM) issues associated with the spotted wing drosophila (SWD).

The increasingly lengthy list of stressors has taken its toll on Leelanau County cherry growers in recent years, but Michigan State University Extension educators this month hope to help make life a little easier.


ALTHOUGH THE 2018 cherry harvest is months away, growers area already dealing with a high level of stress caused by fruit pests, pricing and marketing challenges. ALTHOUGH THE 2018 cherry harvest is months away, growers area already dealing with a high level of stress caused by fruit pests, pricing and marketing challenges. Extension health and nutrition experts Suzanne Pish and Patricia Roth will be on hand for the “Tree Fruit IPM Kickoff” pizza party at the Northwest Michigan Horticultural Research Center on April 24 to discuss stress management techniques.

Emily Pochubay, IPM educator at the research station, said Pish has helped farmers across the state learn to manage stress — including those in the dairy industry. Roth, who is based in Benzie County, has done the same.

The duo will help farmers recognize symptoms of stress and exercise techniques to help reduce those symptoms.

“It seems like the last few years have really been challenging,” Pochubay said. “A good part of that is the SWD and the struggles we’ve had managing that pest, but we’ve had a couple tough years in a row with a nice crop, which seems promising but has been a challenge to manage. I know growers are feeling that. I was hoping by putting this into the program that we can address stress from multiple aspects.”

The event will also feature several critical tree fruit pathology updates.

Presenters from George Sundin’s lab will discuss new information on fungicide sensitivity screening for cherry leaf spot and brown rot management. Educators will also cover considerations for fire blight and apple scab, and Nikki Rothwell will provide a summary of key findings from the station’s latest SWD research. Additionally, the program will include a brief update on pesticide label changes and considerations for managing old and new pests in 2018.

Pesticide recertification credits and certified crop advisor credits will be available at the free party, which will be held from 4:30 to 8 p.m. Growers are encouraged to register by calling the station at 946-1510 by April 19.

“Pizza’s just an added benefit,” Pochubay said. “Growers should come because it’s our first real good opportunity to come together as a group and for us at Extension and within the growing industry to talk about potential challenges. It gets us in the right mindset to prepare for 2018. ... Not only is it a chance for growers to get that first information blast and get the gears turning, but it’s also a time for us to get out of our hibernation and catch up with our neighbors.”

And, for those neighbors, these are certainly tough times.

Some growers, Send said, are worried they’ll have to pull from their retirement to stay in business.

“We need to catch a break; otherwise we’re not all going to be here,” he said.

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