I’m Maria Cramer-- a current Master’s student working on the Tunnel Berries project with Kathy Demchak and Rich Marini at the Pennsylvania State University. I joined the Tunnel Berries project in the fall of 2016. My research involves investigating possible changes the five types of plastics (and one uncovered treatment) on our 18 tunnels make to the pest populations inside the tunnels. The plastics have different qualities, transmitting varying proportions of UV and IR radiation. Literature and anecdotal evidence points to some of these impacting insect presence. This means I spend a lot of time picking Japanese beetles off of plants in the summer, and counting Spotted Wing Drosophila (SWD) samples in the winter. While quantifying the effects on these two particular pests, it’s also interesting to just observe the diversity of insects (and larger animals like tree frogs and black snakes) in our unsprayed high tunnels.
At this point in the winter, our plants are stored away from the fluctuating tunnel temperatures, and I’m spending my time counting samples, and analyzing data from the summer and fall. In the upcoming year, with two years of data on how the different plastics affect insect populations, I’ll look at how other cultural controls can be implemented for SWD. This includes assessing the effects of harvest intervals and the use of attracticidal spheres developed by Tracy Leskey’s lab in Kearneysville, West Virginia. The spheres are visually attractive to SWD and have wax caps that contain a feeding stimulant (a sugar) and a pesticide. These substances melt down to coat the sphere and SWD that land and feed on the sugar are poisoned. My overall goal is to develop strategies for SWD that would help organic and conventional raspberry growers reduce their pesticide usage and costs.
K. Hanson: Tunnel Berries Outreach Coordinator