Codling moths and fire blight are the enemy of everyone in the Bitterroot Valley who loves a good crisp apple.
“Apples are easy to grow in our climate, but it’s not always that easy to get good quality fruit,” said Western Ag Research Center’s horticulture assistant-professor Rachel Leisso.
This spring, apple farmers and backyard growers will have a new tool to lean on when it comes time to keep those pests at bay.
And it’s one that fits nicely in their pocket.
The Montana State University Western Agricultural Research Center at Corvallis is collaborating with Utah State University to provide site-specific information for monitoring and controlling pests through a new online and app-based program called Temperature Resource and Alerts for Pests, or TRAPS for short.
“It’s something brand new for Montana,” Leisso said. “The app is awesome.”
Tracking weather reports from Stevensville and Corvallis, the app offers apple growers information that can help them determine the best times to apply treatments to their trees.
Controlling pests like codling moths is all about timing. Apple trees needed to be treated before the insects have a chance to lay the eggs that can turn a perfectly good apple into one filled with worms.
Leisso and others interested in helping apple producers control the moths track the temperatures over a period of time to predict when the insects will emerge. They also use pheromone traps to collect moths when they first begin to fly.
The app is a new way to spread that important information.
The Corvallis-based ag center was awarded a grant to put together a trial program that Leisso hopes to extend beyond the boundaries of the Bitterroot and into western Montana.
During the trial, Leisso hopes that enough people will download the app and then offer input on what they see at their own orchards.
“Temperatures can vary a lot up and down the bench,” Leisso said. “Cold air sinks and it could change conditions. We want to hear what people in the valley are seeing in their own pest management activities. This has the potential to be a great tool, but for that to happen it has to be accurate.”
The app predicts emergence rates for insects and the predicted risk for the bacterial plant disease called fire blight that can harm apple trees. It also offers graphs that display 24 hours of temperature, dew point and precipitation data.
The information can view either by going to https://climate.usu.edu/traps/ or by downloading the app on Android or iPhone’s by searching for Utah TRAPS. Once people have the app, they can select either the Corvallis or Stevensville weather station.
Leisso said people should use the information only as a guide, while keeping a close eye on conditions at their particular location. Temperature and precipitation can differ considerably from site to site in the varied topography of the Bitterroot Valley.
“It’s not gospel,” she said. “It should help people pay attention, but it’s just another tool. I’m a scientist. I like to error on the side of caution.”
So far, Leisso said there has been a good deal of interest in the app.
“We really do want to get feedback on this too,” she said. “Some people may use and find that they don’t like it. If they don’t tell us why, we can know what it is they don’t like. Even negative feedback is valuable.