Apple is the most valuable fruit crop in Illinois. There are more than 300 commercial apple growers with approximately 5,000 acres of orchards in the state. Scab and fire blight (spring diseases) and sooty blotch/flyspeck and fruit rots (summer diseases) are problems for growers worldwide, and the climate conditions in Illinois are very conducive for these diseases. Growers typically have to spray a cocktail of fungicides 14 to 16 times per growing season to control these diseases.
Plant geneticist Schuyler Korban collaborated with researchers at Purdue and Rutgers Universities to develop new apple varieties that are resistant to apple scab, making it very attractive to growers.
In the past 10 years, Mohammad Babadoost compared the performance of the traditional and a new disease management strategy based on disease-warning systems in 19 apple orchards throughout Illinois.
This IPM system saved the growers two to seven sprays (28 to 100 percent), with an average of 3.2 sprays (46 percent) compared with the traditional 14-day spray schedule. The reduced-risk fungicides were as effective for controlling summer diseases of apples as the more toxic fungicide. The IPM he developed reduces use of fungicide sprays, safeguards the environment, and significantly reduces fungicide residues on fruit. Many apple growers in Illinois are now using the IPM method developed by Mohammad Babadoost and saving more than $25 per spray per acre on fungicide costs.