My research centers on technologies and concepts to help producers of specialty fruit crops navigate production challenges encountered in the diverse but challenging Alabama environment. Major areas of focus are in peach and strawberry – two leading specialty crops in Alabama. Climate change is affecting the way peach crops accumulate chill, which is the necessary exposure to cool temperatures during the fall and winter for the alleviation of dormancy in the spring. We are evaluating the effectiveness of rest breaking substances to alleviate dormancy used during seasons when there is insufficient chill accumulation. This also includes exploration of relatively new concepts of measuring chill accumulation, which are more appropriate for regions like the Southeast where occurrence of wintertime warming trends are common. These warming trends have a significant effect on chill accumulation. We are also investigating developing technologies to reduce tree mortality due to Armillaria root rot (oak root rot) in peach orchards. In strawberry, my research involves collaborative efforts to enhance sustainability of strawberry production by evaluating effective herbicide application strategies and strawberry cultivars for adaptation to the climate.
Other areas of study include invasive insect pest IPM, use of ‘softer’, alternative chemistries and strategies to control insect and disease pests, new, alternative crops, which have potential to be produced in Alabama, specialty crop cultivar evaluations, and pollination methods in kiwifruit and their impact on fruit quality attributes.