Measuring Horticultural Responses of Highbush Blueberry under Insect Exclusion Netting

Exclusion netting has been shown to be an effective non-chemical solution to prevent damage from the devastating invasive Spotted Winged Drosophila pest. This pest lays eggs in unripe fruit, so by the time fruit ripens, it is laden with larvae. While netting can exclude the pest, it also reduces wind, increases humidity, and reduces light under the canopy. So, while the netting has proven to be economical when accounting for the improvement in fruit quality and yield, potential long term negative effects on blueberry plant growth and disease incidence have not been measured and/or incorporated in economic analyses. This research project will compare highbush blueberry plants grown under exclusion netting to similar varieties grown outside of the netting by measuring new cane production, stem growth, leaf size, node numbers, fruit quality and yield. Disease incidence also will be assessed. Temperature and light measurements will be taken to quantify environmental differences between the two treatments. Intern will also participate in extension activities with a regional specialist when not involved with data collection. Impact will be a more robust calculation of the advantages/disadvantages of exclusion netting for growers who need to make a decision to purchase this expensive product. Intern will also learn about and participate in Cooperative Extension activities by shadowing a regional specialist.

Roles and responsibilities 

Student would be responsible for primary data collection as described above.  In addition to this project, the student will be involved with other Cornell Cooperative Extension activities for a wide variety of fruit and vegetable crops as availability allows.  

Qualifications and previous coursework

This opportunity is available to non-graduating students in Cornell University's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

Candidates should have some significant coursework involving crop management and be willing to work outdoors for extended periods of time. Candidate must have a valid driver’s license to travel between field sites.  

Learning outcomes 

Anticipated Learning Outcomes: Assist in the design of a research plan and protocol. Collect scientific data on plant growth and fruit quality. Manage an extensive data set. Deliver a presentation to grower audiences. Assist a regional fruit specialist in conducting a diversity of outreach activities.