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Orchard Soils and Fruit Tree Mineral Nutrition


Managing soils and plant mineral nutrition is key to deciduous fruit tree orchard health and productivity. Recent changes in orchard characteristics within the Washington fruit industry, particularly adoption of high-density plantings of trees on dwarfing rootstocks, and societal demand to minimize deleterious environmental impacts of agriculture has generated a need to refine soil and fertilizer management programs.

Because of poor uptake from soil or inadequate within-tree partitioning, many mineral nutrients are applied to the foliage of fruit trees using sprayers. Dr. Peryea collaborates with regional scientists on improving nutrient spray programs for tree fruits, focusing especially on calcium, boron, copper, and zinc nutrition. Recent expansion of organic orchards in Washington has prompted need for development of soil and nutrient management practices that are consistent with organic production rules. Dr. Peryea currently collaborates with WSU faculty from several departments and research centers on studies of cover crops, weed control, and nitrogen supply in organically managed apples and pears.

Upon arriving in Wenatchee in 1985, Dr. Peryea recognized that soil contamination resulting from historical application of arsenical pesticides in orchards would eventually become a significant human and environmental health concern, particularly as orchard lands were converted to non-agricultural uses. For six decades before the introduction of DDT after World War II, arsenic was the primary insecticide used for control of chewing insects in agriculture, forestry, and home gardens in the United States and abroad. Dr. Peryea has conducted research examining the properties and management of lead arsenate-contaminated soils for 21 years, and serves as a technical resource on the topic for scientists, government regulators, journalists, and property owners. He has just completed a collaborative project with the University of Washington, examining the effects of biosolid applications on the bioavailability of lead and arsenic in lead arsenate-contaminated orchard soil. He is currently working on a book detailing the historical use of arsenical pesticides.


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Contact Information
Frank J. Peryea, Ph.D.
Research Soil Scientist
Crop and Soil Sciences

Washington State University
Tree Fruit Research and Extension Center
1100 North Western Avenue
Wenatchee, WA 98801

Telephone: 509-663-8181 x232