Date of Award

Spring 2016

Project Type


Program or Major

Plant Biology

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Kirk D Broders

Second Advisor

Cheryl Smith

Third Advisor

Rich Smith


In order to manage pests impacting New England crop production integrated pest management (IPM) practices should be reevaluated or updated regularly to ensure that effective control of crop pests is being achieved. Three fungal taxa, Colletotrichum gloeosporioides, C. acutatum, and Glomerella cingulata, are currently associated with bitter-rot of apple (Malus domestica), with C. acutatum typically being the dominant species found in the northeastern United States. However, a recent phylogenetic study demonstrated that both C. gloeosporioides and C. acutatum are species complexes with over 10 distinct species being recovered from apple between the two studies. Based on this recent information, the objectives of this study were 1) to complete a phylogenetic analysis to determine species diversity and distribution of Colletotrichum isolates associated with bitter-rot and Glomerella leaf spot in the northeastern United States and 2) to evaluate the sensitivity of these isolates to several commercially used fungicides. A multi-gene phylogenetic analysis was completed using ITS, GADPH and BT gene sequences in order to determine which species and how many species of Colletotrichum were infecting apples in the northeastern U.S. The results of this study demonstrated that C. fioriniae is the primary pathogen causing both bitter rot and Glomerella leaf spot in the northeastern U.S. A second experiment was conducted in order to update management practices for apple scab, caused by the ascomycete Venturia inaequalis. The objective of this project was to evaluate the ability of RIMpro, an apple scab warning system, to control apple scab in New England apple orchards in addition to evaluating the performance of potassium bicarbonate + sulfur as a low-cost alternative spray material for the control of apple scab suitable for organic apple production. Use of RIMpro allowed for the reduction in the total number of spray applications made during the primary scab season by two sprays in 2013 and one spray in 2014 (28% and 25% reductions, respectively). Also, the potassium bicarbonate + sulfur treatment was shown to provide the same level of control as Captan. Finally, disease outbreaks, insect infestation, nutrient deficiencies, and weather variation constantly threaten to diminish annual yields and profits in orchard crop production systems. Automated crop inspection with an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) can allow growers to regularly survey crops and detect areas affected by disease or stress and lead to more efficient targeted applications of pesticides, water and fertilizer. The overall goal of this project was to develop a low cost aerial imaging platform coupling imaging sensors with UAVs to be used for monitoring crop health. Following completion of this research, we have identified a useful tool for agricultural and ecological applications.