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Scouting, Scouting, and more Scouting

Last Saturday was the hops conference here at CLEREL and it was a success!  Aspiring growers came from across Newunnamed5 York, as well as from Pennsylvania and Ohio.  The morning consisted of speakers talking about basic hop topics, such as the actual planting of the hopyard, nutrition, and the economics behind starting a yard and marketing the hop cones at the end of the growing season.  Most of the literature search I have done has been focused on the science side of hops, so it was really beneficial to learn about the actual planting and the processes that go into managing and marketing a hopyard.

The afternoon took place outside in the hopyard with separate stations.  One station had two experienced growers asking questions, one was a pit dug next to several hop plants with the roots exposed to show their structure.  Hop plants grow via rhizomes,unnamed2 which are essentially stems of the plant that grow underground and the roots and main stem then sprout from the rhizome.  The photo above shows the root structure spray painted white.  The other stations discussed irrigation techniques and trellis construction, while I led a station discussing my research project and scouting protocols (photo to the left).  I think all of the attendees had a good time and learned a lot, I know I did!

This past week I helped with a lot of pest scouting in grapes.  On Monday, I scouted for rootworm alongside the fieldworkers.  Despite not finding any last week, there was evidence of rootworm this week and we brought some samples back to the lab.  I also helped Kim, whose main job is mapping, put together pest traps, which we set up in several vineyards and nurserunnamedies on Tuesday.  The goal of the traps is to find and identify different invasive species, but the traps have been put out in past years and none have been found.  In a couple of weeks we will go back and see if there is anything in them.

A continual effort has been made to collect leaf samples from the hopyard and count spider mites, just as I have done the past two weeks.  This week I did see several, but not enough for them to be causing any kind of serious damage in the yard.  The economic threshold for June is 1-2 mites per leaf, so I’m not even close to that number yet, as I would have to be finding over 400 mites, but I know they are coming.  Like spiders, twospotted spider mites spin webs and move with the wind using spinnerets, so once they get moving, they will move quickly.  I released the predatory mites on Thursday, both N. californicus and N. fallacis.  They came packaged with corn meal (photo to the right) to add weight and volume when they are sprinkled on the plants.  I kept several of each species on a slide and will have to really study their unique and defining characteristics to make sure I can tell the difference when I find them in the field.

The End of Week 3

Happy Friday all! So it has been a while since my last post and even though I still have not received my parameters for the project I have been hired to carry out, Laurel and I have been finding ways to keep me busy and continuing to learn more about Cornell Cooperative Extension.

To begin I will bring you back to last Friday where I was fortunate enough to get out of the office for the day to participate in the Ag Agents summer tour. Ag Agents are national, state, regional, and county wide associations that:

  • Represent the needs of agricultural extension field staff to Cornell Cooperative Extension Administration.
  • Represent the Agricultural Extension field staff at the state level with organizations such as the NYS Ag Society, NYS Farm Bureau, and the NYS Council of Ag Organizations.
  • Recognize members for outstanding educational programs and innovative field research and provide scholarships to members for professional improvement.
  • Mentor and guide newly hired educators.
  • Host professional development tours and seminars for field staff.

This group was the regional Capital District Ag Agents. The tour was really exciting and I am a sucker for anytime I get to hear and learn from farmers about their trades and commodities. Especially if it is something I really know nothing about.

We started the morning at O.A. Borden and Sons. They are a sixth generation dairy and orchard business that felt they were struggling and either needed to give something up, or update the business. They looked at their dairy and started with that. They built a brand new specialized barn that houses 100+ of their most productive cows which are milked 2 on Lely robot milkers. They showed us the new facility that was recently opened in November and all agreed that it was their best decision. Since the opening of the new barn, milk production has increased over 10lbs per cow, as well as overall milk quality which has allowed them to obtain super high quality premiums. They say that the free flow of the barn has contributed heavily to this, the cows are less stressed when they have to be taken to a parlor and are free to be milked as they please and allowed to return to the robot as often as they like, however the robot will reject the cow for milking if they have been there within four hours of the last milking. They have not cut down on any of their labor however find themselves finishing morning and evening chores an hour earlier, giving them 2 extra hours in the day to work on other things of importance around the farm. They are also still operating out of their old facility which also houses around 100 cows.

The group getting a lesson in vineyard management at Victory View Winery
The group getting a lesson in vineyard management at Victory View Winery.

We moved on from there to Victory View Winery, a member of the Upper Hudson Valley Wine Trail. As a Viticulture/Enology minor and previous vineyard/winery employee of the Finger Lakes, it was very exciting to learn about the Hudson Valley wine market and the types of grapes grown in this region. Most of his varieties lie on 4 acres of his large farm that was previously in dairy production before he purchased it. His varieties include all cold-hardy hybrids such as Marquette, Maréchal Foch, Frontenac, Melody, LaCrosse, and La Crescent. He explained to us his vineyard design and care and wine-making procedures before offering tastings to a few of us in the group.

Gerry Barnhardt describing to the group, the wine making process.
Gerry Barnhardt describing to the group, the wine making process.

We moved on next to a composting and topsoil facility, Booth’s Blend Compost. This was exciting because I have ever only been to one composting facility through my time at Cornell compared to the countless dairies and wineries I have experienced. This facility started as a backyard project to compost the dairy farmer’s manure 15 years ago.  A few years ago, his age and health made him choose between his own dairy and the composting business. Since then, he has been able to put a lot of time and energy into creating a quality compost for gardeners, landscapers and homeowners in the capital region. Demand grows rapidly though word of mouth advertising and neighboring farmers are also using the facility as a way to get rid of horse, cow, and fair manures. People can pick it up by the bucket or truck load, he also has the compost available in bags that he sells to local nursery and garden centers, as well as a delivery business. Currently they have an extensive wait list.

Lunch followed the visit to the compost. We ate a real lunch followed by ice cream at a local ice cream shop, the Ice Cream Man. Here we has a nice round table discussion to hear what all the different extension and Ag Agents are doing in all the capital district counties. It was a great way to learn the different jobs that CCE has to offer and the different outreach they make available in their areas. Young Ag Agents are especially educated in ways that they can do their jobs differently just by hearing the different suggestions offered by those with more experience.

The last stop on the tour was a brand new Farm Brewery, Argyle Brewing Co. This was probably the most educational experience for me the whole trip. I had never been to a craft brewery and do not know much about the brewing procedure. The biggest take away I got from the visit though was learning about the Farm Brewery Act passed here in New York State last year in 2013. This allows small craft breweries to operate under fewer restrictions than a microbrewery, and does not require the initial capital that other licencing may. This, if you haven’t already noticed has allowed more and more craft breweries to pop up all over New York. One of the most interesting things about the new legislation is that right now, it requires that these farm breweries have 20% of their grain and hops grown in New York. It can be processed anywhere and made into malt, but it must be grown in New York. By 2017, this number will increase to 40%, and 90% by 2023, 10 years after the legislation was passed. Not only this but I have noticed a lot more focus on hop and grain research coming out of Cornell about producing better grains because barley especially does not do well in the wet, cold climate of New York. It does much better in the Midwest.

Brewing is going to be the new boom to New York State agriculture. Many people that enjoy beer and have a passion for making their own, are starting breweries all over the state. Some farms, such as Sanford & Sentz, had other professions, in this case dairy, and decided with the new opportunities to give it up and start a brewing business. More and more of this is probably going to be seen across the state and more and more hop and grain growers as well, and rightfully so. There is going to be a very rapid increase in demand for grain and hops in the next ten years, it is going to be really exciting to watch this industry take off.  Just another reason, I love NY!

Checking In

Whoa, it has been a little longer than I would like since I last posted. I’ve been doing a lot of repetitive work, so there really isn’t too much to report. However, here are the highlights of the last two weeks:

20140611_155320-Helped to dig a trench around the perimeter of a research plot

-Laid a chicken-wire fence in said trench (in the rain). Helpful pointer: Synchronized stomping on both sides to secure the fence solidly in the ground is key. It’s really a two person job.

-Helped plant over 3,200 lettuce and galinsoga seedlings (in the sun)

20140610_140424-Weeded weeds (Talk about an existential crisis. When you’re planting weeds on purpose and weeding out unwanted weeds as well as soybeans from those plots…you begin to question life)

-Marked hundreds of weed seedlings with toothpicks and thinned them using forceps. There’s really no comfortable way to sit and do that.

Snapchat-20140624123402I apologize for my dry humor. It’s not as bad as it all seems because I like working with my hands and being outside and I really have been learning a lot about research and post-grad work. Having an internship like this is helping me decide what kinds of careers I think I’ll want to pursue after graduation. And if you ever need someone to plant your lettuce or weed your garden, you know who to call.

Week # 3 With Northwest New York Dairy, Livestock and Field Crops Team

The third week on the job has flown by, since each day has offered a different experience! At the beginning of the week Bill Verbeten and I traveled to farms along the border of Lake Ontario and New York to help set up Western Bean Cutworm traps. We traveled across Monroe, Orleans, and Niagra County. The traps are used monitor the cutworm populations and make a regional threshold growers. WIth a regional threshold the growers in western New York will have a better indicator for when they should implement management practices to control this particular pest. The traps will be monitored weekly to check populations and also associate the cutworms presence in the field with the growth stage of the corn. Then, at the end of the season I will be in charge of creating a Google map with the locations and weekly photos of the traps as a reference to those who would like to access information more information about our study.

During my third week, I was very pleased to have the opportunity to attend a team meeting at the Ontario County office with the Northwest Dairy Livestock and Field Crops Team. This was quite fun since it was the first time I was able to see the whole team together. I really enjoyed being able to have a better understanding of how the team functions as a whole.

In the middle of the week, I attended a Holistic Farm Management workshop with Nancy Glazier, the teams small farms specialist. The workshop was organized for local Amish and Mennonite dairy farmers who supply milk for Organic Valley dairy products. Ian Mitchell Innes, a well known South African advocate for holistic grazing management, led the workshop. We toured two different farms to see what plant species were growing in different pastures and discussed potential grazing management plans for the dairy cows. With Ian’s system, the cows should ideally be moving around the pastures at a much faster rate than is typically recommended and should only consume the top third of the plant. This would stimulate the thickening of grassy material in the pasture and also keep the cows full and continuously eating. Since new fresh feed would be presented to them on a regular basis, they would be more likely to eat more. At the end of the day, this method would help the cows to produce more milk and also keep the health of the pastures at its full potential.

Later in the week Bill and I scouted some corn and soybean fields, then also attended a meeting with German Seed company KWS. We met up with Stephan Bruns, the senior breeder for KWS. He oversees variety trials  of the barley breeding programs and oversees breeding research with KWS seed that done is by Cornell. We also met with Ken Davis, the North American breeder and discussed the potential of successfully growing malting barley along with the potential for building up a regional market here in New York State.

Everything wrapped up on Friday with a meeting at a feed corn flaking facility with Nancy Glazier and a bit more barley scouting with Mike Stanyard. Mike and I checked out a couple of fields in Yates and Seneca County and pulled out samples to send to the lab back at Cornell for disease testing. We both learned something new as we found ourselves in a field of barely that seemed a little different from all the rest. It wasn’t long before we found out that it was actually Einkorn wheat, which looks extremely similar to 2-row malting barley!

 IMG_3407 IMG_3411 IMG_3417

First Month on the Job

Taking greenhouse gas emissions samples from the soil

Taking greenhouse gas emissions samples from the soil

My name is Tyler Pardoe. I am a senior in the Agricultural Sciences major  three weeks into my internship with the Cornell Nutrient Management Spear Program (NMSP).  The NMSP team works to conduct research in both the field and lab in order to provide New York’s farmers with current, reliable, and practical knowledge that they can easily implement on their own farms.  Quirine Ketterings is the professor that heads the program, and the team consists of a research assistant, three doctorates who help with research, and two lab technicians.  There is also another intern that works with me, so a  team of nine.

I’ve learned a lot of awesome things in three weeks and it’s reflecting in how I work with the team.  So far, most of the work has been at the Musgrave Research Farm near Aurora (about halfway up Cayuga Lake).  The first day, we started measuring nitrous oxide and methane (both greenhouse gasses) emissions from the soil on plots with different manure applications.

This process involved a lot of planning, setup, and precise work, so it was a bit overwhelming at first.  Now, I’m teaching some of the other doctorate researchers how to do the sampling, so that shows how much I improved in a short time.  The first day was a bit rough, partly because everything was new to me, but also because I had to take 300 8″ deep soil core samples.  In 90 degree weather, that tends to sap the life out of you.  However, I came back the next day ready to persevere through the task, and now I could take those pesky soil samples with both eyes shut (though I haven’t tried).  We also did a little bit of alfalfa sampling in plots with different sulfur and manure treatments.  At the end of that first week, I was much more comfortable with the team, the work, and the overall lessons we were trying to learn with our research.

That pretty much sums up the first week– emissions sampling and soil sampling.  The second week I helped prepare fields for new experiments.  This was a nice change of pace and I got to use my farm machinery skills.

Using a chopper to prepare fields for emissions experiments

Using a chopper to prepare fields for emissions tests

My first goal was to mow down a grass field and an alfalfa field in preparation for a new manure study.  I used a tractor with a hay chopper and wagon hooked to the back of it to accomplish this.  After about 10 hours of mowing, the fields were ready for the new emissions tests.  We also continued our normal emissions testing schedule in the first experiment during the second week.

The third week is when our plates started getting a little full.  On top of the first emissions experiment, we had two more fields that were each about half the size of the first, so we basically doubled our work.  We now regularly spend eight hours sampling the emissions, so we’re getting pretty good at it.  On top of that, we had to take a day to drive about two and a half hours west to Castile, NY to take soil and alfalfa samples from an area dairy farm.

It’s now the start of the fourth week, and I don’t look for our workload to decrease anytime soon.  I’m learning a lot.  I also know that there will be a lot of interesting things for me to discover in the coming weeks.

Pasture Management & My Blossoming Love of Goats

When I first arrived at Toluma Farms, Tamara, Hadley and I sat down and talked about efforts towards improving pasture management on the farm. I came in with some knowledge about Management Intensive Grazing (I shared with them Gary Fick’s old powerpoints), so we discussed the changes that would need to be made to move in this direction. At that point, Toluma was rotating 3 herds (milking ewes, milking does, dry ewes) between 8 out of their 12 total pastures, while the dry does would graze continuously on 1 lush pasture with a system that irrigated the hill with recycled water from the creamery.


Milking does grazing in the “raddish pasture” – Early June

We decided that the first step that would need to be taken towards MIG was buying portable fencing – this became one of my projects! So, I contacted Premier1 Supplies, and after some research decided to order the “ElectroStop Plus” electric goat/sheep netting – one 164” long and one 82” long.

During the few weeks of waiting for the fencing to arrive, I became more and more independent with my work at Toluma. I became comfortable milking alone, and Hadley and I would often divide up farm work between the two of us. I also became much more comfortable and loving with the goats and sheep. At first, I was a little hesitant about how to interact with them (just because of a lack of experience), but after a few weeks I had made bonds with many of the goats – specifically Timon and Thumper (weening babes), Natasha (a crazy milker), and so many other lovelies!


Thumper! The most affectionate kid

Ups and Downs of Field Research

This week was an exciting one for me as I got some first-hand experience with the ups and downs of field research.  I started off the week by calling IPM Laboratories to order the predatory mites, but after talking to a woman on the phone about the setup of my project, she told me that my experimental design was not going to work because the mites move with the wind and they wouldn’t necessarily stay where they were placed in the hopyard, making it hard to track different times of release. So back to the drawing board I went!  After some discussion with my site supervisor, Tim Weigle, it was decided that since the issue with the previous design was that the predatory mites are going to move too quickly through the hopyard, we would use that as our study.  How quickly do the predatory mites spread when they are placed at the end of the four production rows?unnamed

I took leaf samples again this week and spent another day counting TSSM under the microscope (photo to the right).  However, instead of taking my samples from the same marked plants that I took them from last week, I took them from every sixth hop plant in each row.  This way I can monitor how far down the row the predatory mites move each week.  I also ordered 20,000 N. californicus, which is a predatory mite most often used in greenhouse settings and 20,000 N. fallacis, which is widely used in the Northwest hop growing regions of the United States.  Hopefully they will come in at the beginning of next week so I can start releasing them!

Since CLEREL is home to the Lake Erie Regional Grape Program (LERGP), I have been hoping to get out and work in the vineyards, and this week I was able to!  I joined the field crew as they scouted for rootworm on Monday (lower left photo).  Tim is currently working on a project looking at nematodes as a control mechanism for rootworm, so later in the week I helped him inoculate potted grapevines with nematodes (lower right photo), which are sent and packaged up in wax worm cadavers.


Tomorrow CLEREL is hosting a Hops Conference, which is an opportunity for aspiring growers to come and visit the hopyard here and learn about nutrition, processing, marketing, and other essentials of managing a hopyard in the Lake Erie Region.  Next week I will have some photos and news to share with you from the conference!

Week #2 in Western New York

This week started out with the preparation for Agri-palooza, an annual, educational farm event hosted by Wyoming County. The event has taken place for the past five years and has grown larger and larger each time. This year it was held at Breezy-Hill Dairy. Sixty local vendors and agricultural industry representatives from all over the county set up their booths. There were guided hay wagon rides around the farm to educate the public about what happens on a dairy farm and the importance of the dairy industry.


I spent the rest of the week doing various tasks all around western New York. One day was spent scouting for diseased malting barley to be sent to the lab at Cornell and analyzed. The six row winter barley was just beginning to flower in various counties, with the Alba winter malt variety doing the best so far. Later in the week I went to see an herbicide drift issue between a soybean field and an apple orchard and attend a corn tactical analysis meeting in Livingston County. There, we took populations, staged corn, and also examined seed that had not germinated or plants that seemed to have nutrient deficiencies or pest problems.


The week ended with learning a little more about dairy farming. I spent a morning at Noblehurst farms in Pavillion, Ny. There I was able to see a rotational milking parlor in action, learn the routine of the milking, tour the facilities and see a milking team meeting. Later that same day I got the opportunity to see how robotic milkers work on a different dairy in Canadaigua, NY and observe an employee meeting and safety training with Spanish speaking employees.


Spending Sundae on the Farm

10348592_467295060072281_7929228610798947938_n This past Sunday was Saratoga County’s 19th annual Sundae on the Farm held at Welcome Stock Farm. It is an afternoon event to celebrate agriculture in the county and it takes place every Father’s Day on a local farm. The farm offers tours of their production, there is food, ice cream provided by Stewart’s, pie a la mode from Smith’s Orchard Bake Shop, local cheese, maple syrup, and other vendors and exhibitors, live animals, and music. The event is organized by the local town, Cornell Cooperative Extension, Saratoga County Farm Bureau, and Saratoga County Agricultural Promotion Committee.
Fifty years ago, Saratoga County had approximately 1,000 farms. Today that number had dwindled to just over 500. Land in agricultural production has decreased as well, from 139,000 acres to 78,000 acres across the county according to the USDA Census of Agriculture. As sad as this may sound, there is good news from these changes. The most recent census shows that since 2007, farmland has increased as a total and on a per-farm basis. Market value of these farms’ crops and products has also increased, and the number of principal operators as a primary occupation has increased, meaning that there are now more farmers in the county. Farms are more efficient now than they have ever been due to rapid improvements in technology and research. Because of this, we can have fewer large farms and we do not need a lot of little farms. However, this lessens the number of everyday farmers we find in our communities and further distances the relationship everyday consumers have with their food as these large farms get pushed out of the city limits. Sundae on the Farm is just one of the ways this county excels at strengthening that relationship and encouraging people to come to these farms and learn about the processes of where their food comes from. Saratoga county is also a big agro-tourism community where people can often go pick their own fruits and vegetables at local farm-stands, re-enforcing the connection people have with their food. download

This was my introduction to educating everyday people about invasive species and giving them the resources they need to be able to identify them and report issues with some of New York State’s worst species. Some of these species are those that I won’t even be dealing with. I had to quickly catch on about the Emerald Ash Borer, the Asian Longhorn Beetle, landscaping invasives, and so on. It was good to see the interest much of the community had in trying to stop these pests before they began to lose the plants and animals they had. Many people picked up the brochures I had made to use as a guide this summer, so that was exciting for me, to see my materials become a helpful guide to stopping the spread of invasive landscape ornamentals and agricultural weeds.

Standing and Counting in PA, MD

This summer I work with three other interns at Pioneer New Holland.  Two of them are majoring in agriculture, one at Penn State University and another at Delaware Valley College which is also in Pennsylvania.  The fourth person is actually a temporary employee that they hired on full time for the summer.  Whatever task we may be assigned to do for a particular day or week, we generally all work together or at least in pairs.  This is a nice change from last year when I was the sole new person at my summer job.  We often run around the “home research farm” on a Kubota RTV like the ones pictured.  We have fun as we take stand counts, hoe volunteer corn, or put stakes out.

Home farm transportation

Home farm transportation

Taking stand counts involves counting the number of healthy looking plants in a given plot that are likely to mature and yield adequately.  We walk through the field and count the plants using counting sticks, reporting the number of plants to one of the research assistants following us.  She records our numbers in a data collection program on an I-Pad.  We go down through the field counting and shouting off numbers so the plant breeders know which plots have adequate stands and which plots do not.  Included are some shots of the crew taking stand counts on the Delmarva Peninsula near Salisbury, MD.  There are two things on the Delmarva Peninsula which we do not have much of in Lancaster County: irrigation rigs and beach-sand soil.  Also, while the corn in Lancaster was knee high in mid-June, it was chest high down there.

Irrigation rig near Salisbury, MD

Irrigation rig near Salisbury, MD

Chest high corn plots already

Chest high corn plots already

At Pioneer’s research station in New Holland, there are two plant breeders and one plant pathologist.  These three people are in charge of all the experiments and studies at the station.  They run experiments in different corn plots trying to improve traits in both varieties of corn grain and corn silage.  Helping the breeders maintain their experiments are about half a dozen research assistants that oversee the day to day tasks of collecting data and maintaining the plots.  There are also several guys that work out in the equipment shop, operating and maintaining all field equipment and vehicles, as well as keeping the fields and ground up-kept.  This makes up the daily working crew at the experiment station in addition to some administrative staff.

At this research station, the staff are currently working to improve yield, disease resistance, nutritional quality, and stand-ability including stalk and root strength.  Two big diseases that are prevalent in corn in the north-east that they are working to improve resistance against are Northern Leaf Blight and Grey Leaf Spot.  Also, as Pennsylvania and New York make up a large dairy region in the north-east, trying to increase the nutritional quality and digestibility of corn silage is an important aim for at least one breeder at this station.  A relatively new corn silage variety called “BMR” standing for Brown Mid-Rib is a type of corn that has less lignin, making it more digestible to the cow.  The other interns and I can easily identify this out in the field as the mid-ribs of the leaves are indeed brown.

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