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2012 Interns

Plugs vs. Bareroots

This summer, I took on an individual project helping Professor Miller with a trial between plugs and bareroots. The main goal was simple – to see which ones would grow more successfully. The different cultivars were planted and set in two different locations, one in a poly house and the other in full sun. That way, it would be possible to tell if any of the differences were attributable to the different set locations, not the treatments. Each week, I would water the plants and take pictures of their progress throughout the summer.

At the end of the trial, I went through to collect data on each cultivar and plant type (plug or bareroot) to assess their performance. As for the results, the plugs typically grew better than the bareroots, however, it was not always that case. We decided that further research should be done before determining a set conclusion on this project. More trials should be conducted with additional cultivars to gather more information. Establishing a database with many different perennials (that are cultivar specific) could be a good way to communicate different data that has been collected. It will be very interesting to see what the results are in the future, and I look forward to keeping tabs on the project!

A look into Crop Consulting

After working for Crop Production Services this summer and seeing the type of work they do I would be pleased to find a position with this company after I graduate. I would like to dedicate a blog to describing what it is exactly I do for my internship with this company and what role I would hope to play if I was hired upon graduation.

Most of my time is spent looking at my traps that I have hung in trees and counting how many of each key species are present. I do this to mark when the newest of generation are hatching to inform the farmers when they should apply their next tank of spray for these internal worms. A second use of my traps counts are to find commonalities among farms that are close to see high pressure areas that may need a more frequent sprays than other areas where the pressure is not so high.  When I am not checking traps I am helping to deliver chemicals to farmers so they can get their orders on same day or next day delivery. I also attend grower tours, which are led by Cornell or CPS. I find these tours extremely useful because they are demonstrations of in the field experiments comparing the leading products and how they affect the crop. The top two demonstrations I have seen have been done with Apple Scab products and weed spray chemicals. Both of these trials had 8 reps and showed how farmers can expect their product to work in varying conditions. These tours are very informative and help others and I gather first hand experience.  Those are my duties as an intern for the summer, traps, deliveries and to learn as much as possible.









If I were fortunate enough to get a job with CPS, my roles would be more intense. The position I would apply for would be a crop consultant. A crop consultant’s foremost job is to scout farms and look for all different  pests of the crops. Upon conclusion of scouting I would meet with the farmer and show him what the pest looks like and where it is located on his farm. Then we would discuss his spray options and what would be best for him. Things to consider before making a recommendation for the farmer to spray include, what kind of rig is present, how bad the pest is, cost of the pesticide, and what chemicals the farmer already has in his barn.  Whatever material (chemical) is chosen then is written down and the order is called into the warehouse so it can be delivered the next day. Very often the consultants also have to help hook up some spray rigs and calibrate them for the farmer if they do not know how. As one can see, consultants and farmers are in close contact and in most cases become good friends. I personally love this kind of service, working hand in hand with the farmers. In the winter after the growing season is complete the job becomes more “business like”. Meetings every winter are held in Virginia, and Greenly Colorado to recap the season and how the company preformed. This is also the time when consultants will fly to meet with chemical company representatives to learn about new products for the up coming year and to discuss pricing. I love both aspects of this job and hope to have made a lasting impression with this internship to improve my odds of becoming a consultant for CPS in the future.

Orchards of Upstate New York: Collecting Samples

A few weeks ago I blogged about a trip I took to Peru, NY with the branch manager to visit with some of the apple growers of the region.  I mentioned that I would go back at a later date to conduct tissue and soil samples for any growers that wished to have them done.  This week I went back to Peru to take samples for three orchards: Hart Orchards, Forrence Orchards, and Northern Orchard.  The purpose of taking the samples is to identify and correct any nutritional or soil problems for the next growing season.

Collecting soil samples

On the first day, we took samples from both Hart and Northern Orchards.  Hart Orchards had tissue samples taken from four different blocks.  Two blocks were Macintosh apples, one was honey crisp, and another block was one that the growers said that they were getting a less than desirable crop from.  They were hoping to maybe find something through a tissue analysis.  For tissue samples, leaves are taken from spurs from the current growing season.  They are taken anywhere from late July to early August because the nutrient balance in the plant is the most stable.

The second stop of the day was Northern Orchards.  Here we took both tissue and soil samples.  Soil samples are taken by starting in one corner of a block and working in a line diagonally across the block.  This helps to get a broader picture of the orchard soil than working in one row.  Most of the tissue samples that we collected were from older trees with Macs, but we did collect samples on a block that had a new high density planting.

The second say of the trip was entirely devoted to taking samples for Forrence Orchards.  Forrences’ operate over a thousand

Deer repellent? If it works it works…

acres of orchards all over the town of Peru.  The first block that we took soil samples in was an old block that was going to get ripped up and replanted at the end of the growing season.  The soil samples were taken to see what kinds of things might need to be done to make the soil conditions better for the new trees, such as adding fertilizers to increase the abundance of nutrients that may be at low levels.

The rest of the day was spent taking tissue and soil samples from blocks all over the orchard.  At each block, broad tissue samples were taken.  This meant that we had to take leaves from many different trees across the to try to get a sample that represented the entire block.  At some of the smaller blocks, soil samples were taken in the same fashion.  However, at some larger blocks we divided them into smaller sections and took samples for each section.  This provides a better picture as to the soil makeup of the orchard and allows the grower to change his spray and fertilizer programs for specific rows in a block.  This saves money, as chemicals are only being applied where they are needed.

Beetles making short work of a leaf.

I can’t say that I learned a lot about apple production from the trip, but it definitely reinforced a lot of things I had learned in class.  It is one thing to read about something in a book and another to actually experience it in the field.  The best example I can think of was when I was looking for recent growth on the trees to collect samples from.  In HORT 1101, we spent a lab with Prof. Merwin in the orchard discussing pruning and how it results in a flush of new growth.  I found myself looking at the branches of trees that I would take tissues from and noticed they looked as if they had been recently pruned.  Rather than searching through branches to find ones with new growth, I was able to speed up the process a little by looking for spots that had been pruned.  More than likely, those spots were near new growth.





Field Day at Blue Grass Lane

On Monday July 23, my team of interns and I had a big preparation day  for the ninth annual Cornell Floriculture Field Day on Tuesday, July 24. The conference began with presentations followed by lunch and tours of Blue Grass Lane. Horticulture professor Bill Miller is pictured left leading a tour at Blue Grass Lane in his festive Hawaiian t-shirt.

Over 130 horticulture professionals attended the event, which included a container competition. The competition is a main event that benefits IBD research in honor of Kathy Pufahl, who has inspired the horticultural business. Categories included Open Division, 16 inch pots, 12 inch hanging baskets, and Home Gardener Division. There were many exciting entries that I could see took time and care to create. Attendees were also asked to put 3 flags next to their favorite perennial flowers as well as 3 flags next to their favorite annual flowers. When we tallied up the votes, it came as a surprise that a variety of Caladiums were voted most favorite annual flower, since up until Field Day, they were not growing too well. We believe this is because they are a shade plant that was grown in full sun (which also may have been why they were chosen to win!).


Overall, the day was successful with learning, voting, and eating. At the end, the winners of the container competition were announced while participants enjoyed local ice cream. The hours of hard work spent setting up (as well as planting and maintaining our flowers) paid off.

Photo Credit: Chris Kitchen

Tissue Sampling and Nodule Counts

Soybean Nodules

What do you do on a beautiful summer day? Well, spend it in a soybean field of course!  I headed up to Delaware County this morning to complete some more fieldwork on the soybean and lime experiment. Since the soybeans were planted late, they are only just reaching the R1/R2 stage. This is the stage where tissue samples and nodule counts are taken.

The tissue samples were the easiest part of the day. The procedure was to cut off the highest, fully-open trifoliate leaf from 20 plants in each rep. This resulted in 60 individual leaves, once the petioles were removed. The samples will then be dried, ground, and sent off to the lab for analysis.

The harder part of the day was the nodule counts on the roots. Soybeans have the ability to fix their own nitrogen with the help of bacteria.  Prior to planting, soybean seeds are inoculated with a bacterium called Rhizobium japonicum.  This symbiotic relationship between the bacterium and the soybean seed allow atmospheric nitrogen to be converted into a usable form for the plant.  The nitrogen fixation begins with the formation of a nodule on the root of a legume.  For the first few weeks, the nodules are inactive. But 2-3 weeks after planting, the nodules become active.  A healthy nodule will be a pinkish-red inside, caused by leghemoglobin.  These nodules will supply most of the needed soybean plant’s nitrogen for the rest of the growth period.

To count nodules, the soybean plants have to be dug up, being careful not to disturb the root system.  Two plants from five different rows in each plot were sampled for the nodule count.  Once the plants were dug up, the dirt was shaken from the roots, dipped in water and then counted.  The nodule counts ranged from zero all the way up to 30+ nodules.

At harvest time, soil samples will be taken as well as yield monitoring. This is done by counting the number of pods per plant and beans per plot.  The beans will also be weighed to determine the dry matter content.  Until that time, the soybean fieldwork will be quiet.  In the meantime, I have a lot of grinding samples and a few soil tests to run. It should be enough to keep me busy!

Ag Sciences interns blog

In addition to our featured category bloggers, seniors Mason Day and Myra Manning along with May ’12 graduate Rosy Cohane-Mann are also sharing stories from the trenches. Read more about Mason’s internship with Ball Horticultural Company focusing on social media and marketing in the horticultural industry as well as Myra’s internship with Cornell Cooperative Extension studying nematodes and developing education/communication tools. Rosy’s internship is with the State Government Relations group in Cornell’s Government and Community Relations Office in Albany. Great work everyone!

Highlights of crop scouting with WNYCMA

Round-up Ready volunteer corn weeds in Roundup Ready soybeans

This blog reflects upon what I’ve learned and enjoyed doing and seeing this summer at WNYCMA. It has been a good experience and I’ve taken a lot from it. I had the opportunity to see how to apply many of the principles and concept from the last several years of school to crop production. I really liked the weeks when there was a variety of crops and types of scouting to do. The opportunity to see how many of the crops are managed and how the pests are controlled was a great experience. I was told that this summer was more intense than a usual scouting season. The armyworms and drought conditions made us return to many of the fields to look for reoccurring pests or ones that could increase in population (i.e. spider mites) due to specific environmental conditions. Some of the farmers I scout for really got hit hard by armyworms, especially my farmers who had strip cropped grass hay fields next to their corn. Often I would scout for armyworms one week and find a low population and return the next week to find the populations increased in the hay fields and the “troop” of armyworms moved into the corn to eat that.

I also really liked the weed management aspect of crop scouting this summer. Call it weird, but I enjoyed identifying all the various weeds and how they grow and interfere with the growth of the crop in various ways. I got interested in weeds during the Weed Biology and Management class offered at Cornell and I look forward to taking the Weed Ecology and Management course with Toni next year, during my last undergrad semester. So for me, identifying and learning about the weeds was the most interesting of the job. I was given a “Weeds of the Northeast” book as I did my scouting and if I had any questions as to what I was looking at I would consult and review the book to verify the weed. Weeds were more an issue for the first half of the summer and after the crops got bigger and closed the canopy only a few weeds were commonly seen. These were usually common ones such as velvetleaf, pigweed, various annual grasses, and lambsquarters. We were always on the lookout for weed escapes and tried to rely on the residual action of the herbicides for control. The most commonly seen weed escape I saw this summer was Lambsquarters in soybeans. In a couple fields we had a few areas (of about 3 acres total in a 55 acre field) where there was lambsquarters t about the same height of the beans (about 32”). We talked to the farmer about the situation and after talking it over figured we would destroy more soybeans getting a sprayer out there to control the weeds. I think that my favorite crop to scout this summer was soybeans.

An early 1960’s John Deere 5010

I also have a passion for ag. equipment both new and old, but primarily the old stuff. I used to be a technician at a couple auto/truck and farm equipment repair shops before I decided to return to college. I have a few old John Deere and International Harvester tractors that I enjoy repairing. I enjoy getting these old tractors running and using for some field work. This summer’s experience allowed me to see all sorts of pieces of agricultural equipment from years gone by. While taking pictures of crops and crop pests I also took pictures of cool old pieces of equipment. The various agronomy skills I attained this summer at WNYCMA, interactions with the farmers, and the interesting places and things I saw made this a very worthwhile and memorable summer.

An old allis chalmers pull type combine

Wrapping up with WNYCMA

This is the start of my last week with WNYCMA. Monday will be my last trip down to Pennsylvania to scout for armyworms, leafhoppers, and corn rootworm beetles. The last few weeks have been very similar work as my previous blog post. I have a weekly rotation of crop scouting that consists of hitting certain farms each weekday and looking for increasing populations of different pests. Early in the week, I head south and work in Pennsylvania and scout from 3 to 4 farms down there. Some farms are on the “full service” plan and we scout these farms more frequently and intensely than the farms who don’t opt for the full service plan. In PA, I have a few dairy farms and a hog farm to scout.
Later in the week I work in farms around the Belmont and Wellsville area. I have a couple mixed crop and livestock farms in this area. The corn for grain that I scout in the Genesee Valley area is on well drained gravel ground and as a result of the midsummer drought is very short and stunted and has already tasseled. Much of this corn is 3 to 4 feet tall and the leaves have desiccated up to the ear leaf. The dry weather has also brought issues with the soybeans I scout in the same area. Two spotted spider mite populations have increased over the summer and some of the soybean leaves have developed a mottled yellow appearance. If damage increases unchecked the soybean leaves will eventually wilt, turn brown, and fall off. However, after finding the mites and their characteristic damage we had a miticide applied which kills the adults but not the larvae. Because of this I’ll continue scouting these mite infested fields, and the other subsequent soybean fields, as we perform our weekly checks looking for soybean aphids and additional spider mite outbreaks.

Checking the underside of a soybean leaf with a hand lens to look for 2 spotted spider mites

Checking a soybean plant for soybean aphids. The treatment threshold we use is 250 aphids/plant. So far the most I’ve found is 25.

Toward the end of the week, I service several farms in the area around Fillmore and Houghton before heading to Sandusky to check corn for a large dairy. I also have some soybeans in this area and have recently started to find another issue in soybeans, that being Downey. I have not yet taken the plant pathology course (that’s coming this semester) so my knowledge of plant diseases is fairly limited. However, after consulting my CCA (Nick), our company scouting handbook, and of course Google, I believe its Downey Mildew. It appears as yellow spots on the upper leaf surface and a grey “fuzz” on the underside of the leaves located directly below the yellow spots. After finding the Downey Mildew we recommended a couple different options, one being to take soybeans out of the crop rotation schedule for cycle and the other being to moldboard plow the soybean fields to bury the infected residue before planting soybeans again. The additional duties of the last couple of weeks have been pretty much identical to what was discussed in the last post, “All about Bugs”. Though I especially enjoy the weed identification and management end of crop scouting, the last few weeks have increased my knowledge and interest in insects, diseases, and their management.

R4-R5 Pod Development Stage in Soybeans as well as a new Weed Pest in Western New York

This is me scouting Soybeans at one of the farms participating in the TAg Soybean team of Ontario County in Western New York.

As we move into August, the main focus with soybeans is pod development and maturation. Of the seven fields participating in the TAg Team of Ontario County here in Western New York all of them seem to be right on track for a good return at harvest time. The plants are between the R4 and R5 growth stages. The “R” stands for reproductive stage and the numbers are a mere gauge for the growth of the bean pods. As of right now the plants that are at the R4 growth stage are at an average length of 2 cm long at one of the four uppermost nodes on the main stem with a fully developed leaf. The plants that are at the R5 growth stage has pods that are 3mm in length and is at one of the four uppermost nodes on the main stem with a fully developed leaf. The biggest concern now for growers is to keep beating the drought like conditions that have been coming in stages. The pods need moisture in order for the pods to fill, so rain is a welcomed friend to the growers.

Close up of Field Horse tail weed.

In other news, I have been seeing a new weed in some of the Soybean fields that I have been scouting that is a rising concern for the agriculture community, Field Horsetail.  Field Horsetail has been found worldwide but predominantly in cereals and grasses, but it can also be found in vegetable crops, pastures, landscape settings, woodlands, waste areas, and roadsides as well as along railroads. It can tolerate a range of soil conditions but does best in sandy, gravely, or wet poorly drained soils. Field horsetail is resistant to most agronomic herbicides, and can survive under many conditions because of its deep rhizomes and tubers. Rhizome fragments and tubers are easily spread to new areas in infested soil through farm machinery. As a result, this species is often difficult to control. It can be a strong competitor with crops, as well as a threat to grazing animals due to toxic compounds. In addition, field horsetail extracts can inhibit germination and reduce vigor of 30 grass species. With its high resistance and few answers as to how and control this weed, it is becoming a big concern to growers.

A patch of Field Horsetail Weed found on the edge of a field in Ontario County.

Dekalb Sales Rep. Meeting in Canandaigua, NY

Growing up on I dairy farm I have become pretty familiar with the sight of corn.  I wake up every morning and look out my window to see a five foot tall wall of it across the street from my house.  When I was little I spent my afternoons riding with my father in the silage truck.  As I got older, I then started spending those afternoons packing the silage pile.  I’ve seen many of our cornfields turn brown in the summer heat and have seen constant rains wash away seed that was just planted.  After a sack of corn seed is dropped off at our farm, I’m pretty familiar with what it takes to get that from the ground into the feed alley.  However, I knew nothing about what it takes to get that sack of corn to a farmer until last week.

Last week I went with two of the Helena salesman to a meeting with the Delkalb sales representatives of the northeast.  The meeting was at the Monsanto Research farm in Canandaigua, NY.  The meeting discussed some of the newest varieties of Dekalb corn seed and Asgrow soybean seed, new products coming in the future, and it included a tour of the farm.

Trial of one of Dekalb’s 113 day varieties.

One part of the meeting that I found the most interesting had to do with different varieties of corn and their potential as a silage crop.  Acres upon acres of corn that is taller than the tractor may fill up the silos, but it does not necessarily mean the silage will provide the farmer’s herd with the optimum nutrition that he is looking for.  Dekalb’s line of Silage Proven corn seed varieties are tested and proven to give dairy farmers the nutritional qualities that they are looking for in silage corn.  Dekalb’s Silage Proven varieties give farmers a corn variety that has high yields and a high digestibility to provide energy for lactation.

Another product discussed at the meeting that is designed to help growers is Dekalb’s line of R.I.B. (Refuge In Bag) Complete corn seed.  Depending on what area of the country, growers using Bt corn are supposed to plant a certain percentage of their acreage with corn seed that does not contain the Bt trait.  This percentage is called the refuge and is supposed to limit insects’ exposure to the Bt trait, thus preventing resistance.  If a grower’s refuge is 20%, then 20% of their acreage must be planted with non-Bt

Soybean plot for new Asgrow variety

corn.  This can be accomplished a number of ways.  If a farmer has a 100 acre field, he can plant one 20 acre section using non-Bt corn.  Dekalb’s R.I.B. Complete comes premixed with a 95% R.I.B. corn and 5% non-Bt corn that allows a farmer to simply dump the seed in the planter and go without having to mix seed or calculate refuge acreage.

After lunch, we were given a tour of the farm.  All over the farm are trials of different corn and soybean varieties.  There are also plots of corn varieties of some of Dekalb’s competitors.  These yields of both trials are compared so that salesman can make the best recommendations to growers.  There was also a plot that showed new Dekalb varieties growing side-by-side with varieties that Dekalb currently has on the market.  This side-by-side comparison gives the salesman a chance to see how the new products do against the ones that they may currently be selling to growers.  Some basic information on each variety was given as well. This included things like how well varieties did in different growing conditions and whether each variety was better suited as grain corn or silage corn.

The goal of the day was to better equip Helena salesman with the information and knowledge necessary to make the best recommendation of different Dekalb and Asgrow products to customers.  Helena is Dekalb’s major distributor in the Northeast.  The Hatfield branch started out selling around 400 bags a few years ago and is currently up to around 2,000.  By the estimates of one of the salesman that was about one third of the business in area of New England and eastern New York.  The goal is to expand upon that every year.  With the kind of information and commitment to product development displayed at the meeting, that goal should be attainable.

The competitor’s product struggling in the dry weather.

A plot with seed from one of Dekalb’s competitors.

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