Skip to main content

Summer At Cornell-Subsurfer and Alfalfa Harvest

A few weeks ago we tested the subsurfer poultry litter injector on a field at the Musgrave Research Farm in Aurora in hopes that we wouldn’t break the prototype.  Good news is, it didn’t break but the bad news is used it doesn’t work too well.  Instead of using the dry poultry litter, we used separated manure solids from a dairy farm just up the road.  When we first added some solids in at the dairy farm and ran it out on the ground it worked great but that was not the case when we tried it in the field a few weeks later.

The video explains a little more about how exactly the injector works, but in brief, the bed is lined with augers that pull the manure forward and send it through a shoot where two discs separate the soil and put the manure near the roots. The separated solids had a little more moisture than the poultry litter that others used which caused a few problems.  It would build up in the shoots and wouldn’t fall down.  After each plot we would have to clean out each shoot so the manure would fall down.  Another problem is that the augers made tunnels through the manure and wouldn’t pull any more of it forward so nothing would come out.  We emptied out the bed of the injector and are trying to dry out the solids a little more and give it another try in a few weeks. We’ll see what happens.

The second cuttings of all our alfalfa trials are in as of last week.  We collected the forage samples we needed at each of the three locations and I am grinding all the samples.  I look in the store room and see the mountain of brown paper bags and I know I’ve got a lot of work to do!

Whats left after 3 days of more field to go!

One of our plots in Valatie had quite a bit of green leafhopper damage.  The green leafhoppers will feed on the stems and underside of leaves on the sap causing those areas to be a lighter color.  There was no sign of leafhopper damage at Coynes field and the alfalfa planted at Aurora was a leafhopper resistant variety and seems to be doing very well.  In no time at all, it will be time for the 3rd cutting and tip samples.







Alfalfa Field in Valatie

Later this week, I will get to take a first look at the soybean field where my project will be taking place.  I will take the 2 hour trip to Delaware County to take stand counts on the soybeans and meet all the other people involved with the project.  I will also be bringing back some initial soil samples to process.  I am still reading up on soybeans and working through the lime module, but I hope to have more for you on the soybeans soon.  Until then, stay cool and pray for some rain!

Adventures in the North Country: Trying to Keep Everything Straight

Greetings from the North Country! It’s been a hectic few weeks. It’s almost time for the Clinton County Fair, which means the entire office is buzzing with excitement. From making to posters and registering 4-H kids to making changes to the actual grounds, there are so many things to do. I have volunteered to judge both 4-H projects as well as the Swine show. This will be an interesting change of pace, considering I have participated in swine shows myself for the past seven years but have never judged one before.

The Willsboro Research Farm hosted a Farm Tour on Tuesday to show what they do. Having visited and met with the staff of the farm, I already knew how hard they all worked, but this tour was still an eye-opener for me. They conduct multiple wheat and grass trials, as well as grape, corn, tomato and even more than I could name.

Overhead shot of different grasses at the Willsboro Research Farm

They also hosted a session with a local baker who discussed why he valued using local products. As a baker, he told us how it is the most important thing to create a quality product as opposed to creating an optimally efficient set-up. Overall, it was incredible to see the connections made through this research farm.

For the duration of the leek moth project, I have been working under the guidance of Masa Seto, a researcher working at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, New York. The experiment breaks down into seven sites with pheromone trappers and data loggers which record the daily temperature and light intensity. These are set up near plots of onions, which were planted to specifically lure in the pest. Our preliminary findings show that the leek moth seems to be moving south, as it was confirmed in Willsboro, NY for the first time this year. We spent a day together travelling to each site and meeting with the farmers. We even experienced a stroke of luck – one home gardener knew of a neighbor who had complained of problems with her onions. We ended up visiting her and confirming that she also had the pest.

Our office also organized a field meeting with Abby Seamen, the New York State IPM Coordinator. Seven local farmers met up at the Juniper Hill farm to get advice straight from an expert. Concerns were brought up about leaf hoppers, cucurbit pests and corn pests. It was really great to see farmers put competition aside and simply share their ideas with one another. Considering that these farmers are competing with each other in the marketplace, it was reassuring to see a collaboration to achieve the greatest possible yield. Abby also left behind handouts of color photos of pests in case the farmers had any questions in the future.

Scouting for Leek Moth with Masa

For me, these past few weeks have given the fairest representations of what it means to work in extension. As the intern, I realize that I bounce back and forth between departments, but this enabled me to see just how much is going on in this office at any given moment. Our Nutrition Educators share their recipe ideas with me as they prepare for a program to encourage students to live healthier lifestyles. Our 4-H agent tells me about the progress of planning a county fair. Our horticultural agent shows me downy mildew for the first time. The collaborating researcher tells me about how he got into research and what role extension plays in connecting the work in the lab to the farmer in the field. Though this internship is definitely hard work, it sure isn’t boring.

Mid summer scouting

Checking alfalfa height with markings on my sweep net

The corn scouting season is on the downward slide. In fact, I will be finishing the early season corn scouting by next week. It will be interesting because I will scout young ,2 leaf corn and shoulder-height tasseling corn during the same week. The fields which are tasseling will be scouted for corn rootworm beetles to get an idea of the pressure this pest will put on the next year’s corn crop. It has been an eventful corn scouting season with plenty of weeds to identify from seedlings on up to mature plants. I only saw a few escapes, or weeds which were not completely killed by the herbicide programs. Many farmers also had armyworms moving into their corn fields (often from neighboring grass crops) and defoliating corn. Most of these fields bounced back without having to be replanted.


Recently, I’ve been in soybean fields performing weekly checks for soybean aphids. I know a little bit about these insects due to a project I did for an IPM course that I took at Alfred State, before I came to Cornell (Go Pioneers…and Big Red!!!). The WNYCMA threshold for treatment of these little green aphids is 250 insects/plant, but so far the most I’ve found is 15/plant. As usual, I’m also on the lookout for weed escapes and any other flushes of weeds which may have gotten past the residual effects of the herbicide in the bean fields. I’m responsible for scouting about 300 to 350 acres of soybeans and so far they look good and some are starting to flower.


Soybean aphids are the little green dots above my thumb

Today, July 10, I started scouting drilled sorghum fields. Scouting the sorghum is a much like corn scouting except the populations are much higher. This farm, located in Pennsylvania, planted 103 acres of sorghum over a two day period. So far, the weed pressure looks low and the small plants appear off to a good start. I saw some bird damage, where the whole plant was plucked out, but no army worms. I understand that a second infestation of armyworms is possible, but I hope that doesn’t happen. The farmers are sick of these bugs and one made me laugh when he told me that his spray bill is ” just about as much as the national debt”. The other big project going on right now is looking for potato leaf hoppers in alfalfa. They have often been above threshold especially in the new alfalfa seedlings. I’ve become very accustomed to identifying “hopper burn”, a yellowing on the margins of the alfalfa leaves where the hoppers are feeding. The weed pressure is noted and we take crown counts of the alfalfa by counting the number of alfalfa crowns that fall within a square foot ring. Hopefully, we will get some rain soon to keep all the crops growing and to cool me off.

Working on my tan while sweeping for leaf hoppers in an alfalfa field

Internship with Crop Production Services

This summer I have an internship with Crop Production Services. My role for CPS is to check traps on roughly 50 farms in the area and look for some key insects that can be really detrimental to the crop. All of the pests I look for are categorized as internal worms. They are Coddling Moth, Oriental Fruit Month, Lesser Apple Worm and Oblate Banded Leafroller. I took some pictures of how I trap them and what some of the pest looks like.

This picture shows a couple good things that demonstrate exactly what I do. In the center of the picture there are two insects and a red cap. This upper insect is  just a fly but I included it in the photo to give a reference for size. Another size reference is the green squares. Each square is 1.5 in X 1.5 in. The bottom insect is the Oriental Fruit Moth. This moth is a dark brown/grey with a darker grey diamond on their back. I see these moths in almost every trap I check, however, they are not a problem to the farmer till they exceed the threshold level. The threshold level varies for each insect and the OFM threshold limit is thirty. I check half the traps every Wednesday and the other half every Friday. This keeps the time interval in between checks the same every week. The past two weeks the counts have been really low because they are in between cycles. The second generation of these moths should take flight in about two weeks from now. When that happens I will upload a picture with a really high pest pressure. The last object in this picture is the pheromone caps. These caps are roughly 1 in long and are infused with a sex pheromone that attracts the OFM towards the traps.These caps are good for about two months of trapping then need to be changed to ensure accurate counts. Once the moth is inside the trap it doesn’t leave because the entire inside of the trap is encased with a sticky goo called tangle foot. This is the worst part of my job. This goo gets on your hands and then gets on everything you touch.  Next week I will take photos of the Coddling Moth and discuss some ways farmers keep pest pressure low after I give them their trap counts.

This picture shows the trap from the outside. The traps are made by a company called Trece and have the tangle foot goo on all three sides of the trap.

Side Dressing the Test Plot


 Since I have started at Helena Chemical this summer I have probably driven over five hundred miles every week.  Although I love driving through the countryside of New England, I often times find myself in bumper-to-bumper traffic on Interstate 91.  Anytime I drive on I-91 through the city of Springfield around quitting time, the traffic is bunched tighter together than the draft at a NASCAR race.  Needless to say, I always cringe a little when I look at my load tickets and see that I am driving through such high-traffic areas.   At least I can take solace in the fact that if traffic comes to a grinding halt I am getting paid by the hour.


Knifing in UAN 32 and Hydra-Hume

Due to the unusually warm spring, things have been slowing down lately.  That means I spend less time on the road and more time at the office doing odds and ends for the salesman.  One day, that meant trading in the truck for a tractor and side dressing the company’s corn test plot.  Besides herbicides, pesticides, and liquid fertilizers, Helena also sells a variety of different corn seeds.  In half of the test plot, different varieties are planted to see which ones grow the best and provide the highest yields.  The other side tests different mixes of fertilizer in an effort to see the effects on yield.  This kind of information allows Helena to better serve its clients by providing them with the best possible knowledge and products.

A mixture of UAN 32 and Hydra-Hume was knifed into the test plot.  Hydra-Hume aids in the uptake of nitrogen by stabilizing the nitrate from the UAN 32.  It essentially acts as liquid humus that can be sprayed or knifed into the soil.  It coats particles of the soil and helps to retain nitrate molecules much like organic matter.  It is applied at a rate of ¼ to 1 gallon an acre and it is recommended that no more than 3 gallons are applied to an acre in a single application.  Hydra-Hume also contains 1.00% soluble potash.  Here is a link for the Hydra-Hume label:

At a later date the plot may be top dressed using Helena’s CoRoN 25-0-0 Controlled Release Nitrogen Fertilizer.  CoRoN gradually releases nitrogen to plants rather than making it all available at once.  This helps to reduce burn out.  CoRoN can be

The test plot...and the eyesore of a housing development that borders it.

applied to corn at a rate of 3 to 5 gallons an acre between the V-6 and V-8 stages of growth.  It can also be sprayed as a foliar application from one to three gallons an acre as a nitrogen supplement during pre-tassel or at a rate of one to two gallons an acre between the pre-tassel and silk stages to help with ear fill.  Three gallons of CoRoN on a one acre plot like the Helena test plot will replace 37.5 pounds of nitrogen in the soil. Besides corn, CoRoN can be used in a wide variety of other field crops as well as on vegetable crops, ornamentals, and fruits.  Here’s a link to the label for CoRoN 25-0-0:

Helena sells CoRoN in either 2 by 2.5 gallon cases or in 250 gallon totes.  I had to unload an entire tanker of CoRoN into twenty totes one day.  That turned out to be quite a cluster when the driver showed up with a leaky hose to unload the product with and no air to blow out the line, but that is a different story.  Helena also has two trucks with 2,000 gallon tanks that can deliver pre-mixed sprays to a grower to fit their specific needs and applications.  The truck pumps the mix into the customer’s sprayer or nurse truck.  All the farmer has to do is sign off on the load ticket and then get to work spraying or side dressing.  I wish I had that kind of support when I was side dressing, but I guess you have to put in your time and start somewhere.

Full Tote of CoRoN

Test plot early in the year










Blue Grass Lane Annual Flower Trials – Take 1

Hello! My name is Missy Call and I have chosen to blog about my experiences at Blue Grass Lane Annual Flower Trials. So I decided my first post would be about my first couple of weeks of work at Ken Post Laboratory and Blue Grass Lane. For starters, it is definitely the place for you if you enjoy working in greenhouses and gardening. The internship is a lot of hard work and keeps me in shape! There is a lot of planting, weeding, mulching, and watering, among many other things. The job atmosphere is really laid back, which is excellent for the summer, and requires a variety of different tasks so you aren’t doing the same thing every day.

As a brief overview, my job, along with two other interns, is to plant, maintain, and evaluate new cultivars of annual flowers. We receive these cultivars from various breeding companies such as Syngenta, Classic Caladiums, Ball FloraPlant, Ball Ingenuity, Burpee Home and Garden, Keift, PanAmerican Seed, and Proven Winners. Once the beds are finished, we begin to evaluate each plant and score it on how well it is growing in its new environment, here in zone 5. These evaluations are sent back to the breeding companies and reviewed by the researchers and marketers.


Another project we help take care of is the perennial beds, located right next to the annuals. There are six large beds that have already been planted and established, so we spend a lot of our time weeding and mulching these beds.

In the greenhouse we help Professor Bill Miller collect data for research on Lilies and Dahlias. This includes measuring stem and leaf size, time of flowering, and taking photos of the plants. It is always a nice perk to be able to bring the flowers home with us after all of the data has been collected.


Scouting for Armyworm and Fusarium Head Blight in Wheat

Me scouting wheat for signs of pest and disease damage.

Armyworm, armyworm, armyworm! The past few weeks nothing has been a larger concern to wheat and field crop growers than the army worm infestation in Western New York. Several farmers have been plagued by this relentless pest, and concerns are on the rise as to what the economic damage has been to growers this year. The armyworm is primarily a pest of grasses, small grain crops and corn. The insect will also attack alfalfa, beans, clover, flax, millet, and sugar beets. Feeding and movement occur at night or on cloudy days. During the daytime, armyworms hide under vegetation, loose soil or in soil cracks. Caterpillars consume more and more vegetation as they grow. Since they feed at night and hide during the daytime, armyworms often cause considerable damage before being discovered making them a dangerous pest for growers.

Here army worms are feeding on the head of wheat plants.


To the left you can see the damage that armyworms can do to the wheat plants. If you look closely the leafs have been stripped from the plants and the damage is now being done to the heads of the wheat.

The next major concern is the possibility of another generation of armyworm growing during the growing season. The life cycle of the army worm is now at the pupate stage. The larvae move under litter and soil clods, or burrow 2 to 3 inches into the soil, where they make small cells in the soil and pupate. About two weeks later, moths emerge from pupal cases, mate, and lay eggs for the next generation.  A great deal of concern is on the rise as to weather there will be a second plague if these pest or not, only time will tell.

I have been visiting several farms in the Western New York region not only scouting for armyworm, but for wheat disease as well, focusing mainly on  Fusarium Head Blight and Rust. Fusarium head blight or head scab is caused by the fungus Fusarium graminearum. The disease causes tremendous losses by reducing grain yield and quality and is a growing concern for wheat producers in Western New York. Symptomology of head blight in wheat  is any part or all of the head may appear bleached. The partly white and partly green heads are diagnostic for the disease in wheat.

Here is an example of head bleaching due to Fusarium Head Blight.

The fungus also may infect the stem  immediately below the head, causing a brown – purplish discoloration of the stem tissue. Additional indications of head blight infection are pink to salmon-orange spore masses of the fungus often seen on the infected spikelets and glumes during prolonged wet weather.

There is no simple cure for Fusarium Head Blight in producers fields so a combination of treatments is suggested. Seed treatment and the use of high-quality seed will help reduce seedling blight due to infected seed but will not protect against subsequent head blight.  The main precautions for growers to consider while aiming to prevent against head blight are seed treatment, tillage, crop rotation, planting date, and resistance.

Here you can see the salmon colored fungal spores associated with Fusarium Head Blight.

Although there is no wheat variety that has true resistance to the head blight, there are certain varieties that show moderate resistance to the blight that are recommended for growers use.

With wheat reaching the date of harvest, my scouting skills will be relocated to the soybean fields of Western New York! Stay tuned for my next scouting adventure!



Crop Scouting with Western New York Crop Management Association

The corn scouting season is in full swing here in WNY. This summer I’m working for Western New York Crop Management Association. The organization offers crop scouting, nutrient management, and CAFO (confined animal feedlot operations) planning as well as other services.  I’ve been assigned crop scouting responsibilities on 12 farms in the southern tier of western New York and Northwestern Pennsylvania. My boss at WNY CMA is Nick Youngers. Nick is a Certified Crop Advisor and manages over 12000 acres of field crops. He also supervises a technician and another scout besides me; he is a very busy guy.

My new wheels for the first half of the summer!

In the last couple weeks I’ve scouted corn, soybeans, alfalfa, and grass-legume hay fields. I enjoy working with field crops and I’ve gotten plenty of opportunities to spend time in many local farmers’ fields. In the field I stage crops, take populations, and evaluate the weed, insect, and disease pressure. The early season corn scouting is the most intense and time consuming scouting we do. Corn is very susceptible to the various pests, especially when it’s young, so we put in the hours during this time of year.  We have all worked 70+ hours, six days a week since mid-May. The scouting thus far has really sharpened my weed seedling identification skills. I’ve found plenty of all “the usual suspects” such as lambsquarter’s, pigweed, ragweed, quackgrass and annual grass weeds.  We have also seen plenty of armyworm infestations in grass hay fields and corn. The little fellas defoliate the corn and often just leave a whorl of leaves. Many fields had cutworm infestations and these insects “cut down” the corn seedlings. These stand out because the cut down corn plants take on a bluish wilted appearance.

Corn plant damaged by cutworm

For all of these pests we use a variety of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) concepts, but for the scout the primary concern is if the pest is above or below threshold. The weeds, and insects, and disease pests have differing ways which we evaluate if they are above or below threshold. Though we try to promote farmers to use IPM to save money, reduce resistance, and reduce potential environmental issues, some farmers view their reports and treat their infested fields immediately, regardless of pest density. After a field has been treated, I return to the fields after the reentry period has been met to verify the pests have been controlled.
The scouting process is repetitive, but this repetition has given me the opportunity to really get good at identifying common pests and has also given me time to build rapport with the farmers and find out what their common pests are on their particular place. All of the farmers I work with have been very friendly and supportive during this learning process that is the early season scouting.  As the growing season progresses, I look forward to doing different tasks in the various crops and learning as much as I can. It’s hard to believe that June is nearly over already, summer and the growing season are flying by!

Wild mustard in corn

Summer at Cornell: Soil, Soybeans and Subsurfers

While many students choose to take a break from Cornell and get a change in scenery from Ithaca for the summer, I decided to accept an internship at Cornell and experience the few calm months that Cornell has each year. I am interning in the Nutrient Management Spear Program (NMSP) which is run by Dr. Quirine Ketterings in the Animal Science department at Cornell.  One of NMSPs main goals is to make sure the New York farms remain sustainable and they do this through extension programs, on-field and laboratory based research, and general exchange of knowledge among individuals.  Tools for planning and decision making on field crop nutrient management is readily available to anyone who needs it.  Through this program, recommendations can be made to farmers about what to apply to their fields to increase yields of their crops but also keeping in mind the environment.

Over the summer, I will be working on several different projects that the NMSP is running  as well as getting my own special project in which I will create an Agronomy Fact Sheet from the data collected.  Some of my responsibilities include setting up field trials at various farms and experimental stations across New York state, soil sampling, soil fertility and crop monitoring, sample processing and lab analyses.  I will also get a lot of experience working with extension and crop consulting agencies as well as a better idea of how to run your own research experiment.

Prior to starting my internship over four weeks ago now, I had no idea what to expect to be doing each day and even after four weeks I still don’t know what each day will bring.  I knew I would be working with soil but that was about it.  My first week on the job really gave me a taste of what my summer would include.  The first day I ended up washing and separating root and shoot samples from a cover crop study.  The next day I was in the truck headed to a farm in Western New York to set up plots and spread fertilizer in an alfalfa field.  The next day I was grinding plant samples followed by a day of computer work.  The last day of my first week was spent at the Musgrave Research Farm in Aurora taking soil samples from a multi-year corn/alfalfa rotation study that has been going on for awhile now.  I felt like I was going in a hundred different directions but I loved having a new challenge every day I came into work.

Musgrave Research Farm

I have learned how to do several laboratory tests including ISNT, LOI and Morgan Extractions.  ISNT stands for Illinois Soil Nitrogen Test and it measures the amount of Nitrogen in soil that is available for plant use.  This helps determine if addition of Nitrogen fertilizer will be beneficial to crop yields.  LOI stands for Loss of Ignition and measures the amount of organic matter in a soil.  Morgan Extractions measure the amounts of micro and macro nutrients in a soil sample.  There are still several lab tests that I will be learning in the coming weeks including a Corn Stalk Nitrate Test.

A few weeks ago, I was also given my special project from which I will create an Agronomy Fact sheet which will be published on the NMSP website.  My project is looking at soil pH in soybean fields in Delaware County.  The goal of this experiment is to see whether or not applying lime to fields with low pHs will increase soybean yield.  To prepare for the fact sheet, I am completing a Lime Management learning module located on the NMSP website as well as a lot of reading about soybeans.  There will be a lot more to come in future blogs on this project!

While I am working on a lot of different projects, I have found one that will most likely be my favorite.  At the Musgrave Research Farm, we have a sub-surfer manure injector that we are testing out.  It sounds strange but the main goal of this project is to break the machine which to me is kind of exciting.  This spreader is for no-till surface and sub-surface conditions in pastures and fields that will inject dry poultry litter and cow manure into the soil.  The company we received the prototype from wants to know what is wrong with it so they can make adjustments before releasing it to the general public.  We are just getting started with this and I can’t wait to see how we break this thing!


Subsurfer Prototype


Getting Started! Scouting and CCE Tours in Western New York.

What a fun and hectic few weeks I have had and I am only getting started! I have been busy learning the lay of the land here in Western New York and getting  just a taste of what will be in store for me during these next few summer months.  My terrain will include Ontario, Wayne, Yates, Livingston, Wyoming, Erie, Niagara, Orleans, Genesee, and Monroe counties.  I will be, and have been working with  the  North Western New York Dairy, Livestock, and Field Crops teams in a variety of scouting expeditions and programs throughout the summer season.

One of my first days on the job I helped to set up the Soybean TAg Team portfolios  for participating farmers in Ontario and Genesee counties. The soybean TAg team project is a tactile agriculture soybean management and education program for producers in New York. The goal of this program is to increase the producer knowledge of agronomic and economic aspects of soybean production with an emphasis on the identification, biology, and management of critical pests, including diseases, weeds and insects. The program also teaches the producers the value of scouting their fields for pest to determine if pesticide applications are warranted and economically justified.  By the end of the program we are hoping that the growers will have an increased knowledge of Integrated Pest Management and Integrated Crop Management as well as improved growing practices.

I also spent a day with the Nancy Glazier touring farms and establishments for the Beef Quality Assurance program for beef producers in the Wyoming County area.  The BQA in a day Workshop was held the 16th of June with twenty or so participants. The training took place on a small family farm in Hermitage New York where participants had the opportunity to revive  basic certification for beef handling and production from the Beef Quality Assurance program. Also that day in Wyoming County I had the opportunity to tour the new possible location for the Wyoming County Cornell Cooperative Extension Office. The building is an old ware house in need of renovation, but if the plans go through will  house the state offices for the county along with the Cooperative Extension offices and the counties 4-H program, very exciting news for the Wyoming County team.

My next adventure was with Jackson Wright the Dairy Management Specialist from the NWNY livestock team. That day I tagged along with a group of dairy farmers from Ontario County and toured an organic dairy operation as well as a conventional dairy operation who converted to a group calf housing system. The purpose of adopting the group calving system is to improve calf herd health. The group claving system is being put into use along with an automated feeding system.  Contrary to conventional thinking, the group calving system has not led to an increase in disease. Rather, the automated feeding system has freed up the herdsmen to spend more quality time with the calves, catching and preventing disease from occurring in the first place. And perhaps best of all, when reared in groups and allowed to express their natural behavior, the calves are thriving at a significantly higher rate than in the previously used system of individual calf hutch housing.

Until next time, off for more adventures!

Two happy calves at the organic group housing system.

Automated Feeding System

Skip to toolbar