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Nicholas Karavolias

Week 10: End of Season

Tuesday marked my last day as an intern at Cornell University’s Long Island Horticultural Research and Extension Center. This internship proved to be both enjoyable and educational. I was introduced to the fundaments of scouting, interviewing, research and agriculture in general. This phenomenal experience could not have been possible without the support and guidance of Professor Bjorkmann at the Geneva research station and the Vegetable Extension specialist at LIHREC, Sandy Menasha. As a result of this internship I feel more secure in my decision to continue to pursue a degree in Agricultural Sciences, and I am eager to use my new knowledge in all my future endeavors.


Celebrating my last day at the annual Grown on Long Island Day farmers’ market


Saying goodbye to the plethora of cabbage loopers on our crops


Week 9: Pest Watch Update

A change in weather has also brought on a change in the pests that have been observed on our scouting routes. The most prevalent change that has been observed is a massive increase in two spotted spider mites. These mites thrive in the heat of which there is no shortage. As a result, we have seen these mites in higher levels than ever before on potatoes, tomatoes, berries and cucurbits. Mites in high levels have the capacity to stunt growth and decrease yields. Additionally, corn worm damage has become a tremendous concern. Sweet corn is one of the most widely grown crops on Long Island. The warm weather has enabled severe infestation by fall army worm and corn ear worm. Some fields have up to 90% infestation by worms in the early whorl stage of growth. This type of damage so early in the life cycle of sweet corn can stunt the yield and quality of corn, so immediate action is required. As we continue to experience high temperatures we will be on high alert for pests that can be debilitating.



Taking a break from scouting in a cabbage patch


Week 8: Long Island Produce for Sale!

Long Island growers use several methods to sell their produce. My surveying efforts have allowed me to identify these unique methods and their geographical associations. There are three primary models that growers use to sell their produce. The first and most common to Long Island growers is selling from a farm stand that is within the proximity of their farm. This method has virtually no transportation costs and gives consumers access to the freshest produce if they are willing to make the trip to the stand. Growers who use this method tend to have highly diversified farms where they grow everything and anything that a consumer might want. This sales method is present throughout essentially all of rural Long Island. The second method of sales is the use of distributors to serve Long Island supermarkets. With this method the distributor determines the price point of produce and makes weekly pickups from the grower. Unfortunately, distributors tend to pay less for crops than a consumer at a farm stand would. This sales method is especially prevalent on the North Fork where there are still many large potato farms and land is more readily available. The final sales method is farmers’ markets. A small minority of growers throughout Long Island but especially on the eastern tip of the North Fork truck their produce to western parts of Long Island to sell at farmers’ markets. Consumers at these markets are very willing to pay premiums for these fresh and local commodities. Using a distributor as a sales method was once a very common practice among Long Island growers, however as farmers recognize that other sales methods could be more lucrative they have been transitioning to other sales methods.


Week 7: Scouting 101


A large Colorado Potato Beetle

I am in the full swing of things at LIHREC and the pests/diseases are too.  This past week I have seen the worst infestations of all crops thus far so I deemed it appropriate to share some scouting techniques and some of the most frequent pests we encounter. For all types of crops we make it a point to check sites in a random pattern and cover the entirety of the field (this means very long walks for some potato fields). We scout a variety of crops each with their own pests and diseases. At each scouting site we look at numerous plants and attempt to identify signs of disease or pests. The number of plants varies based on the crop. If we are unsure of the identification of any potential hazard, we bag a sample and bring it back to the research lab where a resident entomologist and pathologist are always willing to help. Upon completion of scouting a field we fill out a form for the grower indicating what we found and if any levels of disease or pest are over previously established thresholds. Explained below are some of the most common pests we see: Potato: Colorado Potato Beetle. Long Island Colorado Potato Beetles are especially notorious for their resistance (we are often asked to send samples of our beetles to other extension centers for insecticide research)

A large larvae Colorado Potato Beetle. The black marks on the leaf are its frass.

A versatile bacterial disease, bacterial leaf spot is pictured below infecting a raspberry leaf. This bacterial plight can be found on essentially every crop and is found in high levels after wet weather.

A common disease of peppers and tomatoes is Blossom End Rot abbreviate BER for scouting purposes. This is pictured below
In addition to peppers, tomatoes, and potatoes we are also trained to scout crucifers, sweet corn, eggplant, strawberries, and cucurbits.

Week 6: Local Broccoli Coming Soon

This last week was just as enjoyable and informative as the previous ones. My surveys regarding the barriers to expanding the production of broccoli on Long Island have been returning promising results. The survey contains questions that address growers current  methods such as, “Have you ever raised broccoli in the past?” and “Do you currently use a distributor to reach wholesale or retail markets?”. It also contains additional questions to assess their willingness to expand their broccoli production. At the conclusion of my summer all the responses I collect will be inputed into Qualtrics and statistical analyses will allow us to determine the potential barriers to increasing broccoli production on Long Island. If the results are sufficiently promising then further work will be conducted next summer in hopes of expanding this project. As per the results I have collected thus far, it seems that this is quite likely. It is my hope that before long supermarket shelves on Long Island will be stocked with broccoli that boldly states “Grown Locally”,


Week 5: Potato Plague

This week I continued surveying and scouting as per usual however what was unusual was the high incidence of black leg observed in potatoes. Black leg is a bacterial disease in potatoes that can be either seed or air borne. An infected plant will yield inedible potatoes, so its management is essential. A particularly severe strain of new black leg has appeared in the seed pieces of many growers this year. Growers in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York have experienced a 10-50% infection rate of black leg in their fields. The previous strain of black leg would historically only infect 1% of potatoes. It is obvious therefore why many are referring this year’s black leg epidemic as “black leg on steroids”. No management strategies are available since the bacteria is present in the seed piece. Samples of the black leg have been shipped back to the seed producers to prevent such a severe infection in the future. It seems that Long Island potatoes could use a “leg” up. 

A potato infected with black leg, clearly inedible.

Week 4: Survey Galore

famrstandThe rain and survey Gods have answered my prayers and gave me an absolutely awful rainy day on Monday so I could catch up on surveying. I spent the entirety of Monday calling growers and setting up interviews with them. I was also driving from farm to farm on North Fork Long Island administering the survey. I was able to use a tablet and Qualtrics online for the first time which enhanced the efficiency of the survey process. In one day I was able to complete eight surveys and finally catch up on my quotas. The rest of the week I then spent scouting. I encountered new crops to scout such as raspberries, blackberries, and hopps. The weather has been absolutely amazing and being able to spend all day relishing in it has been even better!



Week 3: Hamptons Work Vacation

This week was another great one at the Long Island Horticultural Research and Extension Center. I continued tackling my standard weekly tasks, visiting farms and scouting their fields for pests, working on field trials on-site, and setting up interviews with local growers about their interest and willingness to grow broccoli. I found that last task was particularly difficult because of the amazing weather we were having. It seems that on rainy days growers are much more eager to chat. The interviewing component of the week was therefore minimal. The highlight of the week for me was being able to scout potato fields located in the Hamptons. These fields were almost directly on the ocean and surrounded by unimaginably large houses. Scouting here provided the opportunity to see agrarianism and lavishness side by side: two things that are not normally found together. It was a great week and I’m certain next will be as well.


Week 2: Surveys and Scouting

This was another great week at the LIHREC. I began working on the project looking to determine the barriers to broccoli production on long island by surveying a few growers on their current production practices and their growing preferences. Growers were eager to answer my questions and very interested in the Eastern Broccoli Project. I was even rewarded with a few quarts of strawberries at one farm!  In addition to surveying, I worked on-site at the research station assisting with research trials. Finally, I participated in crop scouting of a large variety of crops. Looking forward to what next week holds for me.


Week 1: Corn, Potatoes, and Beetles…Oh My!

This week marked the first of ten of my summer internship at the Long Island Horticultural Research and Extension Center in Suffolk County. This was an exciting week where I became oriented with the research station and what my summer duties would entail. After a brief introductory session on my first day, I jumped right into work on the research plots digging up potatoes, laying irrigation, placing seeds, and counting hundreds of beetles!  I also gained experience in pest scouting for strawberry and sweet corn crops on local farms. Next week I look forward to beginning work on an additional project that works to identify grower perception and availability in regards to expanding their cultivation systems to include broccoli. I had an informative and enjoyable first week and am eager to see what the rest of the summer has in store for me.


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