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Ethan English

Diverse Scouting in Central New York

After visiting Empire Farm Days for the first time this Tuesday, I was reminded of the incredible variation in agriculture in the great state of New York. From beekeeping, to dairy farming, to apple production, New York has a lot to offer in the agricultural sector. I was able to observe all this at the farm days this past Tuesday, where I had the fantastic opportunity to speak with growers, producers, and other professionals in the industry. I was able to converse with representatives from the company GVM, who produce spray trucks, about interesting advancements that the company plans to include in their trucks and software as the future nears.

Beyond Empire Farm Days, I had the opportunity to scout more diverse crops than I had been scouting in the east for most of the summer. CaroVail crop consultant Mark Avery and I began our day scouting a 35 acre pumpkin patch at a farm near Auburn. This particular patch of pumpkins had been effected negatively by powdery mildew, and had to be treated sooner rather than later. The conclusion we came to was to spray the pumpkins with the fungicide Kocide 3000. I was introduced to the option of pesticide application from airplanes, which is a foreign idea in the Appalachian foothills of eastern NY.

Pumpkin Leaf with Powdery Mildew 

From the pumpkin patch, Mark and I went to a nearby sweet corn field. Though this sweet corn looked immaculate and was being harvested while we were in the field, Mark still taught about sweet corn and we each borrowed an ear just to be sure it tasted ok. It was interesting to learn that sweet corn only requires about 2/3 the nitrogen that field corn does, and that certain pesticides like Dicamba can actually make sweet corn plants go sterile.

The last stop on my Auburn scouting trip was to a local corn-soybean grower. I was able to observe how some soybean varieties tolerate moisture different than others. It was demonstrated well in a field where two different varieties were planted, and in the wet spots the more tolerant variety maintained a lush green color while the less tolerant beans were more of an unhealthy yellow. The devastation in the next fields came from an insect you may see regularly, the Japanese beetle. In the next batch of fields we found a lot of feeding, to the point where we recommended treatment. I learned that if these beetles multiply and lay their eggs in the field, the white grubs that hatch could cause serious issues in the following years crop.

Japanese Beetle

Late Season Scouting and Looking Towards Harvest

As school moves closer and the summer continues to turn to fall, day to day activities are beginning to wind down at CaroVail. With the last of the corn being side-dressed and the last of the Pioneer returns sent back to Pennsylvania, things are beginning to slow down in terms of product application. With this being said, it is looking like there may be a second wave of potato leaf hopper coming in this neck of the woods, that could put some farmers in a bind. While many farmers have already treated their alfalfa for this neon green pest (pictured in previous post), I have seen many more popping up in the same alfalfa stands that were treated just one cutting ago. This raises concern amongst dairymen and women whom may have already sprayed most, if not all of their alfalfa crops earlier in the summer in defense against the leaf hopper. Growers are hopeful for a cold winter that will set back this pest, that has been unusually persistent this growing season.

There has been a fair amount of leaf disease in corn that I have scouted, as well. This growing season has been a perfect year for fungal diseases to thrive in corn, as a result of the wetness and humidity that has been around thus far. Two diseases that I have come across so far that seem to cause the most damage are gray leaf spot and northern corn leaf blight ( Both Pictured Below).

Gray Leaf Spot


Northern Corn Leaf Blight


Gray leaf spot is caused by a fungus called cercospora zeae-maydis and affects the leaves of a corn plant. This disease develops into gray rectangular lesions that can be up to four inches long with distinct, parallel edges. This disease can arise from leftover corn fodder, and is more likely to cause problems in fields where corn-corn rotation is prevalent and minimum tillage has taken place.

Northern corn leaf blight, as illustrated in the above photo, is sometimes challenging to tell apart from previously mentioned gray leaf spot. Northern corn leaf blight has similar colored lesions to gray leaf spot, but they have more of an ovular, canoe-like shape than those of leaf spot. This form of blight also overwinters in corn debris, and is caused by the Setosphaeria turcica fungus. Both of these diseases are treated with similar fungicides, and can be devastating to yield if not managed properly and timely.

On the bright side, the hot weather in the past two weeks has helped corn in the east a great deal, and though a long, drawn out harvest season is still in store, yields may be higher than previously anticipated. More to come soon from Empire Farm Days!

The Light at the End of the Tunnel

Well, it is hard to believe that July is over and in a little over a month, we will be moving back to school. This growing season has been a tough one for all growers thus far, but it appears as if the weather may be straightening out. Some early corn crops are beginning to tassel, which brings some relief to farmers who may have just put their planter away a few weeks ago. In the corn fields, things are beginning to dry out in some of the lighter soils, and some of the heavier clays remain moist and often lacking a healthy corn crop.

Corn in Wet Clay Soil

I have come across a few breakouts of army worm in fields that were no till planted later in the season into either rye cover crops or old stands of alfalfa. In the coming weeks, I will begin focusing my corn scouting towards different fungi that develop, particularly in a wet year like this one has been.

Many dairies who, perhaps, were unable to plant the acres of corn they intended are relying heavily on several high quality cuttings of alfalfa and forage grass to fill the void and the empty feed bunk that may be looming in the coming winter months. With high tonnage being harvested in many eastern NY dairies’ first cuttings, many second cuttings were hindered as a result of the potato leaf hopper.

Potato Leaf Hopper

These small yellow/green pests got their name from their original eating preference, the potato plant. With less potatoes being grown in New York State now than in the past, the leaf hopper has found a succulent new host in alfalfa leaves. The leaf hoppers will feed on the alfalfa, turning the leaves a yellow and purple color. The threshold for leaf hopper in new seedings is less than the threshold for established stands, though I have found it in almost every field I have swept. Caro-Vail has treated thousands of acres of alfalfa so far this summer in an effort to combat these insects, and save the alfalfa for the growers.

In the coming weeks, I plan on continuing with my scouting schedule and looking at crops from the sky, via a new drone. More to come!

The Difficult Growing Season Continues

Adverse conditions for growers have continued through the last two weeks in June. In eastern New York, many of the dairy farms are still making final attempts at planting short day silage corn to supplement their inventories for the coming fall and winter months. Luckily for most dairy farms, the last two years have produced bumper crops that have padded feed inventories, preparing dairymen and women for the potentially poor yields that may ensue after this growing season.

I have been kept busy in the fields scouting, as their is corn staging from V8 stage to corn that is not planted yet. In the V8 corn, we are beginning to look for fungal diseases and pest pressures, while also scouting for any emergency last-minute weed spraying that needs to be done before the canopy closes between the rows. Moving down the staging chart, much of the V6 corn is being side-dressed with Urea before stem elongation begins to take place. Bindweed is continuing to pop up everywhere, and farmers are being notified almost immediately when this trouble weed is found in the field. In the fields that are pre-plant to V6, we are keeping our eyes open for any seedlings coming in, and determining whether or not they have potential to cause issues in the growing process. 

I did not realize coming into my internship that my Class B commercial license would come in handy as much as it has. With spurts of weather being few and far between, when it is time to roll the fertilizer and spray has to be applied- in a hurry. This is where I recently had my first opportunity to both sidedress corn and topdress hay ground. I have covered almost 700 acres on my own at this point in my brand new Vector 300 dry fertilizer spreader truck. 

Though intimidating at first, the truck took little time for me to get used to. I am using the Raven GPS software package for all my different jobs and applications that I have been completing. In the software, I have learned of the number of different variables that need to be taken into account when applying fertilizer. There are five important aspects of the spreader and software that need to be monitored before starting a job. The first is the rate in pounds per acre that will be applied to the field. In order to achieve this rate, you need to have the right density of the material entered into the software, as this will make a difference in how fast the product comes out of the spreader. Another variable is spinner speed, which controls your working width. The last two variables are the door height on the spreader box and the table setting where the fertilizer falls on to the spinners.

I am learning there is a lot that goes into spreading fertilizer, much more than I previously thought. If any of these variables are out of sync, the rate will be off, which may lead to an unhappy farmer. Each job is a new challenge covering new terrain, and it is truly joy!

A long, wet Spring

Black Cutworm

This summer I am interning at Carolina-Eastern Vail, which is a fertilizer and crop service company with several locations in eastern and central New York. They not only sell and apply both fertilizers and pesticides, but they also are a DuPont Pioneer seed distributor. They handle application and distribution of these products to growers from central New York to western New England and everywhere in between. Another service that this company offers is crop scouting to it’s growers, which is a large part of what my internship has been thus far.

Interning in a large dairy area near Salem, NY has allowed me to see many different fields while working with a number of dairymen and women and, this year, observe the effects that a cold, wet spring can have on all crops. Farmers throughout the eastern part of the state have had an incredibly tough start to the growing season, with only about half of the corn being planted as of June 1st. However, conditions have turned around slightly as of late, and agronomists at CaroVail believe at this point that most farmers have stopped planting, with the exception of some shorter day silage corns.

One of the many pests I observed early in the spring is pictured above, and that is black cutworm. This creature tends to show up in stands of corn where there was a rye cover crop, or old grass sod that was turned under. The cutworm feeds on the root systems of the grass and rye, and then after the cover crop is killed, resort to the corn crop. They are easier to find during the night or in the early morning hours, as they do most of their feeding at night.


Another pest that I have been tracking heavily in corn this spring is bindweed. Bindweed is a perennial that grows in a vine and can devastate corn crops. It has a tendency to form a green wall on the stand of corn, making the corn damaging to any harvesting equipment. It can pop up anywhere, grows fast, and is very resilient to herbicide injury. This is definitely a weed to lookout for!

As the growing season continues, the weather is beginning to straighten out, and the fields are starting to dry up (for the most part). It will be interesting to see what mother nature has in store for the rest of the summer.

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