Discount Available on Biocontrol Nematodes to Protect Alfalfa, Corn Crops

Northern New York farmers interested in protecting their alfalfa crops from the devastating alfalfa snout beetle can take advantage of discounts from the Cornell University laboratory raising the biocontrol nematodes that have been proven to reduce not only populations of snout beetle, but other crop pests as well.

Research funded long-term by the farmer-driven Northern New York Agricultural Development Program developed the science needed to pioneer the use of native nematodes, tiny insect-attack worms, as a biocontrol to suppress the spread of the destructive insect.

Recent field trials funded by the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program indicate that the biocontrol nematodes are also having an impact on corn rootworm after a field treated with the nematodes is rotated from alfalfa into corn. Research elsewhere in the state has shown the biocontrol nematodes can reduce white grub and wireworm populations.

It requires three to five years to totally inoculate a farm with nematodes to reduce the snout beetle populations to a manageable level.

Cornell entomologist Dr. Elson Shields and Research Support Specialist Antonio Testa who developed the protocol for the use and rearing of the biocontrol nematodes recommend application on alfalfa fields in their seeding year or first production year for best results. Based on recent research trials, application can also be made to cornfields.

The Shields Lab at Cornell University that has reared the biocontrol nematodes as part of its research mandate is offering a discount for orders placed for delivery by June 15 for application within the following 3 to 5 days. This advance order deadline is April 28 and an additional ten percent applies for payment in advance or on delivery.

After the April 28 deadline, a ten percent discount applies to any order paid upon delivery. Farmers must contact the lab at no later than 45 days prior to a planned application based on their 2018 alfalfa cutting schedule. Biocontrol nematode application must be made before September 15.

The cost is $28 per acre before discount.

The Shields Lab will only be providing the nematodes through 2021, opening an opportunity for business development to continue to supply the biocontrol nematodes to area farmers. While one nematode rearing business has been developed as a result of this research, others are needed. The Shields’ Lab will assist individuals seriously interested in rearing the biocontrol nematodes as a business.

Farmers who wish to rear their own biocontrol nematodes may also contact the Shields Lab for assistance.

For more information, contact Antonio Testa at 607-591-1493,, or call Cornell Cooperative Extension NNY Field Crops Specialists Mike Hunter, 315-788-8602, or Kitty O’Neil, 315 854 1218.

Funding for the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program is supported by the New York State Senate and administered by the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets. Learn more at

Alfalfa snout beetle is known to exist across the six northernmost counties of New York State, in Oswego, Cayuga, and Wayne counties in NY, and in southeastern Ontario, Canada. The beetle can destroy entire fields of alfalfa in one growing season. The use of the nematode biocontrol developed in Northern New York is now being trialed in several U.S. states.

United States Farming Practices Survey

Throughout the United States, farmers are using innovative approaches to sustainably produce crops and improve soil health. However, farmers are also faced with numerous challenges, and they are often not included in decision-making that affects the way they farm.

Cornell University, University of California—Berkeley, and The Nature Conservancy are conducting a nationwide survey for all fruit, vegetable, grain, and field crop producers to identify the biggest challenges that farmers face, as well as the best solutions.

Our goal is to understand what the most important factors are for farm owners and managers when deciding whether or not to use certain practices related to soil, crop, and pest management.

Key findings from the survey will be published and communicated to grower organizations and other farmer advocates so that recommendations, actions, and outcomes reflect what growers identify as being most helpful for their operation.

All responses will remain anonymous. If you choose to enter your e-mail address at the end of the survey, you will receive a summary report of the findings and you will be eligible for a chance to win $500. The survey takes about 30 minutes to complete.

To complete the survey, click below:
United States Farming Practices Survey

Soil Health Researchers Launch Farmer Survey in New York State

Study Will Analyze Economic and Environmental Benefits of Cover Crops and Other Farm Practices

A state-wide survey of New York farmers is underway, with the aim of highlighting economic costs and benefits associated with maintaining and improving agricultural soil health. The survey, which will examine the agricultural practices of using cover crops and reduced tillage, is being conducted by the New York State Soil Health Workgroup and funded by NYS Department of Ag and Markets.

The New York State Soil Health Workgroup is a network of researchers, practitioners, and policy makers working to keep the state’s agricultural soils healthy and productive in the future. As part of these efforts, the group has recently launched a survey to explore farm practices that impact soil health, productivity, and farm profits. The survey is currently underway and will run until March 10th, 2018. The survey questionnaire can be completed by New York State farmers through an online link at A paper form of the questionnaire is also available at the Soil Health Group’s website ( which can be printed and returned to the researchers by mail.

“Soil health offers a lot of win-win solutions” said David Wolfe, a professor who studies soil and water management at Cornell University. Our efforts to improve soil health are “directly affecting farmers and healthy food for all of us, but also all kinds of environmental issues: erosion, water quality, food security and climate change challenges. They’re all part of this”. New York State contains over 7 million acres of active farmland that are used to produce a wide variety of agricultural crops including apples, grapes, vegetables, corn, and soybeans. While agricultural soils are crucial to the state’s farms, they also provide other benefits to society such as protection of water resources and reduction of atmospheric carbon dioxide (a greenhouse gas). However, these soils suffer from compaction and loss of organic matter, and generally the health of these soils has degraded over time as a result of intensive use.

The New York State Soil Health Workgroup is looking for ways to improve and promote on-farm practices such as cover crops that bolster soil health. One of the group’s principal investigators is Matt Ryan, who conducts research on sustainable cropping systems. “Cover crops can do a number of different things, provide a number of benefits. They can protect soil from erosion, they can suppress pests, but they’re also one of the best tools that we have for building and increasing soil health”, Ryan stated. The practice of using cover crops to protect bare soil and build organic matter could be greatly expanded in New York state, and the survey is one way that the researchers are working to get a better handle on how cover crops are being used, what impact they have on farm profitability, and why some farmers have yet to adopt the practice. “We’re looking at different ways to overcome this barrier to adoption” Ryan added.

The researchers urge farmers to participate in the study by completing the 10-minute questionnaire via the online link at before March 10th, 2018. A paper form of the questionnaire can be downloaded and printed, and more information about soil health and the Workgroup is available at their website; Questions about the New York State Soil Health Workgroup’s research can be directed to Cedric Mason at (607) 255-8641 or

Cornell Organic Dairy Program Sets Weed Control, Farm Tour, Pasturing Events

Ithaca, NY. Three events hosted by the Cornell Organic Dairy Program will help organic growers and livestock farmers enhance weed management, dairy business operations, and livestock grazing efficiency and profitability. Registration is requested. Each event has a $5 charge for lunch. To register, call Steph at 607-391-2662 or email Abbie at for all events.

On Wednesday, February 21, Weed Control in Organic Field Crop Systems will be presented from 11 am to 2 pm at the McLean Fire Hall, 2 Stevens Road, McLean, NY. Matthew Ryan, Ph.D., agroecologist, and assistant professor at Cornell’s Sustainable Cropping System Lab, Ithaca, NY, will discuss crop rotation, cover crops, and other cultural weed management practices. His work has included studies using cover crops for organic no-till soybean production, perennial grains, and climate change adaptation.

An organic farmer panel at the February 21 event will include Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York Farmer Number 01 Tony Potenza of Trumansburg with a long history of organic field crop experience; Peter Mapstone, who works with his son Jeremy to grow forage and grain to feed their 300-cow organic dairy in Manlius, NY; and Phil Stauderman of Genoa, NY, who raises organic crops for his son Karl’s dairy and to sell.

On Tuesday, March 20, a 10am-1 pm farm tour at Smith’s Tre G Farm, 8183 US Route 20, in Manlius, NY, includes a look at paddocks designed by Kirk Smith to make grazing and the use of two Lely Robotic milkers compatible. At lunch, the Smith family will relate their experience of transitioning to organic dairy production in challenging times. The Smiths transitioned their 130-cow dairy to organic production over the past three years and now ship milk to the farmer-owned Organic Valley cooperative.

On Thursday, March 29, Are Your Robbing Your Pastures to Feed Your Livestock will be the question for two noted grazing and grass-fed consultants at Dryden Fire Hall, 26 North Street, Dryden, NY. The 12-2:30 pm program begins with lunch followed by presentations by Altfrid Krusenbaum, a Wisconsin-based grazing consultant helping grazing dairy and beef farmers, and Cleason Horst of Friendly Blends soil amendments in Canandaigua, NY.

Krusenbaum will discuss organically managing pastures on his 470-acre farm to generate profit. After operating a grazing dairy for several years, he now raises grass-fed, grass-finished beef; hay; and small grains. He worked for several years with the Natural Resources Conservation Services as a Certified Grazing Planner, and currently serves with the national Dairy Grazing Apprenticeship Program.

Horst will talk about the depletion of soil fertility in pastures and how farmers can identify this by understanding soil lab reports. He has experience with pastures from which there were only withdrawals and no deposits to the soil bank account long-term. Horst will describe how he reads a soil test to prioritize recommendations for re-investing nutrients into soil as the most important resource on the farm.

For more information on the Cornell Organic Dairy Program, contact Fay Benson with the Cornell South Central NY Dairy Team at