Cornell Field Crops News

Timely Field Crops information for the New York Agricultural Community

Dairies Cannot Afford to Ignore Alfalfa Snout Beetle, Even in Low Milk Price Cycle

Untreated, alfalfa snout beetle is costing Northern New York farmers with 100-cow dairies between $30,000 to $60,000 per year every year, depending on the size of the pest infestation and the speed of alfalfa stand loss.

The current cost of controlling alfalfa snout beetle with biocontrol nematodes in a single application for multi-year control is $28 per acre plus the cost of application by the farmer or a custom service.

“Even with the terrible milk prices farmers are currently facing, the cost of biocontrol nematode application should be weighed against the cost of not protecting your alfalfa crop,” says Dr. Elson Shields, the Cornell University entomologist who pioneered the biocontrol nematode solution to combat alfalfa snout beetle and that now appears to be useful for protecting other crops.

With assistance from Ev Thomas, Oak Point Agronomics, Ltd; Mike Hunter, Cornell Cooperative Extension; Tom Kilcer, Advanced Ag Systems, LLC; and Michael Miller, W.H. Miner Agricultural Research Institute, Shields and Research Support Specialist Antonio Testa estimate the true cost of alfalfa snout beetle moving onto the farm in three distinct areas:

1. alfalfa stand and yield loss: average $325 per acre (per cow) per year; range: $200-$500 depending on speed of loss of stand

2. expense of off-farm protein purchased to replace forage quality of lost alfalfa crop; for example, extra soy costs: average $120 per cow per year; range: $56.40-$201;

3.  the resulting impact on farm CAFO plan from increased phosphorus brought on farm with increased purchases of protein-like soybean meal.

When a nematode-treated alfalfa field is rotated into corn, research has shown a positive impact on reducing wireworms and corn rootworm.  After 4 years of corn production, research has shown that the biocontrol nematodes remain in the field at sufficient populations to provide continual control of alfalfa snout beetle.

Biocontrol nematode applications must be made before September 15. Best results are obtained by applying to alfalfa fields in their seeding year or first production year. Three to five are needed to totally inoculate a farm with nematodes to reduce the snout beetle population to a manageable level. Learn more at www.alfalfasnoutbeetle.org.

A long-term research commitment by the farmer-driven Northern New York Agricultural Development Program supported the development of the science needed to pioneer the use of native nematodes, tiny insect-attacking worms, as a biocontrol to suppress the spread of alfalfa snout beetle. Subsequent research funded by the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program, New York Farm Viability Institute, and others is showing application of the biocontrol nematodes for controlling berry pests, white grub, and other crop pests in New York State and elsewhere in the U.S.

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 www.nnyagdev.org.

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