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Rx for dry landscapes: Water trees and shrubs, not lawn

Scorched leaves and brown lawns have been a common site in much of the Northeast this summer, particularly from the Hudson Valley south to New Jersey and Long Island, where rainfall through July was half of normal or less. Photo courtesy Jerry Giordano, CCE Westchester County. Click image for high resolution version.

Scorched leaves and brown lawns have been a common site in much of central and western New York, where some areas received less than 25 percent of normal rainfall in June and the first half of July. Photo courtesy Jerry Giordano, CCE Westchester County. Click image for high resolution version.

Despite some welcome rains yesterday (July 25), much of central and western New York remains in a severe drought.

The combination of low snowfall last winter and meager rainfall and warm temperatures this season has reduced stream flows to a trickle, ruined crops and scorched many landscapes this summer.

So, according to Cornell scientists, what’s your best bet to save your grass, trees and shrubs?

Water your trees and shrubs, but not the lawn.

“Overwatering during hot weather does far more damage to a lawn than drought,” says Frank Rossi, turf specialist in the Horticulture Section of Cornell University’s School of Integrative Plant Science. Watering – particularly frequent light watering – encourages lawn diseases and weeds, he explains.

The cool-season lawn grasses commonly grown in the region naturally slow down as temperatures rise and soil moisture decreases, even in normal summers, notes Rossi. When it’s hot and dry, he suggests just letting the lawn go completely dormant.

“Think of your lawn like a hibernating bear,” he suggests. “Many lawns will turn completely brown. But most of the lawn grasses will survive 4 to 6 weeks without significant rainfall.” In most cases, they’ll green up again in late summer or early fall when the rain returns and the temperatures moderate.

But that’s not the case with trees and shrubs, says Nina Bassuk, director of the Urban Horticulture Institute in Cornell’s Horticulture Section. “When it’s really hot and dry, many trees and shrubs will shed their leaves – and some will just dry up. Drought is very stressful and can sometimes kill them outright,” she points out.

Newly planted trees and shrubs are particularly vulnerable because their root systems aren’t fully developed. They have a harder time foraging for moisture, warns Bassuk. Depending on the species, site and planting practices, that might mean keeping two- to five-year-old plantings carefully watered during dry periods, hopefully preventing drought-caused leaf damage or loss in the first place.

But don’t give up on trees and shrubs that have shed their leaves, says Bassuk. “Go ahead and water them,” she suggests. “It’s better late than never. If they’re still alive, they’ll grow new leaves. And after two weeks of photosynthesizing they’ll have made up for the extra effort it took them to re-leaf.” Any extra energy the leaves gather after that can be channeled into new growth or stored by the plants to help them get through winter.

Water slow, water deep

A 2-inch layer of mulch reduces moisture lost from soil, while drip irrigation bags deliver water to trees slowly so that it has time to penetrate deep into the soil. Click image for high resolution version.

A 2-inch layer of mulch reduces moisture lost from soil, while drip irrigation bags deliver water to trees slowly so that it has time to penetrate deep into the soil. Click image for high resolution version.

The key to watering trees and shrubs is to water them slowly and allow the water to soak deep into the soil with no runoff. “You can’t really do that standing there with a hose in your hand,” observes Bassuk.

One solution is to use plastic drip irrigation bags that encircle the trunk of the tree. They can be quickly filled with a hose and then they slowly release the water (typically 20 gallons) over 8 to 12 hours. “You need to refill them if you want them to work – usually weekly but up to every three days when it’s really hot and dry,” says Bassuk. Special soaker hoses can also deliver water at a slow rate.

If you only have a few trees and shrubs to water, you can just use a hose turned on to a slow trickle – but you need to monitor the flow and move the hose before the water starts running off. Another low-tech solution is to drill small holes in the bottom of plastic buckets or trash cans, place them around the trees and shrubs, and fill them with water. “It’s not pretty, but it works,” says Bassuk.

Part of Bassuk’s research program involves studying how well different tree species recover from heat- and drought-stress. “If we’re smarter about what trees we plant in our urban areas, we’ll lose fewer next time we have a summer like this.”


Watering tips for trees and shrubs:

  • Remove competing vegetation (especially lawn) within at least 3 feet of the base of trees and shrubs. Mulch with 2 inches of shredded bark or similar material to reduce water loss from soil. Do not pile mulch against the trunk of the tree.
  • Focus your watering efforts on recently planted trees and shrubs, applying water slowly so that it soaks in deeply. (See main story.) In a landscape situation, apply 10 gallons to at-risk shrubs (newly planted or those that have wilted or browning leaves) every three days and 15-20 gallons of water to  trees at the same interval.
  • Reduce watering based on rainfall, but remember that all rain is not equal. A quick, heavy a rain falls so fast that it doesn’t have time to penetrate the soil, and much is lost as runoff. A slow, steady rain is much more effective at replenishing soil moisture.
  • Continue watering trees and shrubs through October to make sure they are in good shape going into winter.
  • If you want to make your water resources go farther, Bassuk suggests using gray water. Gray water is potable water that has been lightly used for washing the dishes or goes down the drain while you are waiting for the shower to warm up. Keep a bowl in your sink or a pail in your shower to catch this water and use it wherever you need it. Just don’t apply any gray water that has caustic chemicals or bleach in it. Ordinary soap is fine.
Stay off lawns when they're dormant to avoid damaging fragile grass crowns.

Stay off lawns when they’re dormant to avoid damaging fragile grass crowns.

Tips for parched lawns:

  • If you have an irrigation system that is well-designed and -maintained, functioning properly, and able to apply a known amount of water uniformly, then water deep and infrequently if there are no water restrictions. Otherwise just let your lawn go dormant.
  • When your unwatered lawn goes dormant in midsummer, stay off it. “No recreational mowing,” says Rossi, because the vibrating wheels of your lawnmower can damage fragile turfgrass crowns.
  • Don’t apply any fertilizer, pesticides or water when your lawn is dormant. “You wouldn’t try to feed someone who’s asleep,” says Rossi. “Why would you try to feed your lawn?”
  • During dry times, note which areas of your lawn are weakest, or become infested with crabgrass. Focus your fall reseeding efforts on these areas. “Consider using tall fescue when you renovate,” says Rossi. “It roots deeper, and is more drought-tolerant and resistant to insects than other grasses.”

More information:

Revised and updated from a previous post Rx for landscape woes: Water trees and shrubs, not lawn originally published August 3, 2010.

Climate, Weather, Data: Protecting Our Crops and Landscapes conference Aug. 15

conference poster

Click image to download poster (.pdf)

NYS IPM Climate Conference:

Climate, Weather, Data: Protecting Our Crops and Landscapes
August 15, 2016, 9:00 – 4:15
Cornell Cooperative Extension Albany County, Voorheesville, NY

With all the talk about climate change you might be wondering how it will affect food production, pests, and even landscapes  – and what you can do about it. The Second Annual NYS Integrated Pest Management conference can help!  Climate, Weather, Data:  Protecting Our Crops and Landscapes will be held August 15, 2016 at the Cornell Cooperative Extension Office in Voorheesville, NY.

A wide variety of speakers from New York State and the Northeast will provide background information on the current state of knowledge on climate change and changes in our weather patterns, and how collecting climate and weather data can help us predict and manage pests.

Mike Hoffmann and Allison Chatrchyan from the Cornell Institute for Climate Change and Agriculture will discuss what you can do about climate change, and the Climate Smart Farming Program.   Jerry Brotzge will explain the NYS Mesonet. Juliet Carroll from NYS Integrated Pest Management will cover the tools for growers in the Network for Environment and Weather Applications system.  David Hollinger will present resources from the Northeast Regional Climate Hub.

Open discussion sessions are included so you can ask your own questions.  The final agenda will be available soon, so stay tuned!

We are honored that Richard Ball, the Commissioner of the  NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets, will kick off the conference with opening remarks

The program will run from 9:00-4:15 and costs $45 – which includes lunch, and breaks.

Registration information, a map, and the draft agenda can be found at the Climate, Weather, Data website

If you have questions, please contact Amanda Grace at arw245@cornell.edu or 315 787-2208.

Drought Takes Its Toll

Steve Reiners, Marvin Pritts, Greg Peck and others weigh in on how drought in New York is affecting fruit and vegetable growers in this What’s With the Weather? post on the Cornell Climate Change website:

ny drought map
Above: U.S. Drought Monitor map for New York for July 19. View latest map.

From sweet corn to apples, root crops to pumpkins. The drought in much of New York is taking its toll.

The dry spring follows a record warm winter, not only for New York (NRCC) but for the contiguous 48 states as a whole (NOAA). Warm temperatures and somewhat below average precipitation in western New York throughout the winter resulted in a minimal snowpack.

April was unusually cold, and may have felt wetter, but rainfall was still below average throughout the western New York region.

For the rest of March through June, temperatures in central and western New York have been normal while rainfall has been only about 50% of normal.

In July, temperatures have risen to be above normal, dry winds have blown, and the rainfall remains meagre. As of July 17 substantial portions of western and central NY had only received between 1 and 2” total rainfall in the last 6 weeks. Twenty-three percent of the state was in Severe Drought ((US Drought Monitor), and the New York Department of Environmental Conservation issued its first statewide drought watch in 14 years.

Read the whole article.

 

Vineyard cover crops save expense, environment

Undervine cover crop in vineyard.

Undervine cover crop in vineyard.

Cornell Chronicle [2017-07-18]:

Cornell researchers have advice for vineyard managers in cool and humid climates like the Northeast: cover up.

Maintaining bare soil beneath vines has long been accepted management practice to stifle competition from other vegetation, preserving water and nutrients to optimize grape growth. Exposing soil beneath trellises has been achieved by using extensive herbicide treatments, a practice that is expensive and potentially damaging to the surrounding vineyard ecosystem and locations downstream due to runoff.

Excessive vine growth can result as a function of the lack of competition for water and nutrients, requiring costly canopy management practices in the vineyard to maintain fruit quality.

Planting cover crops under grapevines instead can remediate these problems, according to researchers at Cornell’s New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, New York. A series of studies led by Justine Vanden Heuvel, associate professor in the Horticulture Section of the School of Integrative Plant Science, provides vineyard managers with an environmentally sustainable alternative to herbicide treatments in cool and humid climates while tamping down the cost associated with unnecessary herbicide use.

Read the whole story.

DiTommaso Wins Award for His Way with Weeds — and People

DiTommaso talks about herbicide-resistant weeds at the 2015 Musgrave Research Farm Field Day.

DiTommaso talks about herbicide-resistant weeds at the 2015 Musgrave Research Farm Field Day.

From Mary Woodson, New York State Integrated Pest Management Program (NYS IPM).

ITHACA, NY: If two words could sum up Toni DiTommaso’s qualities as professor of weed science at Cornell University, “unbridled enthusiasm” — words from a nomination letter — fit the bill. Yet it’s not just his innovative Integrated Pest Management (IPM) approaches to dealing with weeds that clinched DiTommaso’s Excellence in IPM award, which he received on July 14, 2016.

Colleagues and former students alike repeatedly cite the impact DiTommaso’s contagious love of learning has on their lives — and often their livelihoods. For many, the roots lie in Cornell’s IPM course that DiTommaso resurrected in 2002 and has taught since then with professor of entomology John Losey.

“To say that Toni has ‘educated others about IPM’ and ‘promoted IPM and bolstered the adoption of IPM practices,’ two criteria for earning the award, would be a vast understatement,” says crop-science professor William Cox, a longtime colleague. “I can’t emphasize enough the enormous impact that Toni has had on Cornell students who are now growers or consultants.”

Read the whole article.

Register now for Cornell Fruit Field Day, July 20, Geneva, N.Y.

Pre-registration deadline is July 15 @ noon. Walk-in registrations will not be available, you must pre-register. Register now.

fruit compositeRepost from June 24. From Art Agnello, Dept. of Entomology, NYSAES:

Mark your calendars for the Cornell Fruit Field Day, to be held in Geneva on Wednesday, July 20.  The 2016 version of this triennial event will feature ongoing research in berries, hops, grapes, and tree fruit, and is being organized by Cornell University, the NYS Agricultural Experiment Station, CALS Fruit Program Work Team and Cornell Cooperative Extension.  All interested persons are invited to learn about the fruit research under way at Cornell University.  Attendees will be able to select from tours of different fruit commodities.  Details of the program presentations are still being finalized, but the event will feature a number of topics, including:

 Berries

  • Spotted wing drosophila research update in berry crops
  • Hummingbird use, monitoring network
  • Use of exclusion netting for managing spotted wing drosophila in fall raspberries
  • Monitoring spotted wing drosophila for management decisions in summer raspberry and blueberry
  • Behavioral control of spotted wing drosophila using repellents and attract & kill stations
  • Effect of habitat diversity on ecosystem services for strawberries
  • High tunnel production of black and red raspberries
  • Day-neutral strawberries/low tunnel production

 Tree Fruits

  • Apple breeding and genetic studies
  • Research updates on fire blight, apple scab, mildew
  • Bitter pit in Honeycrisp
  • 3D camera canopy imaging
  • Ambrosia beetle management trials
  • Malus selections for potential use in cider production
  • Precision spraying in orchards
  • Role of insects in spreading fire blight in apples
  • Bacterial canker of sweet cherries
  • Rootstocks & training systems for sweet cherry
  • NC-140 rootstock trials on Honeycrisp and Snap Dragon
  • Pear rootstocks & training systems

 Grapes & Hops

  • Sour rot of grapes
  • VitisGen grape breeding project
  • Precision spraying in grapes
  • Managing the spread of leafroll virus in Vinifera grape using insecticides and vine removal
  • Early leaf removal on Riesling
  • Overview of NYSAES hops planting
  • Powdery and downy mildew management in hops
  • Hops weed mgt; mite biocontrol
  • Update on malting barley research

 Also

  • FSMA Produce Safety Rule

Field Day details

The event will take place at the NYSAES Fruit and Vegetable Research Farm South, 1097 County Road No. 4, 1 mile west of Pre-emption Rd. in Geneva, NY.

Arrive at 8:00 AM to get settled in. Tours begin promptly at 8:30 AM and are scheduled in the morning from 8:30 to 11:30 and in the afternoon from 1:30 to 5:00. Lunch will be served at the exhibit tent area between 11:30-12:30.

Visit sponsors anytime from 11:30-1:30

Learn about products and services from:

  • Agro Liquid
  • Arysta Life Science
  • Dow AgroSciences
  • Dupont
  • Farm Credit East, ACA
  • Finger Lakes Trellis Supply
  • LaGasse Works, Inc.
  • Lakeview Vineyard Equipment
  • NY Apple Sales
  • OESCO, Inc
  • Red Jacket Orchards
  • Superior Wind Machine Service
  • Valent USA Corp.
  • Wafler Farms
  • Tastings from War Horse Brewing

To participate as a sponsor, see the registration website or contact Shelly Cowles (315-787-2274; mw69@cornell.edu).

Register now!

Admission fee is $50/person ($40 for additional attendees from the same farm or business), which covers tours, lunch and educational materials. Pre-registration is required. Walk-in registration may be available for a $10 surcharge on the day of the event.  Register on the Cornell Fruit Field Day Event registration page, http://events.cals.cornell.edu/ffd2016

‘Rice Bowl’ bioswale update

One of the projects tackled  in spring 2014 by students in the course Creating the Urban Eden: Woody Plant Selection, Design, and Landscape Establishment (HORT/LA 4910/4920)  was the installation of water retention bioswales east of Rice Hall. Dubbed the “Rice Bowls,” the structures are designed to reduce runoff and increase infiltration of water from adjacent parking lots. Students selected species that can tolerate dry periods as well as periodic flooding, such as Shining Sumac, Bayberry, Blackhaw, Spirea, Sea Buckthorn and certain Willows.

This short video shows the installation process and includes updates on the planting, showing how they filled in well despite suffering through both wet and dry seasons.

‘Don’t Let your Veggies Grow Up To be Compost’ – Donate your garden surplus to the hungry

FDN-logox400

From Jane Mt. Pleasant:

I know that many of you are home gardeners and sometimes have more produce from your garden than you and your family can eat. Instead of throwing those zucchini on the compost pile or letting them rot in the field, you can donate them to the Friendship Donations Network. This local non-profit (of which I am a board member and volunteer), collects good, nutritious food that would otherwise be discarded from stores, farms, and other donors, and redistributes it to people in our community who need it. (Watch FDN’s 11-minute video to get a quick, compelling overview.)

Three years ago, FDN started Neighborhood Food Hubs to increase the quantity of fresh fruits and vegetables that we rescue and redistribute. Individuals and families volunteer their front porches to serve as weekly collection spots where home gardeners in their neighborhoods bring their extra fruits and vegetables.

For the last two years, we’ve had a Food Hub in the Plant Science Building.  And last year we collected more than 600 pounds of vegetables that would otherwise have been discarded. Instead, the food was distributed to food pantries and other programs. It ended up on the plates of people who need it.

We are organizing a Plant Science Food Hub again this year. I think we can collect much more than we did in 2015!

Here’s how it works. Bring your excess produce every Monday before 5 p.m. to the walk-in cooler on the garden floor, Plant Science G04E. (There will be signs posted to direct you to the cooler.) I collect it at the end of the day and take it to FDN’s storage and office space in downtown Ithaca. (You can also donate extra produce from your CSA if you find that you have more than you can eat! As long as the produce is in good shape, FDN will take it.)

We will start collecting on Monday, July 11, and continue every Monday through September 26.

There may be a Hub close to your home. (There are also Hubs at some community gardens). Please donate there if it’s more convenient. View map of hubs.

Finally, if you have a very large garden and find yourself with more vegetables than you can easily bring to work with you, let me know and FDN will send a volunteer to pick up the produce at your home.

If you have questions, call or email me: jm21@cornell.edu or 255-4670. Thank you for your support and participation in this important activity.

New state pollinator protection plan announced

Dean Kathryn Boor speaks at Cornell’s Dyce Lab for Honey Bee Studies in Varna, New York, June 24, at an event to announce recommendations outlined in the NYS Pollinator Protection Plan. (Patrick Shanahan/University Photography)

Dean Kathryn Boor speaks at Cornell’s Dyce Lab for Honey Bee Studies in Varna, New York, June 24, at an event to announce recommendations outlined in the NYS Pollinator Protection Plan. (Patrick Shanahan/University Photography)

Cornell Chronicle [2016-06-27]

State officials and Kathryn Boor, the Ronald P. Lynch Dean of Cornell’s College of the Agriculture and Life Sciences, announced recommendations of the New York State Pollinator Task Force at Cornell’s Dyce Lab for Honey Bee Studies in Varna, New York, June 24.

The 2016-17 state budget includes $500,000 to help implement practices and conduct research outlined in a New York State Pollinator Protection Plan developed by the task force and its advisers.

“Pollinators are critical to food production worldwide, and as a consequence they contribute in a very important way to our state’s, our national and our global economies,” Boor said. “Apples, squash, pumpkins, pears, tomatoes, strawberries, cherries all are among the pollinator-dependent crops that annually generate more than $500 million for New York state’s agricultural economy.”

At the same time, according to research, managed honeybees and native pollinators are in serious decline.

Read the whole article.

A digger bee forages on blueberry flowers. Previous research has shown that bees pass parasites and pathogens to each other when they forage on wildflowers, but the details of exactly how disease is spread through diverse communities of bees is unclear. (Photo: Scott McArt)

A digger bee forages on blueberry flowers. Previous research has shown that bees pass parasites and pathogens to each other when they forage on wildflowers, but the details of exactly how disease is spread through diverse communities of bees is unclear. (Photo: Scott McArt)

See also: Scientists to examine spread of disease in bees with NIH grant Cornell Chronicle [2016-06-27]

A team led by Cornell researchers has received a five-year, $2.2 million National Institutes of Health grant to develop an approach to better understand how pathogens that infect bees and other pollinators are spread.

In New York state alone, 13 percent of bee species are experiencing declining ranges and populations. Nationwide, beekeepers are losing close to half of their honeybee colonies every year, in part due to disease.

Scientists have identified key viral, bacterial and fungal pathogens that cause bee diseases and lead to declining populations. This decline is a major concern as pollinators – especially wild and managed bees – are critical to native ecosystems and agricultural crops, providing the equivalent of billions of dollars in pollination annually.

Read the whole article.

Cornell Fruit Field Day, July 20, Geneva, N.Y.

fruit compositeFrom Art Agnello, Dept. of Entomology, NYSAES:

Mark your calendars for the Cornell Fruit Field Day, to be held in Geneva on Wednesday, July 20.  The 2016 version of this triennial event will feature ongoing research in berries, hops, grapes, and tree fruit, and is being organized by Cornell University, the NYS Agricultural Experiment Station, CALS Fruit Program Work Team and Cornell Cooperative Extension.  All interested persons are invited to learn about the fruit research under way at Cornell University.  Attendees will be able to select from tours of different fruit commodities.  Details of the program presentations are still being finalized, but the event will feature a number of topics, including:

 Berries

  • Spotted wing drosophila research update in berry crops
  • Hummingbird use, monitoring network
  • Use of exclusion netting for managing spotted wing drosophila in fall raspberries
  • Monitoring spotted wing drosophila for management decisions in summer raspberry and blueberry
  • Behavioral control of spotted wing drosophila using repellents and attract & kill stations
  • Effect of habitat diversity on ecosystem services for strawberries
  • High tunnel production of black and red raspberries
  • Day-neutral strawberries/low tunnel production

 Tree Fruits

  • Apple breeding and genetic studies
  • Research updates on fire blight, apple scab, mildew
  • Bitter pit in Honeycrisp
  • 3D camera canopy imaging
  • Ambrosia beetle management trials
  • Malus selections for potential use in cider production
  • Precision spraying in orchards
  • Role of insects in spreading fire blight in apples
  • Bacterial canker of sweet cherries
  • Rootstocks & training systems for sweet cherry
  • NC-140 rootstock trials on Honeycrisp and Snap Dragon
  • Pear rootstocks & training systems

 Grapes & Hops

  • Sour rot of grapes
  • VitisGen grape breeding project
  • Precision spraying in grapes
  • Managing the spread of leafroll virus in Vinifera grape using insecticides and vine removal
  • Early leaf removal on Riesling
  • Overview of NYSAES hops planting
  • Powdery and downy mildew management in hops
  • Hops weed mgt; mite biocontrol
  • Update on malting barley research

 Also

  • FSMA Produce Safety Rule

Field Day details

The event will take place at the NYSAES Fruit and Vegetable Research Farm South, 1097 County Road No. 4, 1 mile west of Pre-emption Rd. in Geneva, NY.

Arrive at 8:00 AM to get settled in. Tours begin promptly at 8:30 AM and are scheduled in the morning from 8:30 to 11:30 and in the afternoon from 1:30 to 5:00. Lunch will be served at the exhibit tent area between 11:30-12:30.

Visit sponsors anytime from 11:30-1:30

Learn about products and services from:

  • Agro Liquid
  • Arysta Life Science
  • Dow AgroSciences
  • Dupont
  • Farm Credit East, ACA
  • Finger Lakes Trellis Supply
  • LaGasse Works, Inc.
  • Lakeview Vineyard Equipment
  • NY Apple Sales
  • OESCO, Inc
  • Red Jacket Orchards
  • Superior Wind Machine Service
  • Valent USA Corp.
  • Wafler Farms
  • Tastings from War Horse Brewing

To participate as a sponsor, see the registration website or contact Shelly Cowles (315-787-2274; mw69@cornell.edu).

Register now!

Admission fee is $50/person ($40 for additional attendees from the same farm or business), which covers tours, lunch and educational materials. Pre-registration is required. Walk-in registration may be available for a $10 surcharge on the day of the event.  Register on the Cornell Fruit Field Day Event registration page, http://events.cals.cornell.edu/ffd2016

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