Still in the market for a holiday tree? Not to worry, two Cornell University experts share their tips and tricks to pick and preserve the perfect pine tree.
Brian Eshenaur is a plant pathologist, a certified New York State nursery professional and a Western New York-based educator with NYS IPM. Elizabeth Lamb has a Ph.D. in plant breeding and is a senior extension associate with the Cornell Cooperative Extension’s New York State Integrated Pest Management program.
“Despite the subzero temperatures that occurred early in the year and some subsequent winter burn on certain trees, the 2014 growing season was a good one for New York Christmas tree growers. Moderate summer temperatures and regular rainfall helped the trees at Christmas tree farms put on a healthy layer of growth.
“The mix of trees being grown and available to consumers continues to evolve. We notice more Fraser firs than ever that are available this year and a nice mix of other firs and in some locations even spruce trees as well.
“The best way to preserve the tree’s freshness is to keep plenty of fresh water in the tree stand. If possible, when you bring it home make a new cut from the bottom of the trunk if you think the tree has spent some time on the tree lot and the cut stump looks weathered and dirty. That way you’re sure to have open ‘pipework’ to keep the water flowing to the needles.”
“The fresher the tree the better, which is a good reason to buy local. The branches should be springy and smell good. A few loose needles aren’t a problem but you shouldn’t get handfuls when you brush the branches.”
Tips for selecting the best Christmas tree:
Firs and pines have the best needle retention and can last for a month or more indoors. However if buying a spruce tree, plan to have it in the house for just a week to 10 days.
Look for a tree with a good solid-green color. Needle yellowing or a slight brown speckled color could indicate there was a pest problem and could lead to early needle drop.
Don’t be afraid to handle and bend the branches and shoots. Green needles should not come off in your hands. Also, the shoots should be flexible. Avoid a tree if the needles are shed or if the shoots crack or snap with handling.
Christmas trees should smell good. If there isn’t much fragrance when you flex the needles, it may mean that the tree was cut too long ago.
If possible, make a fresh cut on the bottom so the tree’s vascular tissue (pipe work) is not plugged and so the tree can easily take up water. Then, if you’re not bringing it into the house right away, get the tree in a bucket of water outside.
Once your tree gets moved to inside the house, don’t locate it next to a radiator or furnace vent. And always remember to keep water in the tree stand topped off, so it never goes below the bottom of the trunk.
The new Cornell Sports Field Management website provides sports turf managers with the latest best management practices and resources they need to maintain safe and functional school and community sports fields.
Recognizing that sports turf managers don’t work in isolation, the site also provides information for coaches, athletic directors, administrators, community members and others to help them understand how their decisions can affect turf quality and field safety.
From Chris Watkins Associate Dean and Director of Cornell Cooperative Extension:
I am delighted to announce the appointment of Jennifer Grant as director of the New York State Integrated Pest Management Program (NYS IPM) at Cornell University. Jennifer has previously served as an Ornamentals and Community IPM Educator, Community IPM Coordinator, Assistant Director, and until now as Co-Director of the program with Curtis Petzoldt. In this role, Jennifer and Curtis have excelled in managing the NY IPM program which affects every area of the state. While maintaining excellent research and extension capabilities in agriculture, the program has expanded to address new challenges in community IPM. I am confident that Jennifer will continue to grow this critically important program that connects campus and statewide research and extension to individuals and communities around New York State.
Jennifer joined NYS IPM in 1989 after receiving BS and MS degrees in entomology from the University of Vermont, and later earned her Ph.D. in entomology at Cornell University. While at Cornell, Jennifer has worked extensively in many areas of IPM including turf grass, schools, and IPM on recreational lands. In her current and previous roles she has developed expertise in all areas of agricultural IPM. Jennifer has nearly 170 extension, technical, research, educational and media publications to her credit and is widely recognized in the IPM field nationally and internationally. She received the Entomological Society of America’s Eastern Branch Award for Excellence in Integrated Pest Management in 2011. Her golf course IPM research and demonstration work conducted at Bethpage State Park over the last 13 years has helped influence golf course managers to minimize the use of pesticides on many golf courses in New York and the US.
Marion Zuefle, M.S., has joined the staff of the New York State IPM Program as a vegetable IPM educator. Zuefle, who previously served as a NYS IPM vegetable implementation specialist and fruit survey technician, will work closely with growers and researchers around New York and the Northeast.
More recently, Marion has taken responsibility for the sweet corn pheromone trap network, an important resource for farmers, extension educators, and consultants throughout the state. She’s improved the network’s web interface for reporting results and created resources to help cooperators deploy traps and identify catches for accurate results and recommendations. And she’s obtained funding for research to help determine whether spotted wing drosophila, a known pest of small fruit, also poses a threat to tomatoes.
Cornell Cooperative Extension of Broome County will host a Greenhouse Education Day October 30 in Binghamton, N.Y.
Among the speakers are Betsy Lamb, Cornell University IPM Program on Algae in Propagation Lines and Neil Mattson, Department of Horticulture on Interesting Trends and Winning Plants from the Spring 2013 California Spring Trials. View full program.
Cost is $50 per person and includes all handouts, refreshments and lunch. DEC credits are available in the following categories: 1a, 3a, 10 & 24 – 3 credits each.
“Impressive.” “The best workshop I’ve ever been to.” “She was committed to my success every step of the way.”
Accolades like these have earned Elizabeth Lamb the New York State Integrated Pest Management Program’s (NYS IPM) Excellence in IPM award. This award honors people who make outstanding contributions to preventive and least-toxic tactics for dealing with pests.
As ornamentals coordinator for NYS IPM since 2006, Lamb has provided scores of workshops for 2,000-plus nursery and greenhouse growers, Christmas tree farmers, and landscapers — people working in industries collectively worth nearly $200 million per year to New York’s economy, and that at wholesale prices.
“Betsy’s workshops are always full with waiting lists of people who’d like to attend,” says Mark Bridgen, director of Cornell’s Long Island Horticultural Research and Extension Center. “These people don’t hesitate to speak their minds. It’s a true indicator of Betsy’s success when the leaders of New York’s ornamental plant industry go out of their way to let it be known that they’re impressed.”
Damage to fruit by spotted wing drosophila (SWD) — an introduced pest from East Asia — is expected to increase this season. In response, Cornell researchers and extension educators have trap network covering some 30 counties around the state to keep tabs on the pest. (As of June 7, none have been reported.)
The crops at highest risk for SWD infestation include fall raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries. June-bearing strawberries may escape injury, but late summer fruit or day-neutral varieties may suffer damage. Cherries, both tart and sweet, elderberries, and peaches are also susceptible. Thin-skinned grapes can be infested directly, though cracked or damaged berries are more susceptible.
Abby Seaman presents Steve McKay with an Excellence in IPM award.
Neither Rain nor Mud nor (Etc.) Earns IPM Award for Cornell Farm Manager by Mary Woodsen, NYSIPM program.
Three days after Tropical Storm Lee blew through the Northeast in early September 2011, turning streams into rivers, then lakes, getting a tractor into the waterlogged research plots at Cornell University’s Thompson Research Farm was an obvious no-go. So farm manager Steve McKay slipped on a backpack sprayer and slogged through the muddy fields bordering Fall Creek.
McKay was helping test a new “decision support system,” which predicts if or when growers need to spray to protect crops from late blight, a deadly plant diseases. McKay’s team supports research to help growers use softer fungicides and only as a last resort—a principle that’s key to IPM, or integrated pest management.
And the next day—a Saturday—he was back again in the cab of a backhoe, digging temporary drainage ditches to salvage what he could of the experiment.
Now for his dedication, expertise, and leadership, McKay has earned an Excellence in IPM Award from the New York State Integrated Pest Management Program, which seeks least-toxic solutions to pest problems, including plant diseases.
“Working with Steve is an absolute delight,” says William Fry, professor of plant pathology at Cornell University, noting that McKay is indispensable in evaluating late-blight forecasting systems. “With his help, we’ve got data on late-blight resistance in nearly 100 potato and tomato cultivars.”
McKay manages 70-plus acres of trials for as many as 15 different scientists on 15 to 20 different crops, say horticulture professors Robin Bellinder and Don Halseth. McKay does “an astounding job of caring for our research trials,” they say. “We can’t think of a better person to receive the Excellence in IPM award.”
McKay receives his award on February 11 at Cornell’s Horticulture Seminar Series.
McKay teaches vegetable production class about the inner workings of a planter.
When Susan & Tom Palomaki started Lucas Greenhouses in 2005, they didn’t want to be tied to routine spray schedules. So they hired Debbie Palumbo-Sanders to help them find a better, gentler way to cope with pests. We caught up with Susan and Debbie at the 2012 Cornell Floriculture Field day after they accepted their Excellence in IPM award from the New York State IPM program.
GENEVA, NY: Susan and Tom Palomaki knew that greenhouses provide perfect moisture and warmth, not just for plants, but for pests. But in 2005 when they bought Lucas Greenhouses in Fairport, NY, with over a million plants under one roof, they didn’t want to be tied to the weekly spray routines commonly used to combat greenhouse pests.
The Palomaki’s first priority—finding a better, gentler way to cope with pests. Which led to their first permanent new hire—Debbie Palumbo-Sanders.
Palumbo-Sanders’s background in plant pathology and plant science, coupled with her enthusiasm and curiosity, made her a natural for the job. Plus: she knew the core principles of integrated pest management (IPM) and was eager to learn more. Now the Lucas Greenhouses team has received an Excellence in IPM award for their leadership in promoting IPM to greenhouse growers statewide as well as to their customers.
Among the IPM tactics well-suited to greenhouses is biocontrol. Because greenhouse conditions are ideal for them, too, these predatory insects or pathogens can really wallop pests. But although IPM growers can cut way back on the time and money spent spraying greenhouses, says NYS IPM educator Brian Eshenaur, working with tiny, sometimes microscopic living critters involves a learning curve.
Lucas Greenhouses has become a major player in the mentoring circuit. They help the large wholesale growers who supply them—and even other retailers—get a handle on the sometimes-tricky tactics it takes to succeed at biocontrol.
“We definitely see the ripple effect,” says Tom Palomaki. “Suppliers are sending us cuttings they’ve grown using biocontrols.” Which means many other retailers are getting the same high-quality, low-impact cuttings too.
“That’s what’s so wonderful about these folks,” says Eshenaur. “They go out of their way to help other growers learn how to keep those biocontrols healthy and productive.”
And if you’re a Lucas customer, Eshenaur says, you can’t miss the colorful banners hanging in the center aisle, explaining what IPM is and why it’s so important for plants and people too. “When garden clubs come through for tours we can just see the light bulbs come on,” says Palomaki.
“Some growers are hesitant to explain about biocontrols because then their customers know there are bugs, good and bad, at that greenhouse,” Eshenaur says. “But when I’m out there what I see is healthy, vigorous plants. It’s a case of what you see is what you get, in the very best sense.”