New York State IPM Program

March 26, 2015
by Mary M. Woodsen
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Snow Jobs (with guest Paul Hetzler)

Where agriculture is concerned, dairy is king (or is dairy queen?) in northern NY State. But with the kind of winter we’ve had so far, I wonder if we shouldn’t start producing other crops, ones particularly suited to our region. How about we raise snow peas. Or iceberg lettuce, perhaps. OK, so I’m indulging one of life’s most futile activities, griping about the weather. But for farmers, foresters and gardeners, there is an up-side to all this snow.

Snow has been called the poor person’s fertilizer because it’s a source of trace elements and more importantly, of plant-available forms of nitrogen, a nutrient often in short supply. When snow releases a whole winter’s worth (what’s that—six, eight months around here?) of nutrients in a short time, the nitrogen value can add up.

Round bale, baled with snow? It's a snow job! Photo courtesy Pixabay.com

Round bale, baled with snow? It’s a snow job! Photo courtesy Pixabay.com

Since air is 78% nitrogen, you’d think plants would have all they needed. But atmospheric nitrogen, N2, is a very stable, inert molecule that plants are unable to use. Where does useable nitrogen come from? Some soil bacteria can fix gaseous nitrogen, converting it to water-soluble forms that plants can slurp up. Lightning also turns nitrogen gas into plant food. But this only accounts for a small percentage of the nitrogen found in snow.

Turns out snow is a better fertilizer today than it was years ago. There’s an outfit called the National Atmospheric Deposition Program (NADP), which basically measures stuff that falls out of the sky that isn’t some form of water. According to the NADP, the vast majority of snow-borne nitrogen comes from pollution …. For the rest of the story, read on.

Article courtesy Paul Hetzler, Cornell Cooperative Extension of St. Lawrence County

 

March 24, 2015
by Mary M. Woodsen
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For IPM, Looking Back Means Looking Ahead

2015 marks our 30th anniversary here at NYS IPM. With age comes a new approach to our Year in Review — to our annual report. Yes, as always our focus is real science for real people. But “commodity driven” has long been our organizing principle.

This year our Year in Review will be different — a difference that’s as new as tomorrow. No matter if you’re coping with rats in the furnace room or late blight in tomato fields large and small, most everything in IPM relates to something else in IPM. So our organizing principle this year? I’m calling it “A Theme Runs Through It.”

Yes, even viruses are pests. Plum pox first showed up in NY orchards in 2006.

Yes, even viruses are pests. Plum pox first showed up in NY orchards in 2006.

Our themes? Inasives are a biggie, so lets start there. Given the invasives and emerging pests we were seeing 30 years ago, could we foreseen the meteoric rise in bed bugs? Stick bugs? And not just insects, but new viruses, bacteria, weeds?

More themes? Pest forecasts — because if you know a problem is headed your way, it’s easier to take action to prevent or better cope with it. Applied research that spans years — because when you test new IPM tactics under a range of conditions year in and year out, you have a clearer picture of do they work and what should you tweak one year that you don’t need to the next. Education — because people learn with their hands as well as their heads. Nor is that all.

A single post of mums is a trap? Yes — a trap crop, attracting greenhouse pests that could wreak havoc with your main crop.

A single pot of mums is a trap? Trap crops attract greenhouse pests that could wreak havoc with your main crop.

Each theme offers incorporates core principles of IPM: Prevention. Monitoring. Meeting cultural needs. Natural enemies of pests — biocontrol, in a word. Lures and traps. Healthy soil. Healthy plants. Healthy homes and schools — healthy kids. They apply across the board.

Oh — and by culture, no; we don’t mean a night at the opera. (Or even the pool hall). We mean finding the right site, whether indoors or out, with the right conditions for the plants you want to grow.

We’ll have more. Stay tuned.

March 19, 2015
by Mary M. Woodsen
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Beauty and the Battle Against Invasive Plants: IPM Can Help

In New York and around the world, invasive plants rank among the top reasons that the stability of native ecosystems are under threat. Consider the prickly barberries that swallow woodland understories whole. The Norway maples that outcompete sugar maples and out-shade wildflowers. The — well, let’s just stop. Because it doesn’t get better.

Trying to hack through acres of barberry gone feral is no fun.

Trying to hack through acres of barberry gone feral is no fun.

Sure, those plants might look good in your backyard or hedging the sidewalk, but their seeds have sneaky ways of getting around. Maintaining the value and beauty of woodlands, parks, and farms where invasives abound gets expensive fast. Which is why New York law now regulates and prohibits the sale of these and other invasive plants.

The good news? At NYS IPM we’ve got a great list of plants that’ll do the job you want just as well. Here you’ll find plants similar in appearance and cultural requirements to the invasives they replace — while bringing their own subtle brand of shade, grace, or fragrance to the places you want.

Plant native ninebark, not barberry — and ninebark has lovely flowers, too.

Plant native ninebark, not barberry — and ninebark has lovely flowers, too.

Many are native to the Northeast; among those that aren’t, none are considered invasive. And many of these alternatives are readily available at local nurseries. While most are hardy in much of New York and the Northeast, follow core IPM practices by checking your hardiness zone — and your site’s soil, air and water drainage, microclimate, and other cultural factors.

March 17, 2015
by Joellen Lampman
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The squirrels are coming, the squirrels are coming!!

“Spring work is going on with joyful enthusiasm.” ― John Muir

In other words, birthing season will soon be upon us. And though it’s fun watching animal families grow up in our backyards, it’s best that they don’t give birth within our buildings. Because female squirrels seek safe places to raise their young in late winter and early spring, now is the time to ensure they stay out of your attic.

Photo credit:  Carosaurus
Give them an opening and squirrels will happily turn your attic into a nursery. Photo credit: Carosaurus

Your first step? Monitoring is key to sound IPM. In this case you want to inspect your building exterior, especially if you’ve had problems in the past. Since squirrels are climbing animals and there’s no way could you see all possible entry sites from the ground, you’ll need a ladder. If you find a likely entry hole, don’t close it without first determining if it’s active. Trapping an animal (or its nest) inside can provoke it to chew its way back out — or in. Monitor an opening by inserting a soft plug (crumpled newspaper works fine) into the hole. If the plug is still there after two days and you see no other signs of activity inside the building, it should be safe to permanently close the hole. What to close it with? Think galvanized sheet metal or galvanized metal mesh, which resist strong teeth.

Do you need to remove squirrels from the building? Trapping is the most common and successful method. By New York law, however, without a state-issued permit squirrels must be released on the property or humanely destroyed. Another method is to install one-way doors (also known as excluders) over entry holes. These devices allow animals to leave — but not re-enter — the structure. To be successful, one-way doors need to be combined with preventive exclusion (such as metal mesh and caulk) on other vulnerable sites on your building, since exclusion and prevention are also key IPM practices.

Photo credit:  BillSmith_03303
Openings such as this one provide access for squirrels, raccoons, mice, rats, birds, stinging insects, bats, snakes, … Photo credit: BillSmith_03303

No rodenticides or other poisons are legally registered for squirrel control. Although a variety of repellents and devices make marketing claims about driving squirrels from buildings, their efficacy is questionable.

To prevent future problems, reduce squirrel access to the building by keeping trees and tree branches at least 10 feet away from the structure and make sure all vents are made of animal-resistant materials.

For information on IPM for nuisance wildlife, refer to Beasts Begone!: A Practitioner’s Guide to IPM in Buildings  and Best Practices for Nuisance Wildlife Control Operators.

(Adapted from Controlling Squirrel Problems in Buildings by Lynn Braband, NYS Community IPM Program at Cornell University)

March 10, 2015
by Mary M. Woodsen
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Rats, Fleas, the Media … Part II

When Cornell’s NYS IPM story — based on IPM entomologist Matt Frye’s research — hit the news a week ago, it made quite a splash. Back then, nearly 20 media outlets told the story: how Frye found over 6,500 lice, mites, and fleas on 113 rats live-trapped in New York City.

And — that among them were over 500 Oriental rat fleas, fleas capable of carrying the infamous bubonic plague. No, none of those 500 fleas harbored the plague. Still — “If these rats carry fleas that could transmit the plague to people,” says Frye, “then the pathogen itself is the only piece missing from the transmission cycle.”

Below, an updated list of the outlets that ran the news. Now the BBC — the British Broadcasting Corporation — also has plans to tell the story. And here, a one-minute video that shows how city rats make a living.

CBS News Cornell Chronicle
Daily Mail (UK) The Dodo
ESA (Entomological Soc. America) Fox News
Gothamist  The Independent (UK)
International Business Times  Jezebel
 Medical Daily  Metro New York
 NBC News  Newsweek
 New York Daily News  Popular Science
 RT (Reuters/Krishnendu Halder)  Science World Report
 University of Delaware  US News and World Report
 The Verge  Wired
 WPIX NY | PIX11  Yahoo Health

 

March 6, 2015
by Mary M. Woodsen
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Rats, Fleas, IPM: How the Media Told It

Since Cornell’s NYSIPM story — based on IPM entomologist Matt Frye’s research — went live earlier this week, here’s which media outlets told the story, and how.

CBS News Cornell Chronicle
Daily Mail (UK) The Dodo
 ESA  Fox News
 International Business Times  Medical Daily
 NBC News  Newsweek
 New York Daily News  Popular Science
 Science World Report  University of Delaware
 US News and World Report  The Verge
 Wired  Yahoo Health

One of our all-time favorite rat pics:  Norway rat drops down a grate in the Big Apple, looking for — well, maybe an apple.

One of our all-time favorite rat pics: Norway rat drops down a grate in the Big Apple, looking for — well, maybe an apple.

March 3, 2015
by Mary M. Woodsen
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News Flash! IPM Research — Rats, Fleas, and the Plague

Norway rats are your consummate “where you go, we go also” species, being as well adapted to urban living as we are. Meaning that the diseases we’ve blamed on them are most likely grounded in reality.

Yet widespread instances of the most spectacular of those diseases — the Black Plague that devastated much of the Old World long ago — have virtually disappeared. Is it because this dread disease’s vector, the Oriental rat flea, also disappeared? No. Rats aren’t the only animals that harbor these fleas. In North America the plague lives on in the unlikeliest of places — in the American Southwest among ground squirrels, prairie dogs, and the rat fleas they harbor, infecting roughly 10 people each year.

A Norway rat drops down a grate in New York City, looking for food or shelter. A flea that finds food and shelter on such rats is capable of transmitting the plague pathogen.

A Norway rat drops down a grate in New York City, looking for food or shelter. A flea that finds food and shelter on such a rat is capable of transmitting the plague pathogen.

But what about our cities? If New York City could serve as a model organism, so to speak, then new research published this week from a Cornell and Columbia University collaboration means we’d best keep tabs on city rats and the tiny critters that call them home. NYS IPM’s urban entomologist Matthew Frye and his colleagues in New York live-trapped 133 Norway rats. Using a fine-tooth rat comb, Frye found about 6,000 parasites, including lice, mites — and more than 500 rat fleas.

The good news first: none of the fleas carried the plague. But they did carry other nasty diseases.

It’s unlikely the plague has gotten a toehold in New York. Even so, Frye is alarmed. “If these rats carry fleas that could transmit the plague to people,” says Frye, “then the pathogen itself is the only piece missing from the transmission cycle.”

What to do to help keep it that way? Since avoiding fleas is just as tricky as avoiding rats, core IPM practices are key. They include prevention (caulking and installing snug-fitting door sweeps, for instance) and careful sanitation (cleaning or removing every possible food and water source — indoors and out — be it spilled dog chow and soda pop, or leaky pipes and discarded deli containers).

Once you’ve gotten the rats out — then what? After all, those fleas and the diseases they vector are a troupe of “where you go, we go also” species on the micro level. “It’s not that the parasites that get left behind can infest our bodies,” Frye says. “But they can feed on us while seeking other rats to infest.”

Frye’s research was part of an earlier project looking at the pathogens that rats themselves — not just their fleas — could carry. That study noted a disturbing number of viral and bacterial diseases rats fall prey to — including a handful that could spell grave consequences for us.

February 27, 2015
by Karen English
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Take Action to Support Ag IPM

GREAT NEWS! The NY Farm Bureau has included us on their e-advocacy site—making it very easy for you and others to voice your support for restoring Agricultural IPM funding to previous levels.

Farmers have relied upon Integrated Pest Management (IPM), for decades.  IPM allows farmers to target pests and diseases in an efficient, profitable, and environmentally sensitive manner by utilizing the best and latest innovations in research and extension.  The IPM program received a 50% funding cut in 2010, and is now seeking a return to prior year’s budgets.  Please take a moment to support this important program in the 2015-16 State Budget.

Please help! Simply go to the Farm Bureau’s Action Alert website, select the delivery method, fill in your contact information, and submit—it’s that easy.

February 20, 2015
by Mary M. Woodsen
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Invasive Pest A Killer in the Cabbage Patch: Growers, Take This Survey

The invasive swede midge has been slowly but relentlessly making its way into the Northeast. This tiny pest is a baddie, sometimes causing complete loss of entire plantings of cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, and their cabbage-family kin.

swede midge damage in cabbage

Blind head, swollen leaf bases, brown scarring — all point to swede midge’s destructiveness in red cabbage.

New York is the top producer for fresh cabbage nationwide — and second in processing cabbage. The market value of cabbage alone in New York is $62 million per year. But other northeastern growers are worried too, as are gardeners who are in the know.

Finding sustainable, IPM pest management strategies before swede midge claims yet more ground is critical. But alternatives to chemical pesticides have yet to be developed. Today, the management recommendation — aside from long (and widely-spaced) crop rotations — is to apply systemic neonicotinoids at planting and weekly thereafter.

At the University of Vermont, Yolanda Chen wants to find plant- and systems-based alternatives. To that end, she and fellow researchers seek grower input via a survey to learn

  • how much knowledge growers have on current effective pest management practices
  • determine their willingness to try alternative pest management practices.
swede midge on broccoli

This broccoli’s growing tip — infested by swede midge larvae.

Chen anticipates the survey will take 5 – 8 minutes to complete, and every growers’ help will be greatly appreciated.

Learn more about swede midge.

February 17, 2015
by Joellen Lampman
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Snow, Frost a Big Help for Head Start on Quality Turf — or Crops

Are you in charge of maintaining athletic fields? If you’re looking for a two or three week head start on getting your fields ready for spring — consider a proven IPM practice: dormant overseeding. (Farmers, this can work for cool-season grains and forage crops. And homeowners — here’s a trick from the pros that you just might be able to use.)

Yes, right now those artic blasts might still be leaving us chilled. But winter weather has its advantages: snowmelt and freeze-thaw cycles help both push and pull seeds into the ground, maximizing seed-to-soil contact.

Photo of frost heaving on the spot of brown earth without cover of plants. Note that the effect of frost heaving is reduced on the area covered by grass.
Frost heaving is more extreme on bare soil. Note that the effect of frost heaving is reduced on the area covered by grass. Photo Credit: Michal Maňas

Meanwhile, spring is just around the corner — meaning it’s time to be on the lookout for weather conditions that allow you to apply grass seed.  So secure your seed and calibrate your spreaders.

What conditions are you looking for? Choose a time when:

  • there’s no snow cover
  • nighttime temperatures are predicted to dip below freezing and …
  • days begin to warm.

Ideally the forecast will also call for snow — snow that will push the seed into the ground while also protecting the seed from marauding birds. When that snow melts and is absorbed into the soil, it also helps pull your seed down through the crowns of existing plants, further increasing seed-to-soil contact.

Freeze-thaw cycles can affect soil dramatically, opening crevices and ridges that seed can slip into and will later collapse, maximizing seed-to-soil contact.
Freeze-thaw cycles can affect soil dramatically, opening crevices and ridges that seed can slip into and will later collapse, maximizing seed-to-soil contact. Photo Credit: Joellen Lampman

Choose which seed to apply by your expectations for each field. Will your athletes be on the field in early spring? Then apply the quickly germinating perennial rye at a rate of 6 lbs./1000 ft2. If you have fields that won’t be used until June or July, apply Kentucky bluegrass at a rate of 3 to 4 lbs./1000 ft2. There will be some loss due to seed mortality, so these rates are 50% above conventional rates.

Your IPM benefits? Dormant seeding allows you to avoid cultivating the turf when the soil is too soft and wet to work. It saves fuel and equipment costs, too. And getting this turf management practice out of the way early means you’re better set up for the busy field season. Best of all, the seeds you apply in winter can germinate two to three week earlier than those applied during a conventional spring seeding — and your grass will be better able to face the onslaught of spring weeds and athletic cleats.

Want more info on maintaining athletic fields? Seek no further: Sports Field Management.