October 19, 2020 by Debra E. Marvin | Comments Off on New Perennial Crops for Weed Suppression and Carbon Sequestration
by Bryan Brown, PhD
Farmers tell me all the time – “If only my crops could grow like weeds!” Well that’s just what happened to Jonathan Bates, owner of Food Forest Farm, who noticed that some of his edible perennial plants were taking over his garden. These are big and robust plants that smother our usual weeds – perfect for low-maintenance gardens. So he starting cutting back these plants and selling the rootstock online.
Jonathan Bates holds a leaf of a princess tree, a plant that provides high-nitrogen forage through fall leaf drop. He uses this plant to provide shade in livestock pastures.
Excited by the idea of crops that outcompete weeds, I recently toured the farm with Jonathan. He showed me thick stands of edible perennial brassicas like horseradish, sea kale, and Turkish rocket; thriving carrot-family perennials like skirret and giant Korean celery; and leguminous plants like wild senna, Illinois bundleflower, and Astragalus that serve as high-nitrogen forage for livestock while also providing pollinator resources and building soil fertility.
No weeds there! Several edible perennial brassicas show promise as robust weed suppressive crops.
A huge advantage with perennials is that you don’t have to rototill the ground every year to prepare for planting. That has big benefits aside from being a labor-saver. Any time the soil is tilled, it accelerates decomposition of organic matter and loss of carbon to the atmosphere. Whereas perennial plantings serve as a carbon sink by sequestering atmospheric carbon into plant tissue that eventually becomes soil organic matter. Such “carbon farming” is starting to become big business as a means to forestall climate change.
With so many benefits to these perennial crops, I think it’s just a matter of time before we see more farmers start growing them – and we start seeing them on our dinner plates!
August 28, 2020
by Dan Olmstead Comments Off on Severe weather causes intense rain and wind across NY
Severe weather outbreaks yesterday caused intense wind and rain for prolonged periods across New York State. Significant rainfall and strong winds were recorded, with tornado warnings issued downstate in the Hudson Valley.
Two major systems brought significant amounts of rain to all of New York State this past weekend. Tropical Storm Fay moved up the Hudson River Valley while a large front from the West hit western and central NY Saturday and Sunday.
7-day rainfall totals for New York State as of 12 July 2020.
Most counties and townships received a minimum half inch of rain across the state, which was timely given the fact that most of NY had transitioned to abnormally dry conditions, or moderate to severe drought in some areas, as of 10 July. Click here for additional drought status information.
More than 3 inches of rain were recorded in Catteraugus, Lewis, Madison, Oneida, Onondaga, Orange, Oswego, Rockland, Sullivan, and Westchester Counties as well as all boroughs of New York City. Smaller areas of Livingston, Monroe, Ontario, Seneca, and Yates Counties also received similar amounts.
Lumberland and Highland Townships in the southwest corner of Sullivan County may have experienced rainfall in excess of 8 inches.
In the future, visit the ThinkIPM Blog for summaries of severe weather events impacting IPM practices and agricultural production in NY.
All crops have pests. Managing them on certified organic farms is firmly rooted in IPM practices such as crop rotation, sanitation, and the use of pest-resistant varieties. In fact, it’s written into the regulations. But despite the best IPM prevention practices, pesticides are still needed for certain stubborn pests. With organic vegetable production gaining in importance in New York—a 28% increase in the number of farms from 2011 to 2016—growers have an even greater need for objective information about allowed pest management products.
To provide that info, we teamed up with Cornell AgriTech faculty members Chris Smart, Brian Nault, and Tony Shelton to conduct trials. At the end of nine years, we have many successes that are effective options for cucurbit powdery mildew, squash vine borer, worms on brassicas, potato leafhopper, and others.
Alas, some pests still have us stymied, namely striped cucumber beetle and cucurbit downy mildew, so pesticide testing will continue. Next up, we focus on pests, beneficials, and weed IPM in organic squash production systems. And, to accommodate the increasing number of researchers working in organic systems, we’re helping Cornell AgriTech transition 24 acres of research fields into certified organic production. IPM and organic: natural partners.
(Above) Double damage. The sharp-dressed striped cucumber beetle causes direct damage, massing on newly emerged or transplanted seedlings and sometimes chewing them to the ground, while also transmitting a sometimes-fatal bacterial wilt.
Don’t Get Ticked NY!
(Above) Ticks prefer moist, warm places. Teach children to make tick-checks a personal habit—the last defense against disease transmission. Knowing the spots and bumps on their skin helps them recognize new ones—new ones that happen to have legs.
Ticks are really ticking off New Yorkers worried about Lyme disease, the United States’ number one vector-borne pathogen. It’s transmitted by the blacklegged tick found abundantly throughout our state. This particular pest can also spread diseases like anaplasmosis, babesiosis, and Powassan virus. Unfortunately, additional tick species abound, and together, the many illnesses they can cause are serious threats to human health. That’s why NYSIPM is committed to reducing the impact of these little blood-suckers.
Recognizing our ability to effectively convey key risk-reducing strategies, the NYS Senate’s Task Force on Lyme and Tick-Borne Diseases joined the fight by funding our Don’t Get Ticked NY campaign. We provide easy-to-understand information at the website, and distribute ID cards, infographics and tick removal kits to educators and the public statewide through community events, extension offices and BOCES. Last year we handed out almost 50,000 tick ID cards, a few thousand tick removal kits, and directly reached over 5,000 people.
“Tick-educated” New Yorkers now recognize tick habitats, and—rather than avoid the outdoors—now know how to look and feel for ticks during their daily tick check. While threats from ticks continue to increase, so does New Yorkers’ awareness of how to stave them off. So please … don’t get ticked, New York.
(Above) Get the pointy. Our Don’t Get Ticked New York Tick Kits are popular handouts at events across the state. You can make your own by gathering pointy tweezers, a magnifier, a mirror, alcohol wipes, and a vial or plastic bag to store the offender. But kits won’t help you if you don’t have them nearby. Our tick cards are the perfect resource to have on hand, and you can print out the same graphics from our website at www.DontGetTickedNY.org.
May 12, 2020
by Debra E. Marvin Comments Off on Our 2018-2019 Annual Report #6- Certified Crop Advisor Training; Saving the Douglas-fir
Growers and crop consultants need training like everyone else, so they go to school. The Northeast Region Certified Crop Advisers (NRCCA) offer regional and international certifications. NRCCA has online courses and a three-day intensive training conference covering four competency areas. And did we mention exams? Becoming a certified crop advisor takes dedication.
The curriculum covers the management of crops, soil, nutrients, and of course, IPM. NRCCA hosts experts from several universities and representatives from agribusiness who come together annually to facilitate basic and advanced trainings.
NYSIPM is integral to NRCCA training. We offer cutting-edge advanced instruction to students on how to scout for weeds, insects, and crop diseases, along with the latest environmentally-sound management recommendations. NYSIPM has become increasingly involved in field crops and vegetable training, and we now sit on the NRCCA exam board. We developed basic training video content for the IPM, plant pathology, and entomology components of the curriculum. It includes advanced field crops topics like our biologically-based bird repellant project, scouting 101, cereal leaf beetle biocontrol, and the soybean cyst nematode. We also helped NRCCA expand beyond the typical field crops arena by organizing a half-day Vegetable IPM School.
NYSIPM’s involvement in NRCCA training is an outstanding opportunity to reach industry representatives, crop consultants, custom applicators, farmers, academics, and soil and water conservation district staff with the IPM message. That’s certifiably IPM!
(Above) Pest management is an ever-changing challenge. New pests, cultural practices, and availability of products mean there’s always something to learn.
All I Want for Christmas
Everybody loves a Douglas-fir. Dignified and triangular, they have soft bluish-green needles and are native to temperate rainforests in the United States. Though not a true fir, they are the most Christmassy of Christmas trees for many. And Doug-fir has been popular with growers because of its resistance to deer damage, tolerance for warmer climates and wet soils, adaptability, and ability to grow quickly. That’s why it’s an important part of New York’s multimillion-dollar evergreen tree farming industry.
But Doug-fir has fallen out of favor with tree farmers because of Swiss needle cast disease—a fungal infection that makes the tree lose its needles and its holiday value. This iconic tree has gotten a reputation among growers for needing numerous and costly sprays.
What if this were not the case, and Doug-firs could be maintained with minimal sprays? NYSIPM ran on-farm trials and found that one or two well-timed sprays with good coverage were just as effective as the four or five sprays many growers currently apply.
Likewise, growers who adopted the reduced spray regimen report good results.
Beautiful trees and reduced pesticide applications? That gives everyone a Merry Christmas.
Douglas-fir Christmas Tree Farm
May 1, 2020
by Debra E. Marvin Comments Off on Our 2018-2019 Annual Report: #4 In the Weeds and For the Birds
Herbicide resistant weeds. Got ‘em? Worried about ‘em? There are some bad ones out there. Some of the baddest in New York are horseweed, waterhemp, and Palmer amaranth. A result of repeated exposure to the same chemical sprays, these plants have given us all a lesson on the power of selection pressure. The crisis brought about by these super-tough weeds motivated NYSIPM to hire an integrated weed management specialist to help growers find a diverse blend of solutions. So what can be done? Instead of relying on herbicides alone, use the ‘many little hammers’ approach: attack weeds with a variety of tactics such as stacked cultivation—a mechanical method that undercuts, uproots, and then buries weeds. Because precision is key in stacked cultivation, GPS and camera guidance help keep tools in line. That’s the difference between destroying your weeds or your crop. What’s next? We’re providing input on the design of robots able to distinguish between the weeds and the crop—aka autonomous weed control. And we’re helping test an electric WeedZapper that has already demonstrated its effectiveness against horseweed. By integrating the latest technology with the oldest, IPM offers growers the many little hammers they need to create a resilient, robust weed management system for their farm.
(Above) Will waterhemp win? Facing a 56% decreased yield in this waterhemp-infested soybean field, NYSIPM’s Integrated Weed Management Specialist, Bryan Brown, leads a project funded by the New York Farm Viability Institute. This herbicide-resistant weed can grow an inch a day, and is an impressive seed producer. Through diversified approaches, the project has provided complete control of waterhemp in some trial sites, prompting 94% of attendees at field events to say they’ll follow the lead of this project and modify their tactics for weed control.
Anthraquinones are for the Birds
What do crows, ravens, blackbirds, starlings, grackles, Canada geese, gulls, and wild turkeys all have in common? They’re recurring pests of corn on New York farms, pulling seedlings out of the soil as soon as they emerge. Stony soils, and shallow and no-till plantings are most at risk.What’s a grower to do? Traditionally they lived with the losses, or replanted if there was time. One New York farmer was ready to quit until trying Avipel Shield, the biopesticide seed treatment containing anthraquinone, an extract found in rhubarb and many other plants. Apparently, birds don’t like it. So after a few nibbles of treated seed, they move on and look elsewhere for food. NYSIPM set out to test whether anthraquinone worked in fields that suffer major bird damage. Along with extension specialists in eight counties, we conducted trials on treated and untreated seeds in fields that typically suffer heavy loss to birds. Three years of data confirmed Avipel leaves a bad taste in birds’ mouths. Further trials will help farmers know whether treated seed is needed everywhere every year, or if random use can deter feeding. Meanwhile, these tasty results have been a hot topic at field meetings, crop congresses, and certified crop advisor trainings throughout the state.
(Above) Fully fledged. Field Crops & Livestock IPM Extension Educator Ken Wise believes this project’s secondary success was its considerable collaboration. Funding came from three different sources over the three-year period—NYSIPM, NYS Corn Growers Association, and the NYS Farm Viability Institute. Just as important was the partnership among 11 farmers, nine extension educators, and one faculty member
April 29, 2020
by Debra E. Marvin Comments Off on Our 2018-2019 Annual report: #3 Corn Earworm and Just What is a ‘Short Course’?
Nobody likes opening an ear of corn and finding uninvited worms; not customers, and definitely not the grower! Wormy corn can lose customers at the farm stand and in wholesale markets, and can be a problem in both frozen and canned supermarket products. To help growers manage these pests, NYSIPM—in partnership with our Cornell Cooperative Extension colleagues—has supported a network of pheromone traps since 1993. These traps help track the flights of the moths that lay the eggs that hatch into these worms.
In 2018, the trap network alerted growers to an over-the-top population of corn earworm, one of four major sweet corn pests. And because IPM spray recommendations for this pest are based on trap catch numbers, that important data helped New York growers respond effectively to this serious threat to a 33 million dollar crop grown on 26,700 acres. Unfortunately, when a grower or processor finds worms in harvested corn, it’s too late to act—but accurate ID can inform plans for the following season. Essential to success is deciding if and when to spray using the appropriate scouting methods and thresholds for each pest. But accurate ID? Easier said than done! Caterpillars can be hard to identify, especially smaller ones. That’s why we developed a larval ID fact sheet highlighting critical distinguishing features. It’s just another piece of essential information in the quest for worm-free ears.
(Above) Corn earworm invades the ear within hours or days of hatching from eggs laid on the silk, leaving no external damage. For this pest, scouting is ineffective. Pheromone traps that monitor adult flight are the grower’s best defense.
“I” is for Identification.
Good IPM starts with accurate pest identification—ID for short. Whether you see a pest or the evidence it leaves behind, correct ID is essential. Once you know what you’re dealing with, you can determine where it’s coming from, the risks it poses, and what conditions must change to eliminate it. Good ID makes IPM work. Even people who deal with pests all the time need to brush up on their ID skills, so we developed a Structural IPM Short Course to hone the diagnostic skills of pest management professionals, Master Gardeners, and others. Participants attend photo-filled lectures and get their hands on hundreds of real specimens. Critters are grouped by guild—their basic ecological niche—such as food pests, moisture-lovers, or blood-feeders. And specimens aren’t just bugs. Rodent droppings and gnawed wood get examined too. To aid learning and retention, we created a companion manual. We’ve offered the course 21 times, teaching the ABCs (you know: ants, bed bugs, and cockroaches) to over 700 people. And our learners learned: over three quarters gained knowledge of pest biology, while 100% improved their ID skills. We identify that as 100% good news for everyone but the pests.
(Above) These Master Gardeners from Rockland County, like their counterparts in 20 other Short Course workshops, left feeling more informed and confident in the IPM knowledge they’ll share with the public. IPM and Cooperative Extension: a perfect pairing.
March 27, 2020
by Debra E. Marvin Comments Off on Highlights from the Northeast Mechanical Weed Control Expo
Weeding tools have come a long way! Last summer, Eric Gallandt invited me to present the results of my latest “stacked” cultivation trials at the Northeast Mechanical Weed Control Expo. I brought my camera along to document the exciting exhibits by vendors and other researchers. Stacked cultivation featured prominently, as did enhanced accuracy – achieved through improved steering capability or camera-guided tools.
(Above) KULT Kress demonstrated their camera guided sweeps and finger weeders (only one row operating). These weeds were too large for optimal finger weeder performance. In-row weeds are most effectively controlled when less than one inch tall.
(above) The camera guidance system display was brought out from the tractor cab to show participants how it focuses on green plants to determine the location of the crop row.
(above) HAK showcased a new cultivating tractor with sweeps (left), finger weeders (center), and tines for the wheel tracks (right).
(above) Steketee brought their Crumbler Rotors (left), finger weeders (center), and side knives (right).
(above) The cultivating tractor from Tilmor is reminiscent of the Allis Chalmers G, but notice the new crane-winch system for moving tools into place.
(above) Tilmor also demonstrated a walk-behind tractor with a potential “stacked” cultivation setup.
(above) Jen Goff, from Johnny’s Selected Seeds, showcased several innovative wheel hoes and hand tools.
(above) Ellen Mallory PhD, and Tom Molloy from UMaine discuss their results testing the potential of the CombCut and inter-row hoeing in small grains.
(above) “Stacking” cultivation tools is not just for vegetable crops, this combination has proved effective in small grains.
(above) Slow-motion-video of camera-guided hoeing in a small grain. This practice is gaining popularity in Europe but is still uncommon in the United States.
(below) The futuristic “Tertill” from Franklin Robotics. This solar-powered weeding robot attacks weeds with a string trimmer on its belly and it senses crop plants based on their height. I can’t believe this is now on the market! Flying cars will be next!