New York State IPM Program

September 28, 2017
by Joellen Lampman
Comments Off on In praise of messiness

In praise of messiness

KEMPTVILLE, ONTARIO. — On my twice-monthly drive on Highway 416 between Prescott and Ottawa, I pass the sign for Kemptville, a town of about 3,500 which lies roughly 40 km north of the St. Lawrence. It has a rich history, and no doubt is a fine place to live, but one of these days I need to stop there to verify that Kemptville is in fact a village of surpassing tidiness. (It’s Exit 34 in case anyone wants to take some field notes and get back to me.)

Most of us would prefer not to live in totally unkempt surroundings, but Western culture may have taken sanitation a bit too far. Claims that cleanliness is next to godliness have yet to be proven by science, but research does indicate a neat, well-coiffed landscape is bad for bees and other pollinators.

Dandelions are an essential early-season flowers for our 416 species of wild bees in New York.

With all due respect to honeybees, they are seldom required to produce fruits and vegetables. Please don’t spread this around, as I do not want to tarnish their public image. But the fact is that wild bees, along with other insects and the odd vertebrate here and there, do a bang-up job pollinating our crops, provided there are enough types of wild plants (i.e., messiness) around to keep them happy for the rest of the season.

As landscapes become neater and less diverse, wild bees cannot find enough natural foods to keep them in the neighborhood for the few weeks of the year we’d like them to wallow around in our apple or cucumber flowers. In sterile, highly manipulated environments like almond groves and suburban tracts, honeybees are critical.

Dr. Scott McArt, a bee specialist at Cornell’s Dyce Laboratory for Bee Research, says there are an estimated 416 species of wild bees in New York State. When I estimate stuff, the numbers tend to be less exact, such as “more than three,” but I’ve met Dr. McArt, and I trust him on this count. Dr. McArt is quick to point out that wild critters take care of things just fine in most places. He has cataloged exactly 110 species of wild bees visiting apple blossoms in commercial orchards, and in the vast majority of NYS orchards studied, honeybees have no bearing on pollination rates. My object is not to malign honeybees, but to point out that if we learn to live with a bit more unkemptness, we will improve the health of wild bees, wildflowers, food crops, and ourselves in the process.

Dr. McArt has cataloged exactly 110 species of wild bees visiting apple blossoms in commercial orchards, and in the vast majority of NYS orchards studied, honeybees have no bearing on pollination rates. There was a presentation about it at the 2015 Pollinator Conference.

Messiness also takes pressure off managed honeybees, an increasingly fragile species, by providing them a rich source of wild, non-sprayed nectar and pollen. Orchardists do not spray insecticides when their crops are flowering because they know it will kill bees. But many fungicides, which are not intended to kill insects, are sprayed during bloom. One of the unexpected findings of research done through the Dyce Lab is that non-lethal sprays like fungicides are directly linked with the decline of both wild bees and honeybees. But banning a particular chemical is not a panacea—the situation is far more complex than that. What is needed to save bees of all stripes is a real change in mindset regarding landscape aesthetics.

This garden at Bethpage State Park Golf Course is an excellent example of entropy. Primarily established with native wildflowers, there are also a significant number of volunteers. NYS IPM staff found over 100 different species of insects, primarily bees and wasps, taking advantage of the bounty.

Increasing the entropy on one’s property is as easy as falling off a log (which of course is a literal example of increased entropy). Pollinators need plants which bloom at all different times, grow at various heights, and have a multitude of flower shapes and structures. For greater abundance and diversity of wild flowering plants, all you need to do is stop. Stop constantly mowing everything. Choose some places to mow once a year in the late fall, and others where you will mow every second third year. Stop using herbicides, both the broadleaf kind and the non-selective type.

Before you know it, elderberry and raspberry will spring up. Woody plants like dogwoods and viburnums will start to appear. Coltsfoot and dandelions, essential early-season flowers, will come back. Asters and goldenrod (which by the way do not cause allergies), highly important late-season sources of nectar and pollen, will likewise return.

Despite their unassuming flowers, Virginia creeper attracts a large number of pollinating bees and wasps. Photo: Joellen Lampman

Wild grape, virgin’s bower, Virginia creeper and wild cucumber will ramble around, without any help whatsoever. However, you may choose to help this process along by sowing perennial or self-seeding wildflowers like purple coneflower, foxglove, bee balm, mint, or lupine. Even dandelion is worth planting. You’ll not only get more wild pollinators, you’ll also see more birds. Redstarts, tanagers, orioles, hummingbirds, catbirds, waxwings and more will be attracted to such glorious neglect. No feeders required.

I strongly advocate for more chaos in the plant department, even if the local Chamber of Commerce or Tourism Board frowns upon it. Remember, just because you’re an unkempt community doesn’t mean you have to change the name of your town.

Many thanks to Paul for letting us share his piece! For more information on protecting pollinators and enhancing their habitat, visit the New York State Integrated Pest Management Program’s pollinators webpage.

March 9, 2017
by Mary M. Woodsen
Comments Off on Hundreds of on-farm research trials later, a NYS IPM award for Christy Hoepting

Hundreds of on-farm research trials later, a NYS IPM award for Christy Hoepting

Christy Hoepting grew up on a small farm north of Toronto, Ontario. Enrolling at the University of Guelph, a top-tier ag school, was a natural fit. And though she focused on onion production while earning her master’s degree, she never dreamed she’d make a career of it. But then her advisor told her that a job with cooperative extension had opened up in western New York. She suggested she apply. The interview, after all, would be a good learning experience.

“What’s extension?” Christy remembers asking. But exceptional preparation and delivery were second nature. She got the job.

“I didn’t know the destination on the road I was traveling,” Christy says. “But I sure knew when I had arrived.” Need we say she loves her job?

This cover shot says it all.

Few people know onions inside-out as well as Christy Hoepting does. That “inside” part is critical. If you’re a farmer, you win when your onions pay their way; in a good year you could make upward of $4000 per acre. But you lose when one too many onion thrips — tiny pests, hard to find — sneaks between the leaf folds and starts laying eggs within its tender tissues. Or when pathogens hiding beneath the skin of healthy-looking onions trigger the long road to decline in a crop you counted on to get you through the winter.

Which is why Christy has conducted hundreds of on-farm research trials in plant pathology, entomology, weed science, cultural practices and crop nutrition. She’s presented at scores of stakeholder and scientific meetings and published scores of articles and research papers.

It’s also why she scouts farm fields relentlessly — a core practice of IPM — tracking every movement of insect and disease pests. And growers from miles around know that when Tuesday morning rolls around, they’ll meet at a corner of the road and Christy will recount what she’s seen.

It’s Tuesday. That means it’s muck donut hour.

Christy calls it the “Muck Donut Hour,” and it doesn’t take long for the conversation to start rolling. “I’m constantly tweaking our recommendations based on our research, of course, but also on what I hear from growers at the corner of the road,” Christy says.

Now for her exemplary work on behalf of farmers, not just in the rich muck-soil region of western New York but statewide and nationally, the New York State Integrated Pest Management Program (NYS IPM) presented an Excellence in IPM award to Christy Hoepting on March 8, 2017 at Cornell Cooperative Extension’s “Elba Muck Region Onion School” in Albion, New York.

Good work, Christy.

 

June 9, 2016
by Joellen Lampman
Comments Off on For Wasps, Prevention Is Key — and the Time Is Now

For Wasps, Prevention Is Key — and the Time Is Now

Most of the wasps we’re too familiar with (and afraid of) are sociable with their own kind, building large nests in trees or underground. The problem is when they build nests under your eaves, picnic tables, or even (if you’re a farmer) under the seat of that baler  you’re about to rev up as part of your pre-harvest maintenance check.

At a distance these wasps make great neighbors. As predators of flies, caterpillars and other soft-bodied insects, they help keep their numbers in balance. And that balance, that ounce of prevention, is a core tenet of IPM. But wasps are trigger-happy, so to speak — grab that picnic table to move it out of the sun and you’ll wish you looked underneath it first.

We could talk about any wasp you want, but today we’re focusing on bald-faced hornets. Just know that you can also apply IPM’s preventive tactics — we’ll get to that later — to your standard-issue yellow jackets, paper wasps, mud daubers and honey bees.

Big nests for big bruisers: this carton nest is too close to home.

Big nests for big bruisers: this carton nest is too close to home.

Bald-faced hornets house their colonies in large, enclosed carton nests. Like most wasps (and bees) these mostly mild-mannered critters turn nasty when their nest is threatened. They don’t know you had no intention of harm. But when  bald-faced hornets live too close, yes, they represent a public health concern.

Bald-faced hornet, up close and personal. Courtesy Gary Alpert, Harvard U.

Bald-faced hornet, up close and personal. Courtesy Gary Alpert, Harvard U.

Did You Know…?

  • What’s in a name?: White-faced hornets can be easily identified by the large patch of white on their faces.
  • Family relations: This hornet is the largest yellow jacket species in North America.
  • By the numbers: A nest can contain hundreds of hornets, and most will attack to protect their queen.
  • Danger! White-faced hornets have unbarbed stingers, so they sting repeatedly. (Author’s note: Take it from me — disturb a nest and yes, you might get stung way more than you’d like.)
  • Beneficial insect: White-faced hornets are important predators of flies, caterpillars and other soft-bodied insects.
Only one way out of a carton home, but space enough for a battalion of angry moths to exit. courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Only one way out of a carton home, but space enough for a battalion of angry moths to exit. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Since technically it’s still spring and a chilly May slowed them down, you still have time. Inspect (in IPM lingo, “scout”) the aforementioned eaves, picnic tables, and outdoor equipment as well as the undersides of the railing on your porch or deck; that sort of thing. You’re looking for small carton nests that look like these, only way smaller. For other stinging wasps, keep and eye out for what looks like clots of mud (nifty inside, should you get a chance to dissect one) and the clusters of open cells, rather like honeycombs, that comprise a paper-wasp nest. Basically, you want to find a nest under construction, as it were — one with just a few workers ferrying back and forth to care for their queen.

Did You Know…?

  • Last year’s empties: See a scary-big nest? Most likely it’s from last year — and wasps don’t reuse them. On the other hand, a subtle scent left behind tells other wasps that this could be a good place to build a nest of their own. So get rid of empties.

Moving quietly on a warm-enough day, stake out a claim nearby and watch the nest for 15 minutes or so. See any wasps? You’ve got an active one. No wasps? Best to scrape the old nest off so they won’t worry you later.

How to get rid of them? At dusk or dawn (dawn is better — it’s usually cooler) get out there with a tall pole, a SuperSoaker, or a hose with a good nozzle on it (you want a focused, powerful stream of water) and knock them down one at a time. Then stomp on them. Need a light? Don’t shine it right on the nest; better yet, cover your light with red cellophane. (Wasps don’t register red.)

Looking ahead — for larger nests later in summer, ask yourself if the nest is close enough to where you live, work or play to pose a significant threat. If it’s at a distance, best to leave it be.

More prevention (core IPM!): cover outdoor garbage receptacles and pick up dropped fruit under fruit-bearing trees. Integrated pest management can help to determine if a bald-face hornet nest is a danger and what to do if it should be removed.

For more information visit:

For more information from the New York State IPM Program on other stinging insects, click here.

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

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 10, 2015
by Mary M. Woodsen
Comments Off on IPM Accolades: What Do Growers Say?

IPM Accolades: What Do Growers Say?

If you flash back to last week’s TAg post, you’ll see our side of the story — how TAg teams provide hands-on help to growers for a host of pest (and profit) issues. But what do growers say? Here’s a small sample of the pleased comments we’ve received over the years:

How TAg has made you a better manager of your crops?

  • Brings to the forefront upcoming pest problems.
  • Made you go out and look for problems in the field before they became big problems and too late to do nay help.
  • Better disease and insect control.
  • It made me more aware of how important crop health relates to forage quality.

    TAg was in its late teens when we added a new and booming crop in NY: soybeans. But the principles (and the testimonial)) stayed pretty much the same. Photo courtesy NYS IIPM.

    TAg was in its late teens when we added a new and booming crop in NY: soybeans. But the principles (and the testimonial)) stayed pretty much the same. Photo courtesy NYS IIPM.

How TAg has made your farming operation more profitable?

  • Less pesticides, better yields.
  • Savings in spray and higher quality crops.
  • More feed value/acre with lower investment.
  • Given more options for pest control.
  • Increased my awareness of crop damage and how to control it.

What did you like most about TAg?

  • Small size of groups, opportunity to talk about various issues throughout the growing season.
  • I can get better quality crops by acting quickly to avoid loss.
  • Helped me better understand soils and the importance of rotating crops.
  • Showed me how much I don’t know and how important it is to keep up with information.
  • Looking at other farmers and different situations of planting and pest management opens your eyes to other ways of doing things.
  • The hands on experience means a lot.
  • Helped me better understand soils and the importance of rotating crops.

 

 

 

 

 

 

IPM TAg Teams: A Quarter Century Later, What’s Old Is New Again

February 6, 2015
by Mary M. Woodsen
Comments Off on IPM TAg Teams: A Quarter Century Later, What’s Old Is New Again

IPM TAg Teams: A Quarter Century Later, What’s Old Is New Again

The NYS IPM Program turns 30 this year — a great time for a look down memory lane. We were five years old, for instance, when we began our TAg — Tactical Agriculture — teams for field crop producers. Then (and now!), TAg teams across the state met at key times during the cropping season: not in a classroom, not in an office, but in the fields their members farmed. After all, there’s nothing like hands-on experience with real-world problems and successes to learn tested tactics for making the right diagnoses and determine the best way to deal with pest or crop problems under a range of conditions.

Small groups. Hands-on. Learning from each other — on the farm. That’s TAg.

Small groups. Hands-on. Learning from each other — on the farm. That’s TAg.

Back in 1990, we figured each team would comprise three growers, a couple of agribusiness professionals, and a local Extension educator. Only three growers; really; five participants total if you don’t include the instructors? Yes. We knew that for these adult learners, the small group setting provided the greatest opportunity for in-depth understanding and active, individual participation. Meanwhile, each of those farmers could have scores or hundreds of acres in alfalfa or corn (and now, soybeans). Every decision they made built their competency in both economic and environmental security while contributing to their region’s agricultural well being.

But that first year out of that gate, teams averaged nearly 10 members. Oh — and then there were the “TAg-alongs”: neighboring growers who knew a good thing when they saw it. By now we’ve worked with well over 1,100 growers — growers who make IPM decisions on well over a quarter of a million acres.

Before there was email, there was paper. Want to save your hay crop? Often the answer is “harvest now.”  But back then, you just might’ve had to wait a few days for that answer to show up in your mailbox. And those few days might have given alfalfa weevil a strong advantage.

Before there was email, there was paper. Want to save your hay crop? Often the answer is “harvest now.” But back then, you just might’ve had to wait a few days for that answer to show up in your mailbox. And those few days might have given alfalfa weevil a strong advantage.

Yes, running a TAg team is intensive. Yes, it takes time to do it right. Yes — farmers ask tough questions! And back then we couldn’t shoot members an email if, say, a storm threatened to run amok and we needed to reschedule. We did it all via phone and postcards. Meanwhile, by season’s end, team members were doing things like lending each other equipment or sharing their experience and knowledge outside of class — proving that knowledge is power, that small is beautiful; that — well, that while TAg is old, it’s also new: it’s an endlessly renewable resource. That TAg works. Hats off to TAg on its 25th anniversary.

Consider western corn rootworm. Now it’s old hat, but when we began TAg it was still the new pest on the block.

Consider western corn rootworm. Now it’s old hat, but when we began TAg it was still the new pest on the block.

January 16, 2015
by Mary M. Woodsen
Comments Off on Back to School for Fruit Growers | IPM and More

Back to School for Fruit Growers | IPM and More

Kicking off February, two Lake Ontario Winter Fruit Schools back to back:

February 2, 2015
8:00 am 4:00 pm
Niagara County CCE Training Center, 4487 Lake Ave., Lockport, NY 14094

February 3, 2015
8:00 am 4:00 pm
Wayne County, Quality Inn, 125 North Main St., Newark, NY 14513

You’ll learn about recent research results, new pest issues, disease control, new technologies, and fruit-supply topics that will help you compete in the ever-changing marketplace — and produce high quality fruit. Workshop leaders include guest speakers from the Cornell faculty and the Lake Ontario Fruit Program team. Also included: a concurrent session for Spanish speaking employees at the same locations. Lunch is included in the cost of registration.

Pests are ever-present in our orchards and vineyards. Go Back to School for helpful info.

Pests are ever-present in our orchards and vineyards. Go Back to School for helpful info.

Here’s the complete schedule for both events. Find registration info here: monroe.cce.cornell.edu/events. (The Wayne County info really is there, but on some browser windows it’s hidden under the photo on the left.)

More fruit schools the following week in Northern NY and the Hudson Valley:

February 9, 2015, The Northeast NY Commercial Tree Fruit School, The Fort William Henry Hotel & Conference Center, Lake George, NY. More info, registration:

February 10 – 12, 2015, The Lower Hudson Valley Commercial Fruit Growers’ School, Garden Plaza Hotel, Kingston, NY.  More info, registration.

Are you a vegetable grower?

Stay tuned for several vegetable schools later in February.

January 14, 2015
by Mary M. Woodsen
Comments Off on There’s an App for That: IPM’s “Greenhouse Scout” Makes “Greenhouse Grower” List

There’s an App for That: IPM’s “Greenhouse Scout” Makes “Greenhouse Grower” List

NYS IPM’s Greenhouse Scout was featured recently in Greenhouse Grower’s online e-Newsletter as one of 15 apps for 2015. Here’s why.

In the pest-friendly environment of a greenhouse, you need all the friends you can get. So more and more growers are turning to biocontrol — to using beneficial insects, mites, and fungi to control pests.

Why? Most growers want to use the fewest pesticides possible. And say you’re a pest. Becoming resistant to a critter that’s built to eat you for dinner is a lot harder than becoming resistant to a pesticide. But pesticide resistance is a growing problem.

Now your smart phone or tablet puts everything you need to know about scouting and biocontrol in the palm of your hand. Literally.

Now your smart phone or tablet puts everything you need to know about scouting and biocontrol in the palm of your hand. Literally.

Yet biocontrol is an information-dense process. You’ve got to integrate a wealth of details if it’s going to work.

Smartphone apps can help do the data-crunching for you. Which is why NYS IPM, a Cornell University program, built Greenhouse Scout, a smartphone app that brings together:

  • pest and beneficial ID and biology
  • biocontrol application technology
  • visual records of greenhouse pest populations throughout the growing season
No more carrying a clipboard through the greenhouse or looking for where you jotted down those sticky-card counts.

No more carrying a clipboard through the greenhouse or looking for where you jotted down those sticky-card counts.

Not only that, but Greenhouse Scout lets you tweak the system to your own production requirements. And it helps even if you don’t use biocontrol yet — the interactive scouting function lets you identify locations with QR codes, then enter and graph pest numbers according to which greenhouse bench you’re scouting. No more carrying a clipboard through the greenhouse or looking for where you jotted down those sticky-card counts.

Find NYS IPM’s Greenhouse Scout at Android and iPhone app stores.

Look for this logo when you go shopping for your app.

Look for this logo when you go shopping for your app.

 

May 27, 2014
by Kenneth Wise
Comments Off on Keep Records on Pests

Keep Records on Pests

They’re back! Insect pests, plant diseases, weeds, birds, biting flies — the works. And tracking them year to year is critical. How better to know your options are, this year and in years to come?

So pick up a pencil, smart phone or tablet and write them down on a field-to-field or livestock basis. Write your observations over the course of this summer — each while it’s fresh in your mind. Did potato leafhopper infestations go over threshold in alfalfa? Were corn diseases a problem? Which diseases and what hybrid were infected? Did you have corn rootworm injury? Did you lose wheat to snow mold? Were there new weeds or weed escapes you didn’t expect this year? Got more house flies on your cattle than past years? And bear in mind: cereal leaf beetle is increasing from year to year on wheat. Have you seen it yet?

These records help you better select which management practices to use now and in the future. For example, if you were hit with potato leafhoppers this season and you want to rotate your alfalfa, one management option is to use potato leafhopper-resistant alfalfa. Another example: choose wheat varieties resistant to certain diseases — based on field observations you wrote down last fall.

Likewise, if you have weed escapes you might reconsider your weed control products or even use methods like cultivation Or lots of house flies on your cattle and you sprayed could mean the flies became resistant to the insecticide.

WRITE IT DOWN! Keep records of pests you observe — and their threshold numbers. Because if you wait too long, you might forget what happened.

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