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Adventures in the North Country: Trying to Keep Everything Straight

Greetings from the North Country! It’s been a hectic few weeks. It’s almost time for the Clinton County Fair, which means the entire office is buzzing with excitement. From making to posters and registering 4-H kids to making changes to the actual grounds, there are so many things to do. I have volunteered to judge both 4-H projects as well as the Swine show. This will be an interesting change of pace, considering I have participated in swine shows myself for the past seven years but have never judged one before.

The Willsboro Research Farm hosted a Farm Tour on Tuesday to show what they do. Having visited and met with the staff of the farm, I already knew how hard they all worked, but this tour was still an eye-opener for me. They conduct multiple wheat and grass trials, as well as grape, corn, tomato and even more than I could name.

Overhead shot of different grasses at the Willsboro Research Farm

They also hosted a session with a local baker who discussed why he valued using local products. As a baker, he told us how it is the most important thing to create a quality product as opposed to creating an optimally efficient set-up. Overall, it was incredible to see the connections made through this research farm.

For the duration of the leek moth project, I have been working under the guidance of Masa Seto, a researcher working at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, New York. The experiment breaks down into seven sites with pheromone trappers and data loggers which record the daily temperature and light intensity. These are set up near plots of onions, which were planted to specifically lure in the pest. Our preliminary findings show that the leek moth seems to be moving south, as it was confirmed in Willsboro, NY for the first time this year. We spent a day together travelling to each site and meeting with the farmers. We even experienced a stroke of luck – one home gardener knew of a neighbor who had complained of problems with her onions. We ended up visiting her and confirming that she also had the pest.

Our office also organized a field meeting with Abby Seamen, the New York State IPM Coordinator. Seven local farmers met up at the Juniper Hill farm to get advice straight from an expert. Concerns were brought up about leaf hoppers, cucurbit pests and corn pests. It was really great to see farmers put competition aside and simply share their ideas with one another. Considering that these farmers are competing with each other in the marketplace, it was reassuring to see a collaboration to achieve the greatest possible yield. Abby also left behind handouts of color photos of pests in case the farmers had any questions in the future.

Scouting for Leek Moth with Masa

For me, these past few weeks have given the fairest representations of what it means to work in extension. As the intern, I realize that I bounce back and forth between departments, but this enabled me to see just how much is going on in this office at any given moment. Our Nutrition Educators share their recipe ideas with me as they prepare for a program to encourage students to live healthier lifestyles. Our 4-H agent tells me about the progress of planning a county fair. Our horticultural agent shows me downy mildew for the first time. The collaborating researcher tells me about how he got into research and what role extension plays in connecting the work in the lab to the farmer in the field. Though this internship is definitely hard work, it sure isn’t boring.

Mid summer scouting

Checking alfalfa height with markings on my sweep net

The corn scouting season is on the downward slide. In fact, I will be finishing the early season corn scouting by next week. It will be interesting because I will scout young ,2 leaf corn and shoulder-height tasseling corn during the same week. The fields which are tasseling will be scouted for corn rootworm beetles to get an idea of the pressure this pest will put on the next year’s corn crop. It has been an eventful corn scouting season with plenty of weeds to identify from seedlings on up to mature plants. I only saw a few escapes, or weeds which were not completely killed by the herbicide programs. Many farmers also had armyworms moving into their corn fields (often from neighboring grass crops) and defoliating corn. Most of these fields bounced back without having to be replanted.


Recently, I’ve been in soybean fields performing weekly checks for soybean aphids. I know a little bit about these insects due to a project I did for an IPM course that I took at Alfred State, before I came to Cornell (Go Pioneers…and Big Red!!!). The WNYCMA threshold for treatment of these little green aphids is 250 insects/plant, but so far the most I’ve found is 15/plant. As usual, I’m also on the lookout for weed escapes and any other flushes of weeds which may have gotten past the residual effects of the herbicide in the bean fields. I’m responsible for scouting about 300 to 350 acres of soybeans and so far they look good and some are starting to flower.


Soybean aphids are the little green dots above my thumb

Today, July 10, I started scouting drilled sorghum fields. Scouting the sorghum is a much like corn scouting except the populations are much higher. This farm, located in Pennsylvania, planted 103 acres of sorghum over a two day period. So far, the weed pressure looks low and the small plants appear off to a good start. I saw some bird damage, where the whole plant was plucked out, but no army worms. I understand that a second infestation of armyworms is possible, but I hope that doesn’t happen. The farmers are sick of these bugs and one made me laugh when he told me that his spray bill is ” just about as much as the national debt”. The other big project going on right now is looking for potato leaf hoppers in alfalfa. They have often been above threshold especially in the new alfalfa seedlings. I’ve become very accustomed to identifying “hopper burn”, a yellowing on the margins of the alfalfa leaves where the hoppers are feeding. The weed pressure is noted and we take crown counts of the alfalfa by counting the number of alfalfa crowns that fall within a square foot ring. Hopefully, we will get some rain soon to keep all the crops growing and to cool me off.

Working on my tan while sweeping for leaf hoppers in an alfalfa field

Internship with Crop Production Services

This summer I have an internship with Crop Production Services. My role for CPS is to check traps on roughly 50 farms in the area and look for some key insects that can be really detrimental to the crop. All of the pests I look for are categorized as internal worms. They are Coddling Moth, Oriental Fruit Month, Lesser Apple Worm and Oblate Banded Leafroller. I took some pictures of how I trap them and what some of the pest looks like.

This picture shows a couple good things that demonstrate exactly what I do. In the center of the picture there are two insects and a red cap. This upper insect is  just a fly but I included it in the photo to give a reference for size. Another size reference is the green squares. Each square is 1.5 in X 1.5 in. The bottom insect is the Oriental Fruit Moth. This moth is a dark brown/grey with a darker grey diamond on their back. I see these moths in almost every trap I check, however, they are not a problem to the farmer till they exceed the threshold level. The threshold level varies for each insect and the OFM threshold limit is thirty. I check half the traps every Wednesday and the other half every Friday. This keeps the time interval in between checks the same every week. The past two weeks the counts have been really low because they are in between cycles. The second generation of these moths should take flight in about two weeks from now. When that happens I will upload a picture with a really high pest pressure. The last object in this picture is the pheromone caps. These caps are roughly 1 in long and are infused with a sex pheromone that attracts the OFM towards the traps.These caps are good for about two months of trapping then need to be changed to ensure accurate counts. Once the moth is inside the trap it doesn’t leave because the entire inside of the trap is encased with a sticky goo called tangle foot. This is the worst part of my job. This goo gets on your hands and then gets on everything you touch.  Next week I will take photos of the Coddling Moth and discuss some ways farmers keep pest pressure low after I give them their trap counts.

This picture shows the trap from the outside. The traps are made by a company called Trece and have the tangle foot goo on all three sides of the trap.

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