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Late Season Scouting (continued)

At several of our farms we began to see some Northern Corn Leaf Blight in their fields and once our other clients caught wind of it, we were scouting full time for blight. Northern Corn Leaf Blight is identified by grey, cigar shaped lesions on the leaves of the corn plant and it generally shows up in the late season, from around the V12 stage and on. Due to the staggered planting this year because of the wet conditions, we did see some blight in corn that was younger, around the V8 stage. The majority of the blight that we saw was in fields that were no-till planted; the fungus is able to overwinter in the corn residue on the surface so in no-till applications it’s much more prevalent. When temperatures rise, the fungus become active and its spores are splashed up onto the leaves of the corn plant. It needs 6 to 18 hours of water on the leaf’s surface to infect the plant so during wet years like we’ve had this year or when the temperature cools and the dew takes longer to burn off, the fungus begins to be a problem.

Northern Corn Leaf Blight on left and Anthracnose Leaf Blight on right.

Another fungal disease we saw was Anthracnose leaf blight which is similar to Northern Corn Leaf Blight and causes similar foliar damage. Both fungal diseases cause the most damage when they’re seen in the crop during the period of two weeks before tasseling stage and the two weeks after tasseling stage.

The best way to control both of these diseases is to increase tillage practices to bury the stubble or plant resistant hybrids. The fungal disease is still seen in the resistant hybrids but the damage isn’t substantial and doesn’t cause any yields losses.

Nearing the end of my internship, I decided to continue to working with ACS during the semester throughout the rest of scouting season and harvest.

Late Season Scouting

Our late season scouting focused mainly on fungal diseases and some pests as well. At this point the corn was around the tasseled stage, VT, and usually way over my head which made scouting pretty miserable.

One of the more common late season pests that we saw was the Fall Armyworm. Several of our clients are produce farmers and the majority of the Fall Armyworm damage we saw was in their sweet corn. They aren’t as common in field corn; however, we did see a number of field corn acres that showed damage symptoms, luckily none bad enough require action. The late timing at which the pests arrive is what makes them a problem; the corn is usually too tall to get a sprayer rig in the field that can spray for the worms. They cause the same type of foliar damage as the Armyworm you see in the early season but they will feed on the ear as well.

We saw much more of the fungal diseases than we did of the late season pests. Common rust was a major one and along with the rust we saw a lot of Eyespot. Rust is casued by the fungus Puccinia sorghi and just like the potato leaf hopper, the spores of the fungus are blown north by winds and storms and they end up here in our crops. The fungus dies in the winter with our cold climate but its able to overwinter in the southern temperate climate and each year it makes its way north. Usually the Common rust doesn’t cause any substantial yeild losses but the Southern rust is one that can cause a lot of damage. We were told to indiciate any form of rust that we found in the field, which leaves it was present on and what percentage of the plants in the particular field had it.

(Fall Armyworm on left, Eyespot in center, Nitrogen burn on right)

Eyespot is another fungal disease that favors a cooler climate than the rust but still the humid conditions. Its able to overwinter in the corn stuble and its seen more commonly in fields that have been planted in continuos corn. Luckily none of the corn we scouted showed severe symtoms of Eyespot and it wasn’t a huge issue for our farmers.

Nitrogen burn from sidedressing the corn was something else we saw a lot of but there nothing that can be done about that. The late season scouting continued and increased instances of blight began to worry some of our farmers.

Week #5: USQ Toowoomba and Shepparton City Council

Day #1:The first day of the week was spent at the University of Queensland Toowoomba campus, with an AgTech research group called the NCEA.  I spent all my time meeting the faculty members.  All of this was organized by the organization head Dr. Foley.  The work at USQ was very interesting, and is one of the biggest reasons I’m going to take a few engineering classes.  They do research using drones, build machines for other researchers, and have their arms in almost everything.  One of the coolest faculty I met was Les Zeller, a man who has come up multiple times in my turfgrass studies with Professor Rossi.

Day #2:  Tuesday was when the hard work started.  I went out with one of the Agricultural Engineering students to help him with a research project he was running.  We went to a farm with an overhead irrigator and measured the RPM and flow rates of every three sprinkler heads.  This was miserable work.  It was the coldest day I had in Queensland, probably 40 degrees Fahrenheit, extremely windy, and we were running under the water.  To make things worse, I ended up falling into the irrigation ditch.  For how physically challenging this day was, it was nice to see some applied research.

Day #3: I went back to Shepparton early in the morning, and went right to work with the Shepparton City Council.  I was working with the sports field managers for the Shire, which is the Australian version of a county.  They are basically in charge of taking care of the AFL and Cricket ovals that are built in each small town, village, and city.  Because it was the winter, work was slow, so the tasks we completed were mostly small.  Things like moving the Shepparton football grounds growth cover to an area that had taken a rather large amount or wear.  We reseeded, added a topdressing, and then rolled over the problematic areas.  I was also given a brief tour of most of the surrounding ovals and sports fields in the Shire.

Day #4:  Spent day #4 working more with soccer fields.  The main field at the newly constructed $20 Million AUD sports complex was in very good shape.  We added some topdressing to the sideline where the assistant referees run up and down.  After that we repaired sprinkler heads, and drove to other fields to topdress and sometimes reseed.  Though the work wasn’t the most stimulating at the City Council, it was great to see applied turfgrass management, and how much recent research was actually used by the workers in the field, cause one of the first things I learned on the trip was that there’s a massive gulf between research and the actual applications in Australia.

Day #5: Spent at the office on a very quiet day.  Learned about all the council does, and caught up on blog work.

Until We Meet Again…

I cannot believe where the summer has gone. Today is officially the last day of my summer internship with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Cortland County and in less than a week I will be sitting in class at Cornell. I have had the opportunity to do so much this summer in all different areas. Whether it was with dairy cows, corn plants or teaching youth around the county in various different settings, it all flew by so quick! I’ve been busy right up to the very end so I’ll share the last couple of weeks with you!

As many people know about, Empire Farm Days took place last week in Seneca Falls. This was only my second time attending, it was something my family never did as I was growing up. It is really awesome to see all of the people attending. Whether they were vendors promoting their specialty in the industry or a business bringing their merchandise, everyone is connected by one thing: agriculture. What some attendees don’t realize, is that Empire Farm Days can greatly benefit the youth involved in agriculture, as well. On Thursday, FFA and 4-H members can compete in different events, one being the Tractor Safety Contest, which I was involved in. In order to be able to, they must have already completed their tractor safety course. Between FFA and 4-H, there were over 20 students who participated. They take a written test, do a tool identification part, and have to drive two different courses, a two-wheel and a four-wheel driving test. Points are deducted for things like speed, not wearing their seatbelt, hitting barriers and distance from where they are supposed to park it after completion. It is really great to see all of the participants and how knowledgeable some are about the safety and driving skills.

This past week, Betsy and I finished at our last tiestall for the tiestall lameness research study that we have been doing and I have been constantly talking about all summer. Next, all of the data will be compiled and she is hoping for results and final conclusions to be available in the fall. I am really curious as to what the findings end up to be and am hoping I get to see them even though I will be deep into my coursework throughout the semester! The tiestall study was one of my favorite things that I was involved with this summer, probably because dairy cows are my favorite thing and really my only hobby! In the picture, I am measuring the height of the cow. I measured the height and width of every cow that was involved in the study to see if there was any correlation of lameness and size. It will be interesting to find out if there was or not!

Another neat thing that the South Central Dairy and Field Crops team does is send out a couple of digest newsletters throughout the summer to agriculturists in the areas that they cover. The digest includes articles written by members of the team, as well as other scholarly articles about whatever is a hot topic. This particular digest includes articles about different things like heat stress in dairy cows, corn harvest because the weather has been so crazy, as well as common pests found in field crops throughout the region this summer. I have attached the link below for those interested in reading the digest. Check out the article I got to write about the robot farm tour!

https://nydairyadmin.cce.cornell.edu/pdf/newsletter/pdf151_pdf.pdf

As my summer internship comes to an end, I am very thankful that I was able to intern at the Cooperative Extension office in Cortland with the 4-H department and the South Central Dairy and Field Crops team. It allowed me the diversity I was looking for, while still being connected to agriculture in all of the different departments. I learned a lot and had a lot of fun while doing so. This is a summer I will definitely not forget!

Week #4: CAF Engineering

Day #1: CAF Engineering is a civil engineering consulting firm.  They do pretty much everything, but have recently been very involved in building the new dairy installments that are a result of the increased investment from Asia into the Australian markets.  I was lucky on my first day to be invited to a meeting that the owners of CAF were having with a farmer who was in charge of updating and automating his dairy, with help from foreign investors.  The firm had just won the contract and were meeting him for the first time.  The meeting itself was very short, but the crew wandered around afterward looking at the current infrastructure to get a good sense of the land, and what they would have to do to rework it.  It was interesting to hear that whatever the first plan they make ends up being, that the end product will not be the same anyway.

Day #2: I spent the second day working with my cousin, who works at CAF Engineering as a project manager for a new dairy installment.  I got to look around and see what onsite management looks like, as well as experience the large gulf in communication between engineers and the people who actually end up building things.  I can now see how important it is to find someone who can bridge the gap between the engineers, who aren’t always very good at communicating their ideas, and the onsite workers, who can be very stubborn and don’t always like engineers.  Around noon I left the site and helped the firm surveyor with plotting new cattle paths and pastures, which was actually something I quite enjoyed and may take up in the future.

Day #3: I spent day #3 in the office, learning how to use the civil designing program called AutoCAD.  This is something that many of the employers said is a very useful skill to know, and that most people who know how to use it end up getting job offers.  Luckily, Cornell has a membership for all undergrad students at Lynda.com, a website that is good for learning practical workplace skills across any career type.

Day #4: the next day I spent learning about how drones are used in surveying fields.  CAF likes to use the drones to measure evapotranspiration rates using NDVI satellite, and field cover among other things.  Brent, the surveyor, showed me very clear examples of how a farmer thought his crop was looking healthy and uniform, but was then showed how wrong he was.  The before and after pictures showed very obvious changes.  I’m not sure how commonly drones are used in American agriculture, but there is definitely a place for them.

 

Day #5: I spent my final day at CAF with the surveyors again.  Our assignment was to go out to a winery that wanted to expand its water catchment area, and help survey the land so that the firm knew what they were working with.  I again very much enjoyed this part of the work experience I had, and hope to look into it more in depth at Cornell

Diverse Scouting in Central New York

After visiting Empire Farm Days for the first time this Tuesday, I was reminded of the incredible variation in agriculture in the great state of New York. From beekeeping, to dairy farming, to apple production, New York has a lot to offer in the agricultural sector. I was able to observe all this at the farm days this past Tuesday, where I had the fantastic opportunity to speak with growers, producers, and other professionals in the industry. I was able to converse with representatives from the company GVM, who produce spray trucks, about interesting advancements that the company plans to include in their trucks and software as the future nears.

Beyond Empire Farm Days, I had the opportunity to scout more diverse crops than I had been scouting in the east for most of the summer. CaroVail crop consultant Mark Avery and I began our day scouting a 35 acre pumpkin patch at a farm near Auburn. This particular patch of pumpkins had been effected negatively by powdery mildew, and had to be treated sooner rather than later. The conclusion we came to was to spray the pumpkins with the fungicide Kocide 3000. I was introduced to the option of pesticide application from airplanes, which is a foreign idea in the Appalachian foothills of eastern NY.

Pumpkin Leaf with Powdery Mildew 

From the pumpkin patch, Mark and I went to a nearby sweet corn field. Though this sweet corn looked immaculate and was being harvested while we were in the field, Mark still taught about sweet corn and we each borrowed an ear just to be sure it tasted ok. It was interesting to learn that sweet corn only requires about 2/3 the nitrogen that field corn does, and that certain pesticides like Dicamba can actually make sweet corn plants go sterile.

The last stop on my Auburn scouting trip was to a local corn-soybean grower. I was able to observe how some soybean varieties tolerate moisture different than others. It was demonstrated well in a field where two different varieties were planted, and in the wet spots the more tolerant variety maintained a lush green color while the less tolerant beans were more of an unhealthy yellow. The devastation in the next fields came from an insect you may see regularly, the Japanese beetle. In the next batch of fields we found a lot of feeding, to the point where we recommended treatment. I learned that if these beetles multiply and lay their eggs in the field, the white grubs that hatch could cause serious issues in the following years crop.

Japanese Beetle

Potato Leaf Hopper and PSNT’s

Once the corn had reached around the V3 stage, the push to get PSNT’s (Pre-Sidedress Nitrate Test) done for our farms was on and I spent the majority of my days pulling samples. For the sample you take multiple 12” cores from all over the field to get a representative sample to use for nitrogen recommendations. Due to the very wet growing season we’ve had, a lot of corn is light green to yellow (an indicator for N deficiency) especially in the lower spots, which triggered a lot of our farmers to request these PSNT’s. Once the samples were pulled it was imperative that we kept them cool and got them back to the lab as soon as possible to make sure the sample and recommendation was as accurate as possible.

While the sampling and scouting was taking place, the alfalfa was growing back after first cutting and we began to notice the problem of the Potato Leaf Hopper. The Potato Leaf Hopper is a pest that normally feeds on the vegetative part of the potato plant, hence its name, however due to the lack of potatoes grown in New York it tends to feed on alfalfa instead. If the damage is intensive, the alfalfa plant turns a yellow to brown color and becomes necrotic. These pests can wipe out a pure alfalfa stand in a matter of days, depending on the height of the plant. The reason for this major outbreak of the Potato Leaf Hoppers is because of the great number storms that have moved their way up from the south and dumped rain on us all season. These small green pests are carried by the winds of the storm and end up here when the storm dissipates. Then when we get a few hot dry days after the storm, they reproduce like crazy and the problem starts.

 

We scouted the Potato Leaf Hoppers with sweep nets; generally doing 20 sweeps total throughout the entire field to get a good idea of the overall pest pressure. Then a decision would be made based on how many Potato Leaf Hoppers we found and the maturity of the alfalfa; using the Cornell guidelines as a reference. If we found that the pressure of the Leaf Hoppers was enough to call for some sort of action to be taken we would advise the farm to spray their alfalfa or mow it if it was close enough to harvest time.

 

After we got our PSNT’s taken care of and the Potato Leaf Hopper under control, the scouting continued with a focus on fungi and blight.

Week #3: Tatura Research Center (DEDJTR)

Week #3: DEDJTR Tatura

Day #1:  I arrived early in the morning.  The first day was mostly spent meeting all the staff of the research facility, and the Murray-Dairy industry research group.  This was one of my favorite places throughout the whole trip.  All the employees were very, very friendly and easy going.  I answered all the usual questions about being American and my opinions on Trump, and then settled into my desk for the week.  The last couple hours of the day were spent learning about, and then using, an online, open-source farm mapping software.

Day #2:  Woke up bright and early for the day I planned on spending with Harriet from Murray-Dairy.  She picked me up somewhere around 7am in the morning, and we then drove three and a half hours to a dairy farm that had some research paddocks.  They also used the Rubicon pipe and riser flood irrigation equipment and software.  We were there to measure the growth rates of about 10-12 paddocks.  We used a cool device that was attached to the front of a golf cart so that when we drove through the paddocks it measured density, height of grass, and possible weight.  The device wasn’t built for ryegrass and clover paddocks though, so with these we had to cut samples each time we took a measurement so we could set a benchmark to work with when the data was analyzed.

Day #3:  On day three I toured the horticulture part of the research center.  I first saw the stone fruit orchards, where they were investigating varied irrigation rates on 3 different propagation systems.  One of which, called the Tatura Open trellis, I had seen used in vineyards across American and Australia before.  It was nice to see where the concept had originated sometime in the 1970’s.  After the stone fruit orchard, I went and saw the pear research plot, where I helped measure shoot growth after the plants were pruned using a wide range of techniques.  I then helped sort and measure those cut shoots for fiber and nutrient content.

Day #4:  Day four was spent organizing data from the research stations weather prediction service.  I had to plot the predicted evapotranspiration and rainfall rates against the actual measurements, in order to see how effective they were.  The evapotranspiration predictions were within an acceptable range, but the predicted rainfall was nowhere near the mark.  I wasn’t surprised knowing how accurate the weathermen usually are.  This was one of the things that I found to be most interesting.  Along with on farm automation, rainfall and transpiration rate prediction are likely to be the future of farming technology for the next 10-15 years, and it’s all happening in Australia.

Day #5:  The last day was the most relaxed.  I spent it with the research station hydrologist, who took me to a farm that fully used both Rubicon flood irrigation systems (flood gate and channel, and pipe and riser).  The whole operation was huge, and I wish I’d had more time to learn about how the whole system was managed.  One of the themes I noticed from the trip, is that the farmers who invested in the Rubicon technology had considerable extra time to focus on other dairy farm related activities, instead of spending all 24 hours of the day focused on irrigating.

Late Season Scouting and Looking Towards Harvest

As school moves closer and the summer continues to turn to fall, day to day activities are beginning to wind down at CaroVail. With the last of the corn being side-dressed and the last of the Pioneer returns sent back to Pennsylvania, things are beginning to slow down in terms of product application. With this being said, it is looking like there may be a second wave of potato leaf hopper coming in this neck of the woods, that could put some farmers in a bind. While many farmers have already treated their alfalfa for this neon green pest (pictured in previous post), I have seen many more popping up in the same alfalfa stands that were treated just one cutting ago. This raises concern amongst dairymen and women whom may have already sprayed most, if not all of their alfalfa crops earlier in the summer in defense against the leaf hopper. Growers are hopeful for a cold winter that will set back this pest, that has been unusually persistent this growing season.

There has been a fair amount of leaf disease in corn that I have scouted, as well. This growing season has been a perfect year for fungal diseases to thrive in corn, as a result of the wetness and humidity that has been around thus far. Two diseases that I have come across so far that seem to cause the most damage are gray leaf spot and northern corn leaf blight ( Both Pictured Below).

Gray Leaf Spot

 

Northern Corn Leaf Blight

 

Gray leaf spot is caused by a fungus called cercospora zeae-maydis and affects the leaves of a corn plant. This disease develops into gray rectangular lesions that can be up to four inches long with distinct, parallel edges. This disease can arise from leftover corn fodder, and is more likely to cause problems in fields where corn-corn rotation is prevalent and minimum tillage has taken place.

Northern corn leaf blight, as illustrated in the above photo, is sometimes challenging to tell apart from previously mentioned gray leaf spot. Northern corn leaf blight has similar colored lesions to gray leaf spot, but they have more of an ovular, canoe-like shape than those of leaf spot. This form of blight also overwinters in corn debris, and is caused by the Setosphaeria turcica fungus. Both of these diseases are treated with similar fungicides, and can be devastating to yield if not managed properly and timely.

On the bright side, the hot weather in the past two weeks has helped corn in the east a great deal, and though a long, drawn out harvest season is still in store, yields may be higher than previously anticipated. More to come soon from Empire Farm Days!

Kids and Kows!

The last few weeks I feel like I have been here, there and everywhere, but I have enjoyed myself at each stop along the way! Usually after the county fair is over and done with, summer starts to slow down a little, but not in my case. I have the opportunity to be involved with a lot of different things this summer with Cooperative Extension and I am having a blast at each thing!

The Robot Farm Tour that I spent the summer planning took place on July 20th. This was a daytime event open to other dairy producers and businessmen alike. There were two different farms that we toured throughout the day and between the two, there were probably a dozen or so attendees at the event. In the morning, the tour began at a family farm who has been using robots for only about 4 months. We had the farmers on site to talk about their operation, along with their nutritionist and a representative who does a lot of the major work in building and implementing the robots at the farm. The event was greatly publicized too, which was great. A local news station came to check it out, as well as a writer from Lancaster Farming Newspaper. Here is the link from the news station:

http://www.wbng.com/story/35934777/how-new-technology-could-benefit-local-farms.

Below is the other link, this one is from Lancaster Farming:

http://www.lancasterfarming.com/farming/dairy/five-months-in-dairy-sees-benefits-of-robots/article_b6630fea-73b2-11e7-b9b6-439bebdaa108.html

After breaking for lunch and traveling to the next site, we had a similar itinerary at the second farm on the tour. After learning and touring the veteran operation, who has been using robots for about seven years, it was time to pack up and call it a day. I think it was really helpful to have a workshop/tour on just exactly how technology is being incorporated in the dairy industry more and more and showing other producers what the future may look like, especially for smaller-scaled farms. Being the first event that I have really ever had to solely coordinate, I would say it was a pretty successful day!

Throughout the summer, there are many local towns who have summer recreation programs for the kids in the neighborhood to attend. Though it can be difficult to schedule, 4H in Cortland County always tries to make a few stops at a couple different ones in the area. A couple of weeks ago, I went to one of the local recreations and did an activity on soil. It was one of the few days where the sun was shining, so the kids were really excited to be outside. I taught them about the different soil particles and layers by having soil for them to put into a plastic bottle and adding water. After time goes by, the particles settle by size and the distinct layers (sand, silt and clay) are apparent. They got to take their experiments home with them, too, so I think they were pretty happy about that, as well.

At the beginning of the week, Betsy, the area dairy specialist, and I put data loggers on at our fourth tiestall for the ongoing study. That leaves just one more. We have ran into a couple of problems throughout our study, but it is our first time with this type of research, so I guess you learn as you go. We seem to lose about one logger per farm that we do for various of reasons. If they fall off when the cows go out to pasture, there is a lot of ground covered, so they are not always retrieved. Also, if they fall into the gutter and then it is emptied into the manure spreader, well we just assume that it probably is not in one piece anymore! We had a couple of extra to start off, so that is a positive! I enjoy going to each of the farms to do this study because you find different things at each farm, even if they are all tiestalls. One of the most interesting findings to me is how the stall measurements differ, not only just from barn to barn, but sometimes even on the same farm! For example, you can tell which barns were built when industry standards were different and where improvements have been made on any given farm. It is almost like using a lens to look back on history. We have one more farm to do and it will be neat to see what the concluding results are at the end.

Yesterday, I had another opportunity to do a youth program. This program was with migrant youth from the area, whose parents are involved with the agriculture industry one way or another. This particular part of the program is a three-day event for the youth to get out and about and exposed to different things that they may not get the opportunity to otherwise. We were at a site that had a pond and trees and such. I taught them a similar program as before about soil, but incorporated the water and aqua life into the lesson. We also learned about the different plants and insects. The youth really did learn a lot about their surroundings and I would definitely say it was a productive day.

Whether I was working with kids or cows, the last couple of weeks have been fun and productive all at the same time. I cannot believe that the semester starts in just over two weeks and how fast this summer has flown by!

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