Amara Dunn was hired for the new BioControl Specialist position just about three years ago.
Since then, she’s gone from focusing on ‘learning the ropes’ and creating goals for the position… to being in high demand by staff (and New Yorkers) on both the agricultural and community sides of our program!
Amara, how does your work here at the IPM Program fit the career you imagined when you entered college?
When I started college I really had no idea what I wanted to do, except that I liked biology but didn’t want to be a medical doctor. You could say that my work at NYSIPM (across a broad range of commodities and settings) is kind of the culmination of exploring and honing my interests through a variety of professional and volunteer experiences during and after college. My eclectic job responsibilities have also reminded me that we learn something from pretty much all of our experiences, even the ones that don’t ultimately lead to a career.
Who do you see as the main audience for your current work?
I am trying very hard to provide materials for a broad range of audiences. For example, I’m doing a lot of work currently on conservation biocontrol (protecting and feeding the “good bugs” you’ve already got) and pollinators like bees and butterflies. All of these beneficial insects need the same things, but taking care of beneficial insects looks different in a back yard than it does on a farm. I’m trying to provide cost and “how-to” information for both groups. I think on some level most people I’ve interacted with – farmers, home gardeners, people who enjoy spending time outdoors – have similar questions and goals. They want to know how to solve pest problems, and they care about protecting people and the environment while they do it.
What is most rewarding about your work in pest management?
Helping people. Hands down. Being able to answer questions or provide needed information that ultimately has a positive impact on peoples’ lives brings me so much joy.
What do you most enjoy doing in your non-work time?
Broadly speaking, I would say that I like creating. I have always loved growing plants, and I’m really enjoying planning and implementing new gardens around the house I just bought. And, yes, these gardens do include plants that support beneficial insects. I’m also using them as “virtual demonstration plots” to show how one might support beneficial insects around their homes (and some of the pitfalls when trying to do this). Over the past few years, I’ve been cultivating (pun intended) an interest in cut flowers. I love having fresh flowers in my home or office, and like being able to share them with others. But I also enjoy cooking and knitting/crocheting. And I like to mix my interests. There are a wealth of patterns out there for people wanting to knit or crochet arthropods. I’ve even tried making my own pattern when I couldn’t find what I was looking for.
Given a month to travel or work on something you enjoy, where or what would it be?
Honestly, I’m pretty ambivalent about travel. I could take it or leave it. But when I do travel, I like to visit local gardens, parks, or museums and try delicious local food!
What biocontrol topic or pest problem do you anticipate on your horizon in the next year or so?
Sadly, I suspect it’s inevitable that spotted lanternfly will become established in NY. We’ve done a great job of delaying that inevitability (kudos to everyone – professionals and lay people – for all your hard work!), but it probably is an inevitability. One of the hoped-for benefits of delaying this pest’s establishment is that we’d have more tools (including biological tools) for managing it by the time it got here.
What biocontrol concern has captured your interest for future research?
I’m really interested in learning and documenting the efficacy of biocontrol strategies in the field so that we can give growers specific answers about how to use strategies to reduce risks to people and the environment. For example, how large an area of flowers, which flowers, and how close to the crop do you need to plant them to reduce pest damage? Or, which conventional pesticide sprays can be replaced with biopesticides to maintain good pest control while maintaining profitability. These are really big questions, and I certainly can’t answer them all by myself. There’s a lot of great research already being done on these questions here in NY and elsewhere.
Absolutely. Being part of the NYIPM Program lets us see so much of what’s going on regionally to reduce pest risks and help the environment! Thank you, Amara, for allowing us to share more about you and your role at the NYSIPM Program!
Amara’s office is on the Cornell AgriTech campus but you may have seen her or met her at a variety of conferences and workshops over the last three years. Follow her blog BIOCONTROL BYTES or her Twitter and professional Instagram accounts!
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
June 27, 2014
by Brian Eshenaur Comments Off on Watch for Pine Sawflies
Notice needle damage on pine trees? Look close. It may be caused by conifer-feeding sawflies.
Sawflies feeding on Scotch pine
Sawflies? As larvae they look caterpillars which might develop into moths, their name implies they’ll be flies, but they actually become non-stinging wasps as adults. And the saw? As adult wasps the females cut slits in pine needles with saw-like structures on the tip of their abdomens and lay eggs into these openings.
Checkout the synchronized movement they make to deter predators!
Although there are several species of sawflies that can be seen on conifers, the gray-green European Pine Sawfly (Neodiprion sertifer) is represented in this post.
European pine sawfly group
Monitor to detect infestations before they reach a size that can cause significant needle loss.
Know that sawfly larvae are attractive as food to parasites and predators and are usually kept in check by these natural enemies.
If a small outbreak occurs they can often be handpicked, or pruned out and destroyed.
For rare situations where the population of sawflies are high insecticides labeled for their control can be used.