Pests and pesticides—both can pose problems to our health, our environment, and our economy. At the New York State Integrated Pest Management Program (NYS IPM), we help New Yorkers address those problems safely and thoughtfully. How? Through innovative biological, cultural, technological, and educational practices. IPM, in a word.
Community IPM takes place in settings as varied as school buildings and grounds; residential and office buildings; gardens, parks and landscapes; and golf courses and right-of-ways. Now we invite grant proposals from qualified New Yorkers who want to develop, evaluate, or demonstrate feasible IPM methods. Budgets must not exceed $8,500. Our deadline: April 6, 2018. Funds must be spent by February 28, 2019.
The German cockroach needs no introduction. If it can get on your fork, it can get in your food. Credit Clemson University, USDA.
All projects must accomplish one or more of the following:
develop, advance, test or refine new IPM strategies;
demonstrate a link between IPM practices and reduced risk to human health or pesticide residues;
measure the positive change or potential impact of IPM practices or adoption, or survey current IPM knowledge;
develop Community IPM resources, such as brochures, websites, fact sheets, manuals, and apps for smartphones and tablets;
develop IPM educational programs, such as workshops or curriculum;
educate others about IPM through outreach and demonstrations.
Audiences could include school administrators, teachers and students; landscape and structural pest management professionals; vector control specialists; municipal employees; nuisance wildlife control operators; golf course personnel; arborists; right-of-way managers; day care operators—just about anyone, in fact. We encourage projects that reach new audiences or develop new partnerships.
Two years. Yup. Ticks know how to make good use of their time.
Our Community IPM priorities include: develop or demonstrate solid strategies for dealing with rodents or cockroaches; develop, confirm or promote methods to lessen the impact of ticks; research, demonstrate or create outreach projects that promote pollinator health and conservation; and research and demonstrate alternatives to imidacloprid on lawns and athletic fields.
Yes, there are plenty more. But for 2018, these four are our greatest needs.
Got Questions? We encourage you to discuss your ideas with NYS IPM community staff, including:
coordinator: Jody Gangloff-Kaufmann, Long Island, 631-539-8680, firstname.lastname@example.org (Do you work outside Cornell University and Cornell Cooperative Extension? Get in touch with Jody Gangloff-Kaufmann.)
coordinator: Elizabeth Lamb, Ithaca, 607-254-8800, email@example.com
educator: Brian Eshenaur, Rochester, 585-753-2561, firstname.lastname@example.org
And consider: the most common critiques of past proposals have been that the budget lacked in clarity, explanation or justification—and those seeking grants didn’t discuss projects ahead of time with IPM staff.
January 31, 2018
by Mary M. Woodsen Comments Off on Hops on top
Sometimes on a snowy evening there’s fine company to be had with good friends and a six-pack from your local brewery. So settle back and take a moment to savor what it took to get you there.
Hops flowers, once fully mature and used wet or properly dried, provide the distinctive taste that brewers build on to craft their beers. Photo provided.
Long ago yet close to home — the mid 19th through the early 20th centuries — New York led the world in hops production. Back then, we supplied that critical beer ingredient for breweries worldwide. But then two new and dastardly fungal diseases blew in and put an end to all that.
Now it’s déjà-vu all over again. With microbreweries and tasting rooms on the upswing, hop yards are too.
Yes, hops can be prey to the usual range of pests lurking in the soil or pathogens drifting in on the wind. But with Cornell’s IPM research there to support farmers, it’s different this time around. Today’s growers have a clear advantage that yesteryear’s famers sorely lacked — detailed production guides that cover a range of new techniques and research on biological and ecological IPM tactics unknown a century ago. Example? Flowering cover crops that not only suppress weeds but serve as a nectary to attract and retain the beneficial insects that keep pests under control.
Cosmos are an old-time favorite for gardeners, but hops growers have learned they provide nectar for minute (as in “tiny”) pirate bugs. These pirate bugs are a welcome predator of a difficult pest — the two-spotted spider mite. Photo provided.
Of course there’s more — much more — and IPM’s presence at the Cornell Lake Erie Research and Extension Laboratory contributes to careful research now published in the Cornell Integrated Hops Production Guide and available to farmers throughout New York and the Northeast. Let’s raise a glass to the growers and researchers who have made this possible.
Sure it’s winter. But many greenhouse growers work year-round. And what’s this about biocontrols? In fields, orchards, vineyards, and greenhouses—especially greenhouses—biocontrols are the predators and parasites that keep pests in check, minus the pesticides. What’s special about greenhouses? They’re where pests consistently find plenty of food, just-right temperatures, and little to stop them from bounding out of control. The linchpin that drives the search for alternatives to pesticides? Consumer demand.
Looks like sawdust—but it’s really bran infused with the tiny eggs or larvae of beneficial insects.
Which is where biocontrols fit in. These critters evolved to eat pests for breakfast, lunch and dinner. But there’s a learning curve involved. You can’t bring in the good guys and call it a day. Use a broad-spectrum pesticide and you’ll do them in. Which is why an Extension educator in the six-county New York Capitol District crafted a series of workshops to help growers get the hang of that seemingly simple IPM practice: biocontrol.
Since seeing is believing, growers attended a series of workshops where they saw start-to-finish biocontrol in action. What did they learn?
how to distribute marigolds throughout their greenhouses as a thrips (bad guy) magnet
how to apply a nematode drench to control the fungus gnats that eat roots
which 17 biocontrols can collectively cope with 21 bad guys
how the IPM Greenhouse Scout app helps you choose among them
Little sachets are another way greenhouse growers can introduce those tiny, good-guy bugs to the posies that need them.
As for consumer demand? People worry about pesticides on their posies. In theory, biocontrol appeals to them. But they haven’t seen it in action. If they see bugs, any bugs, good guys included—they might worry. That’s why a simple, colorful flier is part of the package, helping growers bring the message back to their base—their customers.
Amara Dunn joined NYSIPM as a biocontrol specialist in early June.
Hello! My name is Amara Dunn, and I am excited to have joined the New York State Integrated Pest Management (NYSIPM) program as the biocontrol specialist. Prior to starting this position, I studied vegetable diseases at Cornell University and taught in the Biology Department at Hobart and William Smith Colleges. I enjoy finding new ways to manage pests and helping others to manage them more effectively.
What is biocontrol?
Definitions of biological control (biocontrol, for short) vary, but biocontrol is often broadly defined as:
using natural enemies to reduce or maintain populations of pest organisms at sufficiently low levels.
Either the pest or its natural enemy might be a vertebrate (e.g., rodents), an invertebrate (e.g., insects, ticks, slugs), or a microorganism (e.g., fungi or bacteria). Aphids and ladybugs are an example you might be familiar with. Ladybug larvae eat the aphids that might otherwise damage plants.
But biocontrol isn’t limited to releasing beneficial insects like ladybugs. Some bacteria and fungi produce compounds that are toxic to pests, including insects, bacteria and fungi. Others can boost the health of plants and animals. Some nematodes (microscopic worms) invade and kill grubs that live in the soil.
Often natural enemies of a pest are already nearby (e.g., bats that eat insects or birds of prey that eat rodents). By improving their habitat, we can also improve pest control. Finally, many insects use their sense of smell to find mates. By using these scents — “pheromones” — to trap or confuse pest insects, the pest’s biology can be used for its own control.
A small Delphastus beetle has caught and is eating a whitefly. Another whitefly nearby hopes to escape the same fate but may not be so lucky.
Biocontrol can be an important part of an integrated pest management strategy. For example, biocontrol organisms that support plant health can make them less susceptible to the pests that damage them (prevention). If something needs to be applied to reduce pest populations (or keep them low), biocontrol products tend to be less harmful to other critters or people than chemical pesticides (choosing a pest management strategy with low environmental impact).
My goal is to help the people of New York – householders, people who work in schools and businesses, and farmers – understand when and how to use biocontrol as part of a successful integrated pest management strategy. If you have questions, you can email me at email@example.com, or you can call my office at (315)787-2206. And soon I’ll launch a blog to provide additional information about biocontrol and its use in New York.
July 6, 2017
by Mary M. Woodsen Comments Off on Biocontrols for Invasive Pest Help Save Mountain Forests
Biocontrols — organisms that help keep serious pests in check — are a key component of IPM. And sometimes they’re the only hope. Consider the lovely, lacy-needled hemlock tree, a member of the pine family.
“The hemlock is a foundation species in our forests,” says Mark Whitmore, a forest entomologist at Cornell University and a founder of the New York State Hemlock Initiative. “It occupies the base of the food web and is a critical species in the habitat it helps create.” But the hemlock is under threat by a killer pest so tiny it verges on microscopic.
“Take no prisoners” describes the woolly adelgid’s modus operandi.
Whitmore’s checklist? Hemlocks
moderate stream water temperatures for trout and many other animals
provide a buffer for nutrient inputs to maintain water quality
stabilize shallow soils, especially in steep gorges
shelter plants and animals — especially important in winter, when they help moderate temperature swings
offer critical habitat for migrating neo-tropical birds
provide large-scale watershed quality and biodiversity protection
Hemlocks also help ring the registers when fishing season opens. How can that be? Well, trout fishers’ contribution to New York’s economy is nothing to sneeze at. And research in the Delaware Water Gap showed that streams draining hemlock forests support an average of 37 percent more aquatic insect taxa — including many that provide food for trout — than do streams flowing through deciduous forests.
About that pest — it’s the hemlock woolly adelgid, native to Asia. This tiny pest has already done a staggering amount of damage to hemlock stands in the southern Appalachian Mountains, leaving scarred remnants of once-lovely ravines and mountainsides in its wake.
Now it has gained a foothold — in some cases, a stranglehold — in forests throughout the Northeast.
Losing those hemlocks? “Catastrophic” could be the right word to sum up the consequences. “The hemlock is the only tree in eastern North America that can do its job so well,” said Kathleen Shields, project leader for biological control with the U.S. Forest Service in a 2002 article in Forests Magazine. “If we lose the hemlocks, there’s no other tree to fully take its place.”
The waxy white balls that cover every twig mark this tree as a goner. (Photo Forestry Images)
But if you’ve even heard of the hemlock woolly adelgid you’re way ahead of the game, because the hemlock woolly adelgid isn’t much to look at. In fact, you’d have to scrape off the waxy white ball it hides in, then squint into a 10-power loupe — a special type of magnifier — just see it.
And because it rarely travels fast or far (for most of its life cycle, it doesn’t even move), the adelgid might not strike you as a particularly menacing pest. Until, that is, thousands of them suddenly set up shop on every hemlock tree in your neck of the woods.
How can this be? Well, there’s the adelgids’ prodigious reproductive capacity. In fact, a single adelgid’s offspring can, by the season’s end, potentially contribute upward of 5,000 adelgids — and every last one is female — to the hemlock’s pest burden.
Then there’s the adelgid’s life cycle: it breeds during the winter. Most insect predators don’t. And factor in that those predators aren’t looking for a bug that resembles little more than a ball of wax.
Sure, it took 50-plus years for the woolly adelgid to reach upstate New York — but it’s here now. Meanwhile, Whitmore has been working against this day for many years.
The only good thing you could say about the adelgids implacable pace is that it’s given Whitmore time to test and release predators which help provide the backbone of a suite of predators that could soon keep the adelgid at bay in New York.
The first predator out of the box was Laricobius nigrinus, a type of tooth-necked fungus beetle, released in 2009. In 2015, Whitmore released two species of silver fly, both from the genus Leucopis. Altogether, these predators should flank the adelgids for a more complete biocontrol.
This larval silver fly slides into that waxy ball, where it feeds on adelgids — and nothing else.
Of course, work like this has to be a team effort, and Whitmore has worked in concert with colleagues at the U.S. Forest Service and the University of Massachusetts-Amherst on one project; the U.S. Forest Service, University of Vermont, and Oregon State University on a second.
And of course — each new biocontrol must feed on its host prey and nothing else. It takes long, patient vetting over many years to be sure a biocontrol won’t itself become a pest.
Whitmore’s work is built around classic IPM techniques, especially monitoring (are they in your neck of the woods yet?) and biological controls. The countless hours Whitmore has put into this earned Whitmore an “Excellence in IPM” award in 2015.
“Mark’s meticulous research brings together all the strengths of IPM; of truly integrated pest management,” says Jennifer Grant, director of NYS IPM “But it’s his passion for his work that really makes the difference. Whether it’s volunteer citizen-science groups or the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, people look to Mark for the information and expertise they need.”
“He speaks for the trees.”
June 7, 2017
by Mary M. Woodsen Comments Off on Invasives are pests! Learn more at our July IPM conference.
We tend to default to bugs — to insects — when we think about pests. But plant diseases and weeds are pests too. And all threaten our fields and farms, our forests and streams, our homes and workplaces.
Pests provide no end of challenges — especially pests that come from afar. Among IPM’s strengths? Researching and crafting powerful ways to cope with them.
Coming up soon, our “Invasive Species in New York: Where We Are and What We Can Do” conference, held just north of Albany at Siena College. The date? July 13, 2017. Join us!
May 16, 2017
by Mary M. Woodsen Comments Off on Keep Off the Grass? IPM for Anyone With a Lawnmower
Now that spring has arrived and you’ve dusted off the lawn mower …
PUBLISHED ON MAY 3RD, 2017, CANTON, N.Y. | Courtesy Paul Hetzler, CCE St. Lawrence County
As a kid of about five, I became suspicious of lawns. In a rare moment of TV viewing, I had seen a public-service ad wherein a bundle of green leafy stuff thudded into an eerily vacant playground while a baritone voice boomed out something like “Grass. We think it’s bad for kids. Stay away from it.” My mom insisted this was “bad grass” which did not grow in our yard. However, she declined to elaborate, which fueled my mistrust. So I kept off the lawn a while.
These days, “bread” is no longer money, “mint” is just a flavor, and the pernicious leafy stuff mostly goes by other names. There is only one grass, and it is almost time to cut it again. Jargon may change, but things like paying taxes and mowing lawns don’t seem to.
To help you, or so they say, a bewildering array of lawn-care products have sprouted at big-box stores and garden centers. It’s easy to spend a lot of dough — I mean money — on fertilizers, weed killers, and seed. But it’s hard to make sense of which products are right for you.
Before you shop, a couple of thoughts to help sort things out.
Grass is not for everyone. Or everywhere. If an area does not get 4 or more hours of full sun daily from March through September, trying to grow grass there is a waste of time.
Steep slopes and high-traffic zones probably need something other than grass, too.
Keep mower blades sharp — it can help reduce disease, plus it looks nicer and saves on mower gas. (Flickr Creative Commons Brian Boucheron)
Comparison spells trouble. Well not literally, but it’s mighty unfair. Fashion models have airbrush artists and makeup consultants. Golf courses have full-time turf experts and a massive budget. With good information and a little work, we and our lawns can both look good, but let’s not compare with deep-pocketed pros.
Dr. Frank Rossi, a leading Cornell Turfgrass Science researcher, puts it this way:
“Chances are you can grow a pretty good lawn without using insecticides, fungicides, or herbicides. You may even be able to do it using little or no chemical fertilizer… Will your lawn look like a putting green? No… But if you arm yourself with an understanding of what grasses need to thrive, and commit to a long-term plan to meet those needs, you can grow a perfectly acceptable lawn…”
Get the dirt on your soil. If your grass looks bedraggled, fertilizer may not be the answer; in fact, early-season nitrogen can weaken grass and make lawns worse in the long run.
At the very least, get a soil pH test—a pH more acidic (lower) than 6.0, or more alkaline (higher) than 7.0 will hinder plants’ ability to absorb nutrients. The majority of samples I get at the office have pH values too high for healthy lawns, sometimes 100 or even 1,000 times too alkaline due to annual lime treatments. Lime is only good if it’s needed.
If it’s been over three years since the soil was tested, you might want to invest in a lab analysis. For under twenty bucks you can get nutrient levels with specific recommendations, plus pH and salt content. This last item may seem odd, but fertilizers, herbicides, wood ash and deicing agents are all sources of salt — which can damage soil structure, harm microbes, and aggravate water stress.
Only fertilize based on soil test results, and only use nitrogen in the fall.
Nature abhors a vacuum, which is why I keep mine hidden away indoors — no sense offending nature if you can avoid it. This hatred of emptiness means that if you don’t re-seed bare or weak spots in the lawn, Nature will fill it with whatever is handy — probably weeds.
Edging along the sidewalk or driveway may produce the look you want, but it also produces a lot of bare earth, so if you have a weed issue, especially crabgrass, breaking this habit will give you an edge on weed control.
Another type of vacuum is a close-cropped lawn. Not only does close mowing cause weak, stunted grass roots (and thus plants), it allows the sun full access to the soil. This gives weeds a tremendous advantage.
Have trouble with ground ivy? Put away the vacuum. Stop shaving the earth and start mowing the grass.
The most important thing you can give your lawn is more of its hair. Studies show that changing to a grass height of 3.5 inches leads to a vast improvement in lawn health. Leaving grass longer will greatly reduce weed pressure, lawn diseases, and fertilizer requirements. Perhaps the most dramatic change with longer grass is a lasting drop in weed population.
If you need to use herbicides to reduce weeds, follow the label instructions closely. Some broadleaf (selective) herbicides contain chemicals that could stress or injure trees. Pre-emergent herbicides inhibit weed germination, and are used for crabgrass control. Apply pre-emergent products around the time forsythia flowers are starting to drop.
Another tip is not to mow more than a third of the grass at a time. For example, to maintain a 3.5-inch turf height, mow before the grass gets over five inches high. Try to keep the blades sharp — it can help reduce disease, plus it looks nicer and saves on mower gas. And it almost goes without saying that grass clippings belong to the lawn, not the landfill. Leave the clippings—that’s your fertilizer.
White grubs — we have five species in northern NY — can become a problem if there are more than ten per square foot of lawn. Several nontoxic and low-toxicity treatments have come on the market in the past few years, but timing varies for all of them. Milky spore treatment is safe, but is not effective up north due to cool soils. You can also use beneficial nematodes to kill grubs.
There are many solid lawn-care resources out there, but always check the source, which should be from .edu or .gov sites. Cornell Senior Extension Associate Lori Brewer has assembled the work of many experts, including Dr. Rossi, into a comprehensive 47-page book entitled “Lawn Care,” which is free at http://hort.cornell.edu/turf/lawn-care.pdf
I think it will contribute to a better world if we teach our kids to stay grounded and let the grass get high.
These nematodes Hetzler mentions — beneficial organisms — are key to good IPM. In fact, good IPM embraces every concept Hetzler stands by. With IPM, prevention is always the best cure. And remember: even herbicides are a type of pesticide, because weeds are pests too. If you’ve ever spent a whole day weeding a not-that-big garden, you know that sometimes weeds are the most difficult contenders we face. — ed. MW.
April 12, 2017
by Mary M. Woodsen Comments Off on Earth Day. It’s Every Day. Especially for Farmers.
For farmers everywhere, but perhaps most of all for organic farmers, every day has to be Earth Day. And since what matters for farmers matters for us all, every day is Earth Day for you, me, everyone.
Take farmer Lou Lego. He earned an Excellence in IPM award earlier this year for his inspired, inventive work putting IPM into action at 100-acre Elderberry Farm and Restaurant, midway between Owasco and Skaneateles lakes in New York’s Finger Lakes Region.
Pigs on pasture cycle carbon by eating and fertilizing grasses which take up carbon dioxide and return it to the ground. Watch the video at Elderberry Farm’s Facebook page.
According to Lou, Earth Day means thinking about the future — think of it as the “every day is Earth Day” approach. One day he’s thinking about cover crops or providing for beneficial insects. On another, tillage practices — about rebuilding and nourishing the soil. Yet another, slowing or reversing wind erosion. All good IPM.
And always about slowing or reversing climate change.
Every year, Lou says (and he’s been at this a while), his soil is richer, better, healthier. Healthier soil means healthier crops. And while healthy crops can’t ensure freedom from every disease and insect pest, still — healthier soils and crops are among the IPM tactics Lou relies on, the better to cope with pests that seem bent on destruction.
For Lou, though, dealing with greenhouse gases such as atmospheric carbon — that’s the biggie.
Granted, on Elderberry Farm it’s the “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” approach. And it takes a village — no, it takes pretty much all of us — to pull off climate change. What about on Lou’s scale? Sure, healthier soils can help. Tilling right can help. The research is coming in and yes, sustainable agricultural practices (think IPM) have a role to play.
Tall cover crops and sunflowers bordered by trees provide habitat for beneficial insects and wild bees.
And growing trees helps. Elderberry Farm’s fields are bounded by hedgerows or orchards, trees whose leaves pull carbon out of the atmosphere. Much stays in twigs and branches, but even more gets stashed in their roots — and they keep it there for the life of the tree and beyond.
For Lou Lego — and for IPM too — short term, long term: every day is Earth Day.
Photos courtesy Lou Lego.
March 29, 2017
by Mary M. Woodsen Comments Off on Earth Day IPM for birds and bees — and native plants that nourish them
We’re starting this post with a detour. But we have little choice. Before you go shopping around for landscape plants, you need to know the backstory.
Invasive plants, trees, shrubs, vines and flowers, many of them brought from afar because yes, they’re lovely in the landscape, have become a bit too much of a good thing. In part it’s because they didn’t evolve here. That could mean the critters — mostly insects or pathogens that co-evolved with them and helped keep them in check — don’t live here. Where that’s the case, there’s little here to naturally keep them in check.
OK, sumac berries aren’t all that tasty. But for migratory songbirds powering their way north, they offer needed nutrients. (Photo credit Mary Holland)
True, not all imported plants are invasive. But it’s all too easy to dig up a seedling or sucker from an invasive when you don’t know the extent of the problem. Which is partly why New York passed the Invasive Species Prevention Act in 2012.
Native plants, on the other hand, are less likely to get out of hand. Plus they can encourage biological control by attracting predatory or parasitoid insects — the good guys that prey on insect pests. And promoting these good guys is key to good IPM.
So with Earth Day in mind and planting season at hand, let’s note this threesome of invasive trees: angelica tree, sycamore maple, and Amur cork tree. These landscape trees are no longer for sale in New York. For a threesome of attractive natives that can fill their place — while helping the birds and bees — consider the merits of (drum roll) staghorn sumac, Juneberry, and white fringetree.
As we speak, migrating birds are stripping last year’s crop of staghorn sumac seeds, now mostly dry and withered but still nourishing, to power their northbound flight. Love birds? Your sumac planting will benefit robins, bluebirds, thrushes, catbirds, cardinals, chickadees, starlings, wild turkey, pileated woodpecker — and that’s just for starters. Soon its tiny yellowish flowers will attract bees and butterflies. Fiery autumn color. Drought resistant, and an excellent soil stabilizer on hillsides.
Juneberry isn’t your traditional hummingbird plant but welcoming even so. And first to flower means first to fruit — nourishment for many nesting songbirds. (Photo credit Hans. Thank you, Pixabay)
Juneberry (Amelanchier spp., with more common names than you can shake a stick at) is also an early bloomer that draws hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies. When its fruits ripen in early summer, robins, waxwings, cardinals, vireos, tanagers, and grosbeaks make a point of stopping by for a meal. You might too — the subtle flavor, shape, and color are reminiscent of blueberries. Grows well in full sun or part shade; adapts to wet or dry soils — but note soil must be acidic.
And then — raise your hand if you’ve seen our native witch hazel. This late bloomer is (metaphorically, that is) the golden chrysanthemum of the woods, daring to blossom when other trees have tucked in for a long winter’s nap. How to describe its flowers? Ribbonlike. Spidery. Kinky. Confetti-like — these all serve for a tree that’s the only show in town. But … if pollinators have tucked in too, how to play the pollination game? Turns out a native moth, the sallows, comes out on chilly nights — shivering its flight muscles and raising its body temperature upward of 50 degrees, then flying off search of food. And during a warm spell, bees will sup here too. Yes, this tree benefits birds and wildlife too, but more on that another time.
Witch hazel makes a lovely understory tree. Prefers part shade and moist but well-drained soil.
Common to all? They fit neatly under power lines.
And now a plug for IPM: it’s easy to talk about the birds and bees. Yet so many critters are on our side. Understandably we shudder when wasps and flies come to mind. But consider the scads of wasp and fly species that are on our side. Hey, plenty of wasps don’t even have stingers; they care only to lay their eggs within pest insects. Flies? Ever heard of flower flies? They do what their names suggests, while their larvae prey on aphids and thrips. And there’s scores more good guys in the family they belong to.