New York State IPM Program

July 16, 2019
by Debra E. Marvin
Comments Off on Senior Worm Wrangler Safeguards North Country Crops, wins Excellence in IPM Award

Senior Worm Wrangler Safeguards North Country Crops, wins Excellence in IPM Award

Press Release by Mariah Courtney Mottley. Media contact: Jaime Cummings

Elson Shields, a Cornell entomology professor, received an Excellence in Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Award from the New York State Integrated Pest Management Program (NYSIPM) at Cornell University’s Aurora Farm Field Day on the Musgrave Research Farm. NYSIPM develops sustainable ways to manage pests and helps people to use methods that minimize environmental, health and economic risks. The award honors individuals who encourage the adoption of IPM in their businesses, schools, communities, and farms, and who develop new tools and tactics for sharing these practices.

Elson Shields

Elson Shields, right, and Charles Bornt, left, Extension Vegetable Specialist with the Cornell Cooperative Extension Eastern New York Commercial Horticulture team. Elson is explaining the process of EPN application for a biocontrol project to suppress wireworms in the field. Photo: T. Rusinek.

The alfalfa snout beetle, an invasive pest, is a perennial threat to north country alfalfa. In the absence of any registered insecticides for this pest, growers are forced to only use cultural and biological controls. Shields found success protecting alfalfa from the snout beetle with the use of native entomopathogenic nematodes (EPNs). Nematodes are tiny worms that parasitize and eventually kill the beetle larvae, and stay in the soil to infect future generations of the pest. Shields pioneered the use of nematodes that persist in the soil, and has been able to control snout beetles as long as six years after a single application of EPNs.

Shields has taught growers to rear the EPNs and to apply them to their own crops. Dr. Shields is also exploring ways to use these beneficial nematodes to protect specialty crops. He works with agribusiness consultants in the private sector and other researchers in the public sector. His effective strategy with persistent EPNs has been featured in trade journals such as Growing Produce, Good Fruit Grower and Dairy Herd Management. He received an Entomological Foundation Award for Excellence in IPM in 2013, and his promotion of persistent EPNs is being widely adopted.

Dr. Shields is seen in this photo as he speaks with a group of growers.

Dr. Elson Shields speaks with farmers about his Northern New York Agricultural Development Program alfalfa snout beetle research at a field day in Belleville, NY. Photo courtesy of the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program.

By studying the persistence of nematodes applied to alfalfa through a crop rotation that included several years of corn, Shields observed that EPNs were also helping to control the corn rootworm, on their vacation time from alfalfa. Through collaborations with horticultural researchers, Shields is working on applying persistent EPNs as biological controls in crops such as strawberry, cranberry, sweet potato and turf. He is also studying the potential for using these techniques on greenhouse ornamentals.

Margaret Smith, Professor of Plant Breeding and Genetics at Cornell University, commends Shields’ willingness to question standard pest management orthodoxy and to follow research results wherever they might lead. She continues, “Elson’s snout beetle IPM effort is an exemplar of an outstanding public sector pest management program. Shields has done pioneering, innovating, and broadly effective research on an array of crops. His record of success will be hard to match.”

Laura McDermott, Regional Extension Specialist, says: “Dr. Shields’ work with native entomopathogenic nematodes is some of the most exciting applied research I’ve been involved with in my 30-year extension career. This integration of a biological control method as a way to manage difficult soil-borne insect pests is inexpensive, effective, and truly sustainable. Elson ALWAYS has the growers in the forefront of his mind. His efforts to teach farmers how to raise and apply these nematodes is testimony to his understanding of their abilities.”

“New York Agriculture, including the dairy, vegetable and fruit industries, have benefitted greatly from Elson’s vision and willingness to go above and beyond what is expected,” says Teresa Rusinek, Extension Associate for Vegetable Production in Cornell Cooperative Extension of Ulster County.  She continues, “I’ve observed at our field meetings and farm demo work that growers easily understand the system and readily adopt the biocontrol strategies Elson’s developed.”

May 16, 2017
by Mary M. Woodsen
Comments Off on Keep Off the Grass? IPM for Anyone With a Lawnmower

Keep Off the Grass? IPM for Anyone With a Lawnmower

Now that spring has arrived and you’ve dusted off the lawn mower …

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.

See more at Morning Ag Clips.

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 13, 2016
by Mary M. Woodsen
Comments Off on No Greenhouse, No Grow Light? This Advice Is a Fun Read Anyway

No Greenhouse, No Grow Light? This Advice Is a Fun Read Anyway

Now, I don’t have a greenhouse or even a grow light on my windowsill. But sometimes IPM ornamentals specialist Elizabeth Lamb’s  posts are so much fun to read that I just want to share them with the world.

From now on, it’s Elizabeth’s voice you’re hearing.

I just figured out how to hyperlink in my emails.  I’m quite the dinosaur!  Click on the blue words to get the link if you are a dinosaur like me.

This generalist eats more than just western flower thrips — it'll eat the thrips specialists like Neoseiulus cucumeris too. Photo courtesy natural-insect-control.com.

This generalist rove beetle eats more than just western flower thrips — it’ll eat the thrips specialists like Neoseiulus cucumeris, too. Photo courtesy natural-insect-control.com.

It’s a rove beetle eat predacious mite world out there.  Great information from Sarah Jandricic (OMAFRA) on how to keep your thrips beneficials from eating each other! Also, a little early nursery scouting might be in order – things they are already seeing in Ontario – Bagworms, Viburnum leaf beetle egg masses, and gypsy moth egg masses.

Lots of information from Tina Smith at UMass and Leanne Pundt at UConn
Keeping an eye on those calis. Calibrachoa troubleshooting for diseases and disorders. Or tackling thrips with bios and pesticides  (remember to check for NYS labels on any pesticides)  Lots of other resources linked to this report.

While you’re at it, be nice to your nematodes.   This article makes the point about not storing nematodes in a refrigerator that is opened frequently.  Another temperature shock could be mixing chilled nematodes with too warm water.  Not sure we have the research on this yet, but it makes sense.

What are those strange lumps?  It could be crown gall – found on some lobelias this spring. It is caused by a bacterium and can be spread by water splashing, although it needs an entry point to get into the plant.  No good control so add it to your scouting list.

Do you have a pH or EC (electrical conductivity) meter stashed in your greenhouse that you last used last season?  It probably needs to be recalibrated.  Have you ever done that?  Here’s how! And to keep Margery happy – lovely photos of Thielaviopsis – and how to avoid having your own.

Where have all the archived updates gone?  Well, NYS IPM is in the process of getting a new website and we consolidated all the updates into one blog to archive them  Coming soon.

’Tis the season for greenhouse information — from my email to yours.  Have a good week!

Grow greenhouse crops — or for that matter, Christmas trees? Want to learn more? Give Elizabeth Lamb a shout at Elizabeth M. Lamb <eml38@cornell.edu> and she’ll subscribe you. You can, of course, opt out anytime you want.

September 30, 2014
by Joellen Lampman
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IPM for Dead Grass SOS

Grub damage is showing up in New York later this year than usual, so don’t let your guard down just because it’s October. Still, how do you know if it’s grubs — or something else? One test: if you can loosen the sod with a trowel or garden fork, then peel it up like a carpet, you’ve got grubs. Monitoring, though, is your best bet, and here’s how (pdf) — or watch this video.

Recently I visited distressed homeowners with a lawn so badly infested, I could brush the turf away with a swipe of my fingers. They didn’t want to use pesticides, but they also didn’t know the proper way — mow right, feed right, and water right — to care for their lawn. Given how sandy soil their soil was, their turf showed drought stress despite 2014’s rainy summer. And they had never fertilized.

Home lawn infested with grubs

Stressed grass is more likely to succumb to pests like white grub

My IPM recommendations:

  • Mow Right: Raise the height of cut on the mower to its highest level and sharpen the blades regularly.
  • Feed Right: Provide a fall nitrogen fertilizer application. Conduct a soil test to determine if other nutrients are also needed.
  • Water Right: Most grasses need one to two inches of water per week. When nature does not provide, it is important to provide supplemental water.

To tackle the grub issue, research at the State University of New York at Delhi has shown that turfgrass aerators can lower grub populations, sometimes as much as 90 percent. Aeration can also help better your success with overseeding. Beneficial nematodes are another, albeit more costly, choice for grub control.

Grub infested home lawn

Grubs had so badly damaged the roots that I could brush the grass away with my fingers.

While early fall is an excellent time to overseed with a drought-resistant turfgrass, when you have bare areas like this homeowner and have access to water, overseeding now will help get a jump on the weeds and help stabilize the soil. For these homeowners’ sandy, sunny location and their need for a low-maintenance lawn, Cornell recommends either a 100% tall fescue blend seeded at a rate of 7 to 10 pounds per 1,000 square feet — or a mixture of 65% fine fescue blend, 15% perennial ryegrasses, and 20% Kentucky bluegrass blend at 4 to 5 pounds per 1,000 square feet.

For more information, take a look at our Lawn Care Without Pesticides by Frank Rossi, Professor.

May 2, 2013
by Mary M. Woodsen
Comments Off on In Greenhouses, Good Science = Good ¢

In Greenhouses, Good Science = Good ¢

In the cold Northeast, heat costs money. And no one knows it better than greenhouse growers. With Mother’s Day just around the corner, growers are ramping up for one of their biggest sales days of year — which until now, has meant cranking up the thermostat.

 

Not any more. Growers want to save money and fuel. The unanswered question? How will pests — and the biological controls that help keep them in check — respond?

 

On the Fly: Fungus gnats look like tiny mosquitoes, but we are not their prey. These egg-laying machines just want the best possible home for their young. The problem comes when that home is a pot of pretty posies.

Take fungus gnats. These sneaky little flies lay tiny little eggs just below the soil surface. Before long their larvae are out and about, burrowing through the soil and nibbling off every growing root tip they bump up against. But if en route these fungus gnat larvae bump up against parasitic nematodes, invisible threadlike critters that eat them inside-out … well, that’s why savvy growers have turned to nematodes to even their odds in the plant-survival department.

 

Water Them In: No bigger than a deck of cards, this packet contains upward of 50 million hungry nematodes. Mix them into a tank of water, turn on the pump, open the nozzle — and water them in.

Cooler temperatures slow down both gnats and nematodes. If nematodes lag too far behind their larval prey under those conditions, we need to know. Our business, after all, is providing growers the best real-time information and guidance we can. Naturally, growers who provide real-world research settings for us are invaluable partners — because if it works for them, it’s likely to work for their peers.

 

We’ll collect lots of sticky cards over the season to help track how many fungus gnat adults squeaked past the nematodes compared to those in our control zones: the no-nematode and low-temp sectors. If our numbers come close to the numbers we got in our preliminary growth-chamber experiments earlier this year, we’ll be happy. Very happy.

See What Sticks: Bugs like yellow, which is why we use bright yellow sticky cards to monitor which critters are out and about in the greenhouse. It’s sticky work, but necessary for real-world results.

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