New York State IPM Program

February 14, 2018
by Mary M. Woodsen
Comments Off on Apple-Year and IPM’s ode to Liberty Hyde Bailey

Apple-Year and IPM’s ode to Liberty Hyde Bailey

Britannica.com describes Liberty Hyde Bailey as a botanist who “transformed U.S. horticulture from a craft to an applied science and had a direct influence on the development of genetics, plant pathology, and agriculture.” He had a profound effect on the shape of Cornell, securing state funding for the State College of Agriculture at Cornell, now CALS—without which there’d be no NYSIPM Program.

But Bailey was also a poet. From Wind and Weather, published in 1919 with roughly 130 poems, we sense an approach to horticulture that even now we’re still honing, shaping, revising.

Bailey was as committed a photographer as he was a horticulturaIist. And the Jonathan—a cultivar still grown today.

Here we offer “Apple-Year.”

My last winter apple I ate today.
Shapely and stout in their mottled skins
Securely packed in my cellar bins
Two dozen good kinds of apple-spheres lay.

And today I went to my orchard trees
And picked me the first-ripe yellow fruits
That hung far out on the swinging shoots
In summer suns and the wonder-day breeze.

And thereby it was that the two years met
Deep in the heart of the ripe July
When the wheat was shocked and streams were dry;
And the weather of winter stayed with me yet.

For I planted these orchard trees myself
On hillside slopes that belong to me
Where visions are wide and winds are free
That all the round year might come to my shelf.

And there on my shelves the white winter through
Pippin and Newtown, Rambo and Spy
Greening and Swaar and Spitzenburg lie
With memories tense of sun and the dew. Continue Reading →

April 12, 2017
by Mary M. Woodsen
Comments Off on Earth Day. It’s Every Day. Especially for Farmers.

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.

May 12, 2016
by Mary M. Woodsen
1 Comment

April Was the Cruelest Month: Hard Freeze in Fruit Orchards

Imagine a winter rather like this past one. A winter where February behaved like March (mostly) and March impersonated April. A delight to be sure. But not for the fruit grower with an eye on the weather. Not in New York; not anywhere in the Northeast or parts of the upper Midwest, for that matter. If growers made it through that sudden plunge on Valentines Day (which wiped out the peach crop in the upper Hudson Valley and several other northeastern states), it was time to start worrying all over again. Because along came April — an ordinary April. An April with nighttime temps that dropped like a stone in a well.

"Old temp" means the lowest temperature blossoms can endure, undamaged, for 30 minutes.

“Old temp” is the lowest temperature blossoms can endure, undamaged, for 30 minutes.

Whether they grow apples or pears, cherries or blueberries, growers might (even now) have reason to worry. They’ll likely get a decent crop this year if their orchards are sited on slopes with good air drainage, just-right soils that help slow bud-break, and the moderating influence of nearby lakes or oceanfront. And then there’s the simple fact that, for apples and pears (peaches too) at least, one viable blossom per cluster is about all a tree needs for a good crop. The trees might lose 90 percent of their blossoms, but growers don’t have to go back and thin them when the trees set fruit — Mother Nature just did it for them. (This rule of thumb doesn’t work for cherry or blueberry growers, though what mix of varieties they grow can make a big difference at harvest time.)

Growers in the most vulnerable locations did any or all of these four things:

  • Checked their Extension specialists’s email posts for advice.
  • Stocked up on fuel for smudge pot or burn piles.
  • Prayed for a temperature inversion.
  • Put up wind towers or called their helicopter pilot.

The Extension specialist (in this case Peter Jentsch, senior Extension associate at Cornell’s Hudson Valley Research Lab) probably said that smudge pots or small, strategically placed fires — 40 to 60 per acre — could help, raising ground temperature just enough to squeak by. “Strategically” means on the upwind side of the block. “Squeak by” means raising ground temps by about 3°. If 3° won’t do it, he would’ve said, don’t bother. And minus a temperature inversion — a canopy of slightly warmish air blanketing the cold air below it — don’t set up the wind machine or call the helicopter pilot. All it would do is blow more frigid air around, drying out buds and growing tips.

Smudge pots, strategically placed, can help raise temperatures just enough to make a difference.

Smudge pots, strategically placed, raise temperatures just enough to make a difference.

If there’s an inversion, those heaters and small fires might also have helped. Note that Jentsch didn’t say “bonfire.” Too hot a blaze could punch through to the inversion layer, depleting it. And growers who work on a big-enough scale might have turned on their wind machines or called an experienced pilot, because when it’s not too windy it could be worth a trip to the skies. The premise: a helicopter hovering overhead pulls down that warmish air. The ‘copter’s thermometer tells where and how the temperature shifts as it gains altitude. Depending on how much it shifts and how thick the canopy is, the decision is — is it worth paying big bucks to mix up?

April is past; May has begun. Jentsch is in touch with growers and other Extension specialists all through the Hudson Valley and beyond. “It’s not all the doom and gloom,” he says. “Growers with the best sites and mix of crops seem to be doing all right.” Still, it’s sobering to think about the effect two days at the wrong time can have, Jentsch says. “For the growers who got hammered, it can throw a their livelihood into a tailspin for many months to come.”

So there you have it — an April rather like this one. Normal in every way but one — that it followed so mild a winter.

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