2015 Project Profiles

Berries, Dairies, Bees, Trees, Pests, Tests, Emerging Threats, and NY Grown Chinese Medicinal Herbs, Funded Projects to Help NY Farmers of All Sorts and Sizes Improve Their Bottom Line.

In research, it’s often all about asking and answering the right questions: Do pesticides harm bees? Can precision agriculture provide value for NY farmers? Do nematodes eat the larvae of strawberry root weevil? Will an ionized calcium meter designed for environmental water testing accurately, inexpensively and quickly identify cows with calcium deficiency?

2015’s 21 NYFVI grant recipients seek to answer questions such as these to build and share practical knowledge that directly improves the economic viability of New York’s farmers.

Managing an Emerging Threat: Ambrosia Beetle Black Stem Borer Control in Apple Nurseries.
The black stem borer is an ambrosia beetle that is creating havoc in NY’s young, high-density apple orchards and nurseries. First discovered in WNY in 2013, it has now been confirmed on 25 farms. NYFVI has awarded Deborah Breth of the Cornell Cooperative Extension Lake Ontario Fruit Program $74,425 to teach growers how to recognize signs of the beetle, as well as establish control plots to test several approaches including insecticides, fungicides, and a “trap-tree strategy”. Results will be shared widely throughout the study to ensure growers can respond quickly to manage this emerging threat to one of NY’s most valuable crops.

Sustainable Management of Root Weevil Populations for
Improved Profitability on Eastern NY Berry Farms.

Strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries are high-value crops, with the cost of establishment ranging from $3,700 to $8,500 per acre. Root feeding insects are a significant challenge for growers and a barrier to increased production. The good news? There are other native organisms that will eat the larvae of these weevils. Building on his prior biocontrol work with the alfalfa snout beetle, Dr. Elson Shields of Cornell University has been awarded $49,236 to demonstrate how biocontrol nematodes can control root weevils in berry fields. Best of all, the use of beneficial nematodes is cost effective and can meet organic standards. The project, which includes significant educational outreach, will be conducted in partnership with the NYS Berry Growers Association and the Cornell Berry Team.

Cornell Onion Thrips Management Program (COTMP)
Saves Money and Reduces Insecticide Resistance

Thrips damage onions by feeding on leaves, which results in smaller, less-valuable bulbs. Ten years ago NY onion growers routinely lost 30-50% of their crop’s value to this pest. Since then, new insecticides have minimized loss. Unfortunately, the new products are being used almost weekly, are expensive, and thrips can build up resistance. The solution? Brian Nault has developed a management approach that integrates active monitoring, higher action thresholds, and rotating insecticides to control the pest. COTMP proved so successful in its 2014 pilot that NYFVI has awarded the Cornell program $39,326 to bring the work to 20% of the state’s onion growers to further demonstrate its effectiveness. The hope is that, by 2017, the majority of onion growers will be using these control measures, saving themselves >$204 per acre in the short term, and reducing the likelihood of thrips developing resistance to the insecticides for the long term.

Dairy Discussion Groups Support Learning.
Peer to peer learning is an excellent method of sharing ideas and strategies to improve individual farm operation. Dairy discussion groups have helped farms improve management practices, implement new technologies, and monitor production and economic parameters. Kathy Barrett of Cornell University has been awarded $16,520 to continue her work to establish new discussion groups. Barrett will also use the funds to pilot discussion groups for field crop growers.

Using Precision Feed Management to Improve Profitability on Dairy Farms.
A deep understanding of farm expenses and revenue is crucial for most successful dairy farms. Even better is understanding how these numbers compare to similar dairy farms. NYFVI has awarded Kevin Ganoe with the Cornell Cooperative Extension’s CNY Dairy and Field Crops Team $100,000 to bring together 24 producers in discussion groups to learn from each other. At each meeting, the group will review each farm’s performance as measured by the Precision Feed Management Tool, a spreadsheet-based tool that demonstrates the relationship between dairy nutrition and profitability. These “apples to apples” discussions will allow farmers to evaluate fully the pros and cons of new practices, and improve their operations based on lessons learned from the tool and other farmers.

Improving Reproductive Management for Dairy Heifers
to Manage Costs

In almost every business, time is money. Dr. Julio Giordano of Cornell University will use $75,000 of NYFVI funds to demonstrate that adage on dairy farms. His work will identify the best reproductive practices for reducing the age at first calving among dairy heifers. The goal is to establish a management protocol that will move heifers more quickly from the expensive heifer pen to becoming a productive herd member. Estimates show that a one-month decrease in age at first calving could generate a cost savings of at least $100 per head.

Improving Milk Quality by Understanding
Environmental Pathogens in Different Bedding Types

Mastitis caused by environmental organisms, particularly those in bedding, is a constant struggle for all dairy farms, and a frequent topic of conversation among farmers discussing milk quality. They want to understand which type of bedding is best for reducing environmental pathogens. Dr. Paula Opsina of the Quality Milk Production Services, Cornell University has been awarded $100,000 to develop a sampling methodology and then use it to understand the distribution of bedding types, environmental pathogen loads, bedding management practices and their impact on milk quality.

Low Tunnel Strawberries: A Cost-Effective Approach
to Extending the Growing Season for NY Berries.

New Yorkers want locally grown food choices. Unfortunately, NY’s strawberry growers can’t meet market demand when the local climate only provides a 4-week harvest window. Dr. Marvin Pritts of Cornell’s School of Integrative Plant Science knows that new varietals of day neutral strawberries can provide large flavorful fruit for 18 weeks each season, and has recently completed work that demonstrates that planting these varietals in low tunnels can be a cost-effective solution to a short natural growing season. The challenge? Understanding the best planting date in NY’s different regions to maximize production potential. NYFVI is providing Dr. Pritts $129,800 to work with local growers to establish the best planting dates. The hope is that, by the summer of 2017, NY growers will be profiting from this practice, and offering New Yorkers tasty, locally-grown strawberries all summer long.

Increasing the Efficacy and Economic Viability of Trap and Kill Systems for Invasive Pests
Integrated Pest Management stresses that agricultural pests should be controlled using multiple techniques, reducing pest numbers while minimizing ecological damage and pesticide resistance. Trap and kill systems, familiar to the public in the form of the ubiquitous Japanese beetle traps, can be an effective and natural means of controlling invasive pests such as the spotted wing drosophila (SWD) and brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB). Peter Jentsch of Cornell University’s Hudson Valley Research Lab will use $99,614 in NYFVI funds to advance sophisticated trap and kill systems that utilize pheromones, superabsorbent polymers, and gels to effectively reduce SWD and BMSB populations in orchards. Results, which will include new threshold recommendations for BMSB and internet-based emergence maps, will be communicated to the wider agricultural community via the internet and in-person presentations.

Assessing the Impact of Pesticides on Honey Bee Health.
Across New York State, 30% of commercial honey bee colonies are estimated to have been lost in 2013. Anecdotal reports from beekeepers and emerging empirical evidence suggest that exposure to agricultural pesticides may be a factor. NYFVI has awarded Dr. Scott McArt of Cornell University $120,000 to address comprehensively whether exposure to pesticides is impacting honey bee health. Thirty NY beekeepers will participate in the research and 120 colonies will be studied over two seasons. Full results will be shared in the spring of 2017.

Equipping Apple Growers to Quantify the Role of Native Bees in Pollination
Challenges in the commercial honeybee industry have caused apple growers to think more about pollination in their orchards. They see wild bees in their blossoms, but don’t have a way to measure and track `their numbers. For growers to know whether wild bees can provide an effective alternative to honeybees, they need a way to easily collect and quantify their numbers to establish baseline data. Dr. Bryan Danforth of Cornell University will use $100,000 of NYFVI funds to develop simple web and smart phone tools to allow growers to collect data to make informed decisions about the long-term management of their pollinator needs.