Developing Alternative Practices for Pest Management in Cabbage

It’s always good to have choices. That thought is on the mind of New York cabbage growers as their primary tool for battling cabbage maggots, the insecticide, Chlorpyrifos, is moving through its registration renewal process at the EPA. In 2017 Faruque Zaman began trialing alternative practices for both conventional and organic growers to ensure safe and efficacious choices are available for growers of this valuable crop.

The article was developed for the 2018 NYFVI annual report.

New York farmers grow nearly 9,000 acres of cabbage worth approximately $48.6 million. These “cabbage patches” are found in Western NY as well as Long Island. Nationally, the State is third in cabbage production.

The challenge? Delia radicum, better known as cabbage maggots. These pests feast on the roots of the plant, preventing it from reaching maturation. Since the mid 1960’s the industry has relied primarily on a single insecticide to fight this pest and help this nutritious vegetable reach consumer’s plates. Faruque Zaman, an entomologist with Suffolk County Cooperative Extension is passionate about identifying alternative treatments for New York growers.

In the 2017 growing season Zaman trialed a wide range of options: Four conventional insecticides were explored. Different application methods were also considered, with some insecticides applied directing spray to the soil and lower stems at the base of plants in the field or drenching the transplant’s rootball in the greenhouse prior to planting in the main field.

“Faruque’s work is critical to the success of my farm. I believe that the process the Farm Viability uses to collect grower input on the proposals truly leads to the most valuable work being funded.”

Rob Nolan, Deer Run Farm
Long Island, New York

For organic producers, Zaman tested several approaches: a biological approach using entomopathogenic nematodes; a biological control pesticide certified for use in organic systems; and an exclusion netting technique. 

In 2018, two additional variables were added to the trials to further explore promising candidates.

Findings after two years of trials indicate that at least two of the control techniques may prove efficacious.  Work still remains for the team to collaborate with the manufacturer to register the products for use on Long Island as well as across the State. 

Based on the first year results, Zaman was able to receive funding from both Northeast SARE as well as the IR4 program to continue this important work.

Key to the long term adoption of the techniques will be to develop a better understanding of the cost effectiveness of each approach.

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