2020 FVI Project Profiles

The 2020 FVI program was highly competitive. 56 proposals were received and resources allowed for 12 projects to be funded. The board was particularly pleased to see that three proposals, benefiting multiple commodities, were well received by the farmer review panels. Exciting work to evaluate a nonchemical approach to weed management, biological control of corn and cabbage maggots, and a DIY laser light scarecrow to keep birds out of valuable crops will help fruit, vegetable, and field crop farmers.

Update: These projects have been paused due to challenges created by the pandemic. We are hopeful that we will be able to resume work in 2021.

Field crops and Vegetables

Managing Herbicide-Resistant and Other Difficult-to-Control Weeds in Field and Vegetable Crops Using Electrical Discharge Systems. Farmers fight weeds for good reason. They compete with crops for resources, may harbor pests and pathogens and reduce harvest efficiency. Herbicide resistance is becoming increasingly common and creating an urgent need for new management tools to control unwanted vegetation. This project will evaluate the efficacy and economics of a commercially available weeder that uses an electrical discharge system (EDS) as its control mechanism. Crop health and soil microbial matter will be evaluated to understand any unintended consequences. Led by Lynn Sosnoskie at Cornell University, research will take place on commercial vegetable and field crop farms and at the research station. Producers will be directly involved in the development, implementation and evaluation of the technology.

Biological Control of Seed Corn Maggot and Cabbage Maggot with Persistent Biocontrol Nematodes. Since the late 1990s, the use of neonic seed coatings has allowed growers to evolve their management practices and adopt cover crops without the risk of seed corn maggot (SCM). In this project, Entomologist Elson Shields with Cornell University will learn if persistent biocontrol nematodes can manage seed corn and cabbage maggot as an alternative approach to treated seed. Nematodes can be used in conventional and organic systems and have proven to be an effective solution for the alfalfa snout beetle, corn rootworm and black-vine root weevil in strawberries. They are also being researched to fight the Colorado potato beetle, onion maggots, and aphids in greenhouses.

Fruit and Vegetables

Laser Technology Aided Agricultural Wildlife Damage Management. Scarecrows are an iconic symbol of agriculture; however, the historical model isn’t very good at preventing wildlife damage in crops. Cornell Cooperative Extension specialist Ali Mirzakhani Nafchi and his colleagues have designed a modern day scarecrow, using easily available materials and laser lights for use in vegetable fields and fruit orchards. This project will support Nafchi in his efforts to evaluate and refine the new laser light scarecrow on 8 farms and conduct extensive outreach about its effectiveness among the farming community. Best of all, just like the old type of scarecrow, this one can be built by farmers. It is estimated that one laser scarecrow will deter wildlife on a full acre at a cost of about $500-$700. Commercially available laser products cost around $10,000.


Evaluating New Fungicide Options for Control of Colletotrichum Fungi Causing Apple Fruit Bitter Rot in New York. Increasingly hot weather and intense summer rains are contributing to a rising incidence of apple fruit bitter rot in NY orchards. This disease is caused by fungi, Colletotrichum fioriniae, C. chrysophilum anda recently identifiednew species C.novaboracense. Since different Colletotrichum species can differ in fungicide sensitivity, virulence, life cycle and temperature requirements for infection and survival, better understanding of which species cause apple bitter rot in NY will allow growers to preserve classic fungicide options and utilize new control options. The project, led by  Srdan Acimovic at Cornell’s Hudson Valley Research Lab, will evaluate efficacy and economic benefit of new fungicides, as well as the current management practices against the various Colletotrichum species. If successful, the project will increase the number of options that growers can use to prevent resistance of Colletotrichum species to the currently overused Group 11 fungicides.  

Understanding Apple Fruit Growth Dynamics and Water Stress to Manage Irrigation to Maximize Fruit Size and Crop Value. Apple crop value depends on yield and fruit size and fruit quality. Through precision crop load management growers attempt to optimize yield, fruit size and fruit quality. However, even when growers control the number of apples per tree by precision thinning, fruit size can be negatively affected by plant water stress and dramatically reduce crop value. This project, led by Terence Robinson at Cornell University will use sensors (micro-tensiometers) developed at Cornell, as well as sensors from Italy to determine a threshold of stem water potential which maximizes fruit growth rate. The long term plan is to use this knowledge to create automated apple irrigation systems that will optimize fruit size in any given year to maximize crop value. Near term, the work will inform and improve the Cornell irrigation model which currently guides apple irrigation and was developed with support from NYFVI a few years ago.


Determining the Efficacy of Cuticle-Enhancing Products to Reduce Cluster Rots and Fruit Fly Damage in NY Vineyards. In Eastern US vineyards, late season rainfall often promotes the development of cluster rots, which can substantially reduce yield and quality. The organisms that cause sour rot, a particular form of cluster rot, infect berries through cracks in the skin and are then spread rapidly by fruit flies. Insecticides are used for fruit fly control, but pesticide resistance to some of these options has recently been found in the Finger Lakes. Two recently developed products, Parka and Hydroshield, are designed to enhance (thicken) the waxy cuticle of berries. This could reduce berry splitting and fruit fly activity, which would in turn minimize sour rot development and yield losses. Cornell Cooperative Extension Specialists Hans Walter-Peterson and Alice Wise are working with growers to trial this new approach. If proven to be effective, these materials could increase grower revenue by hundreds of dollars per acre each year.


Implementation of Automated Pre-milking Stimulation on NYS Dairy Farms. Automation on New York dairy farms has become increasingly common over the last decade. However, not many producers have opted to use the automated pre-milking stimulation (APS) feature that is available with conventional parlor systems and used widely in other countries. Matthias Wieland with the Cornell College of Veterinary Medicine thinks it may be a missed opportunity. His project will demonstrate that the important effects of the physiology of milk letdown are achievable by automation. A controlled trial will be conducted and data on milk production, milk flow parameters, teat tissue condition, and udder health will be collected over the 4-month study period comparing the automated system to manual stimulation. Statistical models will compare the efficiency and effectiveness of both approaches to evaluate if APS is a good choice for NY farmers. Based on the results at the first farm, the team will validate the efficiency of APS with 5 different systems on additional farms. Extensive outreach to other farms with the results will be conducted. It is estimated that about 25% of the States dairy farms could benefit from this work.

MyCow$: a novel tool to improve dairy farm business decision-making through real time estimation of dairy cow profitability. Every day producers are faced with important decisions related to culling or keeping, breeding, grouping, treating, and feeding cows among many others. Unfortunately, despite the many technologies and data available to dairy farms today, producers continue to lack tools that provide an accurate and detailed account of individual cow profitability. Consequently, producers make individual cow decisions based on herd averages or gut instincts. Julio Giordano, with Cornell University wants to change the paradigm. His project will leverage existing precision technologies to calculate in detail and automatically the profitability of individual cows in real time. Long term he hopes to demonstrate the value of improved decision-making based on individual cow profitability and foster development and deployment of the MyCow$ tool to the dairy industry.

Field Crops

Accelerating Adoption of Cover Crops and Advanced Soil Regenerative Practices in New York. The ecological benefits of cover crops are numerous and have been well documented, and conceptually farmers agree that they are a good idea. However, there are production challenges that prevent many farmers from adopting the practice and some are concerned that it won’t pay off. This project, led by Aaron Ristow at American Farmland Trust (AFT), will provide direct technical assistance and economic analysis for 20 farms as they implement new soil generative practices. The resources will also increase the scale of AFT’s Genesee River Demonstration project and support the evaluation of planting varying cover crop seed mixtures and rates that facilitate planting cash crops into living cover crops (planting green) and maximize ecosystem functioning. Efforts will include on-farm demonstrations and robust outreach to provide farmers the information they need to adopt this beneficial practice.


Small, Smart and Scalable: Producer Driven Parasite Control for New York Small Ruminant Producers. In a recent survey, New York state small ruminant producers indicated “internal parasites as the most costly pests affecting both sheep and goat operations.” Work by Jason Detzel with the CCE office in Ulster County has shown that producer driven intervention can work to improve sheep and goat production and profits, to decrease resistance to dewormer drugs, and empower and connect local farmers to other producers. Now Detzel will lead a project to provide eight counties with the methods and materials to host a small ruminant parasite course, the equipment to start up a parasite and fecal count lab in their extension office, and instruction and support to offer the low cost parasite lab to local producers in the coming years. The data generated by each lab will be collated and analyzed to identify the statewide parasite load, geographical hot spots, and identify where further intervention may be helpful.


Phase 2 Squash Dragon: Optimizing UV-treatment for reducing downy mildew, powdery mildew and angular leaf spot disease on cucurbits with leaf agitation. UV-light is a compelling pest management tool to manage fungal and bacterial diseases. It offers growers more flexibility than pesticides as it can be used rain or shine and doesn’t create the need to delay harvest. This project builds on prior NYFVI funded work to optimize the use of UV light in the field against squash powdery mildew, and to assess the efficacy against downy mildew and angular leaf spot disease in the same trials. The economics of the Squash dragon will also be evaluated. The project is led by Mark Rea with Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and utilizes the expertise of farmers, extension professionals and the scientists and engineers at the Lighting Research Center at RPI. Regional workshops will be held, and educational materials produced to allow farmers to build their own systems.

Green Industry

Introduction and trialing of newly developed impatiens plants that are resistant to Impatiens Downy Mildew. Consumers love impatiens. The plant’s ability to grow and flower in full shade or sun, as well as the presence of a wide range of color forms, led to a large following among consumers, greenhouse growers, and garden centers. In 2011, the devastating fungal disease, impatiens downy mildew (IDM) entered the U.S. and the infection created havoc in the marketplace. In a decade, New York sales of the plant plummeted from $10 million to only $1 million. With NYFVI support in 2018, Mark Bridgen with Cornell’s Long Island Horticultural Research and Extension Center has developed a line of seed propagated impatiens hybrids that are resistant to IDM. Further work is still needed to introduce these colorful, disease-resistant lines to the commercial market and bring back this valuable plant.