MOIRA, N.Y. — Can a nature-based pest management protocol that has helped protect alfalfa, corn, berry crops, and some organically grown root crops do the same for an organic potato crop? This month, a potato grower in Franklin County and biocontrol nematode laboratory owner Mary DeBeer of DeBeer Seed and Spraying in Moira, New York, will make a trial application of biocontrol nematodes to reduce the population of wireworms that damage the roots, sprouts, and tubers of potato crops. This trial joins others nationwide applying the biocontrol nematodes protocol developed with the long-term support of the farmer-driven Northern New York Agricultural Development Program.
Cornell University Entomologist Elson Shields, Ph.D., who pioneered the science behind the use of a combination of native biocontrol nematodes to reduce crop pest populations, has advised DeBeer on the strains of nematodes and the rate of application to apply to the potato fields.
“Our biocontrol nematode applications on multiple organic farms in New York and Canada have resulted in reduced wireworm damage to root crops and reduced soil populations of wireworms. With this application in northern New York, we would expect some protection in year one with full activity of the biocontrol nematodes in the potato field in year two,” said Shields.
With the steadfast commitment of the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program (NNYADP), Shields and Cornell University Research Support Specialist Antonio Testa developed the use and rearing of biocontrol nematodes to first manage alfalfa snout beetle. Their subsequent research has shown the biocontrol nematodes to also be effective in managing corn rootworm, berry root pests, and wireworms.
“When we faced huge losses to alfalfa snout beetle, the farmers who direct the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program made a commitment to however long it would take to develop the real-world science needed to find a solution. Today, the success of the research made possible by that steadfast commitment is paying off not only for alfalfa growers and dairy farmers in northern New York, but for the growers of multiple crops in multiple states and Canada,” said NNYADP Co-Chair Jon Greenwood, Madrid, New York.
The NNYADP biocontrol nematode protocol is being applied to various crops in multiple U.S. states, from Texas to Minnesota. The trials have most recently expanded to cornfields in central and northern Midwest states. The research, which has also identified alternative methods of biocontrol nematodes application such as in manure applications and by center pivot irrigation system, has prompted parallel research trials in Ontario, Canada.
As part of her family’s agricultural services business, DeBeer established a biocontrol nematode rearing laboratory in 2016 after attending workshops with Shields and Testa.
“Northern New York’s farmers have been willing to invest in biocontrol nematode applications to protect their field crops. I hope this trial will expand that success to potato crops,” DeBeer said.
The history of the science and success of Shields’ biocontrol nematode research in field crops and berry crops is posted on the NNYADP website at https://www.nnyagdev.org. Funding for the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program is supported by the New York State Legislature and administered by the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets.
–Northern New York Agricultural Development Program
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