DOVER, N.H. — Just over a year since Rockingham County Conservation District was awarded a Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG), U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) partners are well on their way to helping local farmers make the most of their crops through Integrated Pest Management (IPM).
IPM is a multi-pronged, systems approach to suppress pests. Growers implement multiple proactive methods to reduce reliance on pesticides. Economic thresholds can be determined by scouting, trapping, and weather models, and only when those thresholds have been reached do producers turn to pesticide suppression.
After less than a year getting the initiative off the ground, the N.H. Integrated Pest Management Partnership (NH-IPM) has spread its wings and strengthened their efforts with the assistance of Strafford and Cheshire County Conservation Districts and leveraged the capacity of the University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension and the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.
The funding is being utilized to align a network of stakeholders, farmers, experts, service providers, and conservation partners to develop and deploy solutions and educational opportunities for local producers with pest management problems.
This year the team was responsible for not only setting up the NH-IPM partnership, but they also selected 12 producers to install on-farm weather stations. Currently nearly half of those selected have been installed. These stations provide crucial data not only to the NH-IPM, but also the producers to support critical pest management decisions.
“This is the kind of synergy that is the very intent of Conservation Innovation Grants,” said Becky Ross, State Conservationist for NRCS in New Hampshire. “This CIG has provided an opportunity for local producers and our partners to find new solutions that have immediate impact on decision making as it relates to pest management. While it is no surprise that they are going to do great things with this program, they certainly are gaining momentum fast, which is ultimately to the benefit of our customers – local producers,” she said.
As another part of the grant, the NH-IPM is working to alleviate the havoc caused by the spotted wing drosophila (SWD), a newer threat that has recently been destroying berry crops in the northeast. As a reaction to the catastrophic losses that some growers experienced, local producers move to protect their investment. This trend has been to turn to using pesticides on raspberry and blueberry plants, crops that traditionally needed little to none in the northeast climate.
NH-IPM is looking for a solution that protects crops, the farmer’s bottom line, and the pollinators and other beneficial insects within the agroecosystem.
Part of the grant is to demonstrate and provide cost share to protect berries throughout the season using insect exclusion netting. The demonstration is aimed at showing the benefits of this solution to producers who might otherwise not consider it. The cost share aims to help alleviate the burden of procuring the netting.
“I’m thrilled with the progress this project has made in its first year. We are building upon methods that Cornell [University] has demonstrated and bringing it back to our smaller diversified farms in New Hampshire,” explains Alina Harris, NRCS Partner Biologist and Integrated Pest and Pollinator Management Specialist with the Xerces Society. “The first installation of insect exclusion netting has been successful in protecting the blueberry crop, whereas the nearby area without netting has detected economically damaging levels of pests. This on-farm demonstration has allowed us to collect real-world costs of implementation. Already, in speaking with local farmers, we have been inspired to pursue more cost-effective solutions such as netting the roll-up sides of their high tunnels to make pest exclusion more affordable.” she said.
This course of fielding a method, assessing the benefits, weighing the economic viability, and refining the solutions are all part of the process for the program. By developing pest management solutions that make economic sense for producers, farm operators will be more likely to implement these solutions.
While the program is being assisted through several county conservation districts, the program is being offered to producers statewide.
Producers interested in seeing a netted structure in person and discussing with other stakeholders in the industry are encouraged to participate in an event hosted by UNH Cooperative Extension on September 10, 2021 at Bascom Road Blueberry Farm in Newport, New Hampshire from 2-4pm. Details are available at https://extension.unh.edu/events/blueberry-ipm-meeting .
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) grant is administered by the Department’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in the state and is optimistic about the innovative IPM methods this could bring to New Hampshire farmers.
For more information in the progress of this CIG, you can check out the blog from Alina Harris on the Xerces Society site here: https://xerces.org/blog/local-pest-challenges-spur-local-solutions-in-new-hampshire
–USDA NRCS New Hampshire
For more articles out of New England, click here.