New York State IPM Program to Close in March

COMMENTARY

By Tim Martinson

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NEWA Weather
Grower-owned weather stations in vineyards, linked through the NYS IPM program's Network for Environment and Weather Applications (NEWA), have provided growers with site-specific weather information and disease & insect models for managing pests.

After 30 years of existence, the New York State Integrated Pest Management (NYS IPM) program is slated to close at the end of March. This program, funded through the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, is a casualty of New York State's budget deficit and the estimated $9 billion budget gap that needs to be addressed by the legislature and governor.

The concept of Integrated Pest Management came out of a book of the same name by University of California scientists Robert Van Den Bosch and Vern Stern, published in 1967. The book documented the failure in California of strictly pesticide-based pest management by the early 1960s and suggested an emphasis on using multiple disease and insect management tactics, scouting, and "decision rules" as an alternative.

Since creation of the NYS IPM Program, these IPM concepts have moved from novel alternatives to the mainstream standard in New York agriculture. The development and use of these ideas was well underway when the NYS IPM Program was established, but the program provided an infrastructure and focal point for publicizing the systems-based concepts to growers.

IPM became an integral part of our overall research and extension team at Cornell–a team that has provided useful tools for growers to use in managing pests. Grape berry moth risk assessment, growing degree-days to track pest and vine development, disease forecasting models, and weekly updates from your regional extension program: these are all tools that came out of research and extension programs at Cornell and elsewhere. For many grape growers they are an everyday part of managing their grapes. Grape growers throughout New York benefit from and depend upon a terrific range of services facilitated by the program.

  • The New York and Pennsylvania Grape Pest Management Guidelines. IPM specialist Tim Weigle, with colleague Andy Muza from Pennsylvania Cooperative Extension, has edited and coordinated this publication, with input from subject area experts, for the past 18 years. During this time, it has grown from a 24 page spray guide to a more comprehensive reference, with sections on spray technology, worker protection, developing an overall strategy, and many others. The print edition now has an accompanying internet edition. This may be the most widely used and cited reference on the nuts-and-bolts of insect, disease, and weed management for vineyards in eastern North America. Grape pest management guides from other states (Midwestern, Michigan) utilize information derived from it.
  • NEWA weather network.This statewide network takes weather data from grower-owned and sited weather stations and summarizes it in useful form for growers. Curious about degree-days, winter low temperatures, rainfall, and leaf wetness? This is where you find data from over 100 weather stations statewide and 15 in the Finger Lakes alone. This is available because grower-owned weather stations in commercial vineyards are linked to the NEWA server and information gets uploaded to a common format every day. In my opinion, the network makes each weather station more valuable to the grower who owns it–part of the value added being the pest management models (e.g., disease forecasting and grape berry moth timing), but a more important part being understanding how weather data from one location relates to others. "It was minus five degrees at my place. Wonder how cold it got over on Cayuga Lake?" The network adds value and NYS IPM has been the principal force behind its development and maintenance.
  • Trac-Grape record keeping software.This Excel-based template, developed by Fruit IPM coordinator Juliet Carroll, simplifies record keeping for hundreds of growers and puts it into the numerous (and often incompatible) formats needed for reports to different processors and wineries. Pesticide use reporting is a requirement for all growers, and this product reduces the time and effort they must devote to paperwork documenting pesticide use. Widely employed now, it is a product that will need regular updating in order to remain useful as product registrations and reporting requirements change.
  • Production Guide for Organic Grapes. This guide, produced last year, gathers together information available on organic vineyard management topics, including pest management, into one place that is readily accessible to those interested in organic production. The IPM program took the lead, with funding from the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, in developing this resource and several others for different commodities.
  • Grape Pest Fact Sheets. Fact sheets for 18 grape insect and disease pests, written by faculty and staff as early as 1984 and as recently as 2007, provide color photos and detailed information on the life cycles, identification, and control of these pests.

Obviously (to me at least) these "products" are only part of the story. Tim Weigle is also the team leader for the Lake Erie Grape Program and Julie Carroll (fruit coordinator and plant pathologist) works on many other research and outreach projects, notably leading the recent redesign of the Cornell Fruit Pages, which provides information covering a wide array of topics on the web. Both participate in and organize numerous educational presentations and publications for the grape industry.

Shrinking resources are a sign of the times, as many states struggle with their budgets. There are likely to be other cutbacks and diminishing resources to support services and outreach activities. While it's likely that at least some of the items listed above will continue in some form, the time and effort that extension educators put into them will necessarily be drawn away from other projects. Thus, it's clear that the loss of IPM staff support is going to have a huge impact on our overall pest management programs.

It will be important for those of you from industry to get together and consider how these products add value to your vineyard and winery operations. If you consider the information provided through these services to be important to your business, how can they be supported in the future? Are there alternatives out there, whether they be user fees, subscriptions, or non-profit associations supported by memberships, that will support these activities? Will letting your legislators know about these things change their decisions affecting these programs?

I'm not advocating for any of these particular approaches, but I do know that there will be many changes associated with the budget crisis that will have an impact on what we at Cornell will be able to provide in the future. Those of you in industry will be key players in deciding what you want, what information you need, how it should be packaged, and how to support it. Please speak up, provide input, consider what you value and depend upon, and let us and others know about it.

Tim Martinson is senior extension associate in the department of horticulture at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station.