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Faculty Focus

Five Questions for Tim Weigle 

Tim Weigle joined the New York State Integrated Pest Management Program (IPM), Cornell Cooperative Extension, and Cornell University at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in October 1989.  A senior extension associate in New York State and Erie County Pennsylvania, he provides leadership in IPM extension programming and applied research and demonstration projects in grape and hops IPM projects.  Tim is housed at the Cornell Lake Erie Research and Extension Center in Portland, New York and is team leader for the Lake Erie Regional Grape Program extension team, a cooperative effort between Cornell and Penn State Universities.

What inspired you to work with IPM? 
An entomology course I took during my undergraduate studies at Iowa State University.  I found the concept of needing to know how all the parts of a production system affect pest management to be a real step forward from the calendar spraying that was going on at that time.   That course was the reason I switched from my undergraduate degree in Plant Pathology and Pest Management to my graduate studies in Horticulture.  I could then learn as much about small and tree fruit production systems and their impact on (or how they were impacted by) various pest management strategies.

What are the major challenges in your field?  
While it is a good thing that we have seen a movement away from the broad spectrum pesticides that were prevalent when I started in 1989, the newer, more specific materials we have today pose new challenges.  This includes developing effective IPM management strategies that are both biologically effective and cost effective, as well as fit into a grower’s production schedule. 

How have the research targets of your field changed since the beginning of your career? 
In the beginning, this field focused on looking at the pests and trying to reduce the number of sprays or pounds of materials that were being applied.  If one looks back at all the research that has been conducted by Cornell research faculty and extension staff, I would say that the goal of reducing sprays has been accomplished.  The reduction of pounds of materials applied has also been accomplished but we can’t take all the credit for that.  The move to move specific materials came with application rates of ounces per acre rather than pounds, so I no longer use that parameter as a measurement of success.  

The Network for Weather and Environment Applications (NEWA) is a good example of how things have changed in the past 26 years.  When I first started, growers wanted a newsletter to be sent out telling them what they needed to spray and on what date.  NEWA provides access to grape disease and insect models that allow growers to input information about their vineyard to determine the risks for diseases and grape berry moth in their area and assist in the timing of management strategies against them.  

Another big change I have seen is the reemergence of grape rootworm as a pest in the Lake Erie region.  Once considered to be the primary insect pest of grapes in the Eastern United States, the introduction of DDT brought it under control to the point that it was considered a secondary pest when I started, and grape berry moth had taken over as the major insect pest.  Research and extension projects on grape berry moth management greatly reduced or eliminated insecticide applications for grape berry moth in the mid 1990’s.  Combined with the regulatory removal of many broad spectrum insecticides being used, this has resulted in a reemergence of grape rootworm in a growing number of vineyards.

What projects are going on in your lab right now?

  • Examining Grape Rootworm biology, management strategies for the adults, and the use of entomopathogenic nematodes for managing larva in the soil.  This project is being conducted in conjunction with Dr. Greg Loeb and Dr. Elson Shields.
  • The use of entomopathogenic nematodes for managing Japanese Beetle in vineyards,  in conjunction with Dr. Greg Loeb and Dr. Elson Shields.
  • Distribution and use of grape insect and disease model information from the Network for Environment and Weather Applications (NEWA) website through a daily email.
  • Biological control of twospotted spider mites in hops with Dr. Greg Loeb and CCE CALS intern Nathan Watson.
  • Weed management in hops.

What is the one thing you hope growers take away from your programming?
Information is power.  Over the years, research-based information and technology developments have created the need for growers to be managers of a wide variety of information to stay competitive with both local and national growers.

Bonus Question: What was the best piece of research advice you have received? 
Collect as much data as you can, especially during the growing season, because you can never go back to get it and you can always throw it away.