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Personal touch plus professionalism earn "Excellence in IPM" award for grape specialist

By Mary Woodsen

Editor's note: This press release originally appeared here.

Tim Weigle, Lake Erie Regional Grape Program. Photo by Juliet Carroll.

As a kid, Tim Weigle often tagged along with his dad, a plant breeder at Iowa State University. It gave him a taste for agriculture and research. Once in college, Weigle’s focus was plant pathology. But then he took an entomology class with an introduction to integrated pest management. — and everything changed.

“I was fascinated by the interaction of plant systems and pest complexes,” Weigle said. So he added pest management to his Bachelor’s, then topped it off with a Master’s in horticulture, both at Iowa State University. “It gave me the solid foundation in crop production I needed to practice IPM,” he said.

Now, for his nearly 30 years of innovative, farmer-focused IPM research and outreach in the Lake Erie Regional Grape Program (LERGP), Tim Weigle has earned an Excellence in IPM award from the New York State Integrated Pest Management Program (NYS IPM).

Tim Weigle
Tim Weigle inspects hops with Jennifer Grant.  Photo by Juliet Carroll. 

On the research end, we could cite how Weigle helped build a dense concentration of grower-owned weather stations linked together online through NEWA — the Network for Environment and Weather Applications — to better predict when it’s time to scout for destructive grape berry moths and a hit list of other pests. Or for working with a colleague at LERGP to use tractor-mounted sensors, each containing a chip that provides the necessary data for creating color-coded maps. These maps pinpoint (for example) where destructive grape rootworms are probably at work underground.

“This means you can concentrate scouting in just those spots,” Weigle said. “If you need to spray, you hit only places where rootworms actually turned up.”  

Then there’s Weigle’s longstanding co-authorship and editing of the Organic Production and IPM Guide for Grapes — not to mention his leadership in IPM research and outreach for the hopyards that help fuel New York’s microbreweries. These hopyards mark a return to tradition in a state that a century ago led the world in hops production.

Tim Weigle
Tim Wiegle (second from left) leads a coffee pot meeting with local growers. Photo by Jennifer Grant.

But it’s his way with people that really sets Tim Weigle apart. Sure, the internet has a lot to offer. But nobody wants a faceless extension program. To increase collaboration and firsthand interaction, Weigle created informal weekly “coffee pot meetings,” held at vineyards all along Lake Erie’s grape belt. Indeed, they’re what “face time” is all about. They don’t even have an agenda. Instead, they’re driven by what area grape growers are curious or worried about that week.

“Some of those early coffee pot meetings were at our vineyard, back when our son was just a little kid,” said Dawn Betts of Betts Farms LLC. “I remember one time we’d all gone out to one of the blocks, and Tim was talking about grape berry moths. Well, our son went down the row and picked some of the stung berries where the moths had laid their eggs. And Tim said ‘if this young man can do it, you can too.’”

The Betts family frequently attends these meetings. “We learn from each other,” Betts said. “If one of us has an issue, chances are the others will soon.”

“Tim always puts people first,” says Jennifer Grant, director of NYS IPM. “Sure, he does a fabulous job of blending modern technology with the fundamentals of biology. But it’s his personal touch that really sets Tim apart. We’re proud to have him on our NYS IPM team.”

Weigle received his award at the Lake Erie Regional Grape Program’s Summer Conference on August 11, 2017. For additional information visit the NYS IPM website or contact Juliet Carroll at (315) 787-2430 or jec3@cornell.edu.

Mary Woodsen is a Staff Writer for NYS IPM.

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