Enemy Sighted!

Nathan Watson ’17, environment sustainability sciences major, CCE Integrated Pest Management (IPM) with the Lake Erie Regional Grape Program

Blog entry: June 12, 2015

Nathan Watson
Nathan Watson ’17

This week involved scouting for grape rootworm and two spotted spider mites, as well as doing some general maintenance work in the hopyard. But big news: We found rootworm! After what felt like hours of shaking grape vines, we finally expelled three of these tiny fiends from their roosts and watched them fall through the air like a trapeze artists. To put it simply: busted! So this is great news, because it means we can move forward in our research. Now that these devil-bores have been sighted, we can start our process of having vineyards stagger their insecticide application to determine the optimal spray time.

But you may be thinking, “This is IPM, shouldn’t it involve fewer pesticides and more natural stuff?” Worry not. The second leg of our rootworm research is what is known as the potted study. In this study, we will plant some grape vines in pots, establish a nematode population in the soil, and finally introduce some of those miniature malefactors to the system, to determine if the nematodes’have a taste for them. If all goes well, grape farmers can use nematodes, these diamonds in the rough, to knock off just one more pesticide from their extensive list, making the world just a little bit brighter. 

There was also hopyard maintenance to do. Hops, which are planted, trimmed, trained (twisted around ropes), and given lots of love throughout the growing season, and they return it in a better form. They should be around 20 feet tall by the end of the summer! This is your basic grunt work, but it’s satisfying to see the whole thing come together throughout the summer.

This week, in my search for the tiny scalawags known as Two Spotted Spider Mites, I happed upon a great surprise: Neoseiulus fallacis! These noble mites are natural predators of the two-spots and were introduced to the hopyard last year. This is good news, my friends. The fact that predatory mites can over-winter (even a heck of a winter like this one) and show up at the same time or even before the two-spot is a great indication of success for this IPM strategy.

The Cornell Cooperative Extension Summer Internship Program has helped Cornell fulfill its land-grant mission by engaging students in outreach since 2007. Faculty and staff from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the College of Human Ecology along with extension educators from local Cornell Cooperative Extension offices involve students in the college’s work to benefit New York state communities. From research to education and program development, interns are involved in a wide spectrum of activities which they document by blogging.