Farm Ecosystem - Management Factors Contributing to Pest Suppression on Organic - Conventional Farms-phase II

2002 Annual Report for LNE01-154

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2001: $110,517.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2003
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $14,751.00
Region: Northeast
State: New York
Project Leader:
Abby Seaman
NYS IPM Program - Cornell

Farm Ecosystem - Management Factors Contributing to Pest Suppression on Organic - Conventional Farms-phase II


Organic farmers report a reduction in pest pressure after a number of years of organic production. Our goal in this project is to identify and quantify relationships between farm management practices, soil quality, and pest populations on mixed vegetable farms. We are sampling extensively in potatoes and winter squash on four organic and four conventional farms throughout New York to characterize crop management practices, pest and beneficial complexes, a variety of soil characteristics, weed species and density, and field border flora and fauna. We also conducted educational programs for organic vegetable growers, and trialed pest management materials approved for organic production. This project is a continuation of project number LNE99-116.

Objectives/Performance Targets

  1. Explore the relationships between farm management practices, soil quality, farm landscape, and pest populations in two vegetable crops on organic and conventional farms. Estimate costs of production for the two crops on each cooperating farm.

    Develop and present educational programs for organic vegetable growers.

    Research and demonstrate new or unfamiliar pest management techniques and products allowable on certified organic farms.


  1. We have completed our third and final year of extensive sampling in potatoes and winter squash on four certified organic and four conventional mixed vegetable farms, and are just finishing counting the archived sticky trap, pitfall trap, and sweep net samples. The data are being summarized to begin the statistical exploration of the data for the entire three-year period. We sampled for insect and disease pests, beneficials, weed populations, a number of soil quality factors, field edge flora, and surrounding vegetation.

    A second three-day series of educational programs on organic vegetable production was presented in January of 2001. The first day focused on soil and nutrient management, the second on weed management, and the third on insect and disease management.

    An article on the results of the efficacy trials for OMRI-approved products conducted in 2001 was printed in the NOFA-NY newsletter, posted on the Northeast Organic Network (NEON) web site, and linked to the on-line version of the Cornell Pest Management Guidelines for vegetables. The trial looking at the efficacy of OMRI-approved products for control of tomato foliar diseases was repeated for the second season with additional treatments on a certified organic farm in western NY.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

  1. Preliminary analysis of the data shows that, on average, yields of these two crops are consistently lower on the organic farms, and to a greater degree for potatoes than squash. We will explore whether pest or nutrient (or other) factors are most closely related to yield. While some pests, such as aphids and Colorado potato beetle may be suppressed to an acceptable level by the factors at work on organic farms, others such as striped cucumber beetle and potato leafhopper are present at unacceptably high levels on organic farms. These may be considered “recalcitrant” pests in organic systems in need of additional research to develop effective management strategies.

    Evaluations indicated that the mix of university and grower speakers at the second organic vegetable production series was very well received by the audience. An average of 75-80 people attended each session. A proceedings from the meeting will be printed and distributed by NRAES in 2003.

    We found OMRI-approved materials with some effectiveness against crucifer flea beetles, onion thrips on onion, cabbage aphids, and early blight on tomatoes. We did not find effective materials for potato leafhopper on potato. For the second season of the tomato disease management trial drench treatments of microbial products at significantly reduced disease levels compared with the untreated control. This is a recently discovered mode of action for these organisms. Disease pressure was low during both seasons that we conducted the trial because of the dry weather, so we don’t know how these treatments will perform under more disease favorable conditions. We are seeking funding for a third year of the trial and will summarize the trials in a newsletter article at the end of the third season.


Brian Caldwell

Education Director
Northeast Organic Farming Association of NY
George Abawi

Department of Plant Pathology, NYSAES
Michael Hoffmann

NYS IPM Program, Cornell Cooperative Extension
John Barnard

Senior Research Associate
Computer Center, NYSAES
Anusuya Rangarajan

Assistant Professor
Department of Horticulture, Cornell University
Jeromy Biazzo

Research Support Specialist
NYS IPM Program, Cornell Cooperative Extension