Sustainable pest management in high tunnel winter greens production

2012 Annual Report for LNE10-302

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2010: $79,668.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2013
Region: Northeast
State: New York
Project Leader:
Judson Reid
Cornell Vegetable Program

Sustainable pest management in high tunnel winter greens production



The project continued in 2012 to conduct educational outreach as well as on-farm research. Formal educational meetings as well as on-farm trials reached more than 200 people. Demonstration trials at 2 cooperating farms significantly reduced pest infestations and protected harvestable yield. Economic impact of these benefits continues to be collected. The loss of a project technician to an extended family leave diminished our on-farm presence in the winter of 2011/12. Winter of 2012/13 looks more promising with nearly twice as many cooperators, supported by a second project technician.

The pest challenges growers face in winter greens production continues to expand, which is also informing the project that a holistic approach to the system should be our educational focus. Cabbage worms were not foreseen as a common problem, but have indeed increased in winter greens production (see attached article). Diseases such as Powdery Mildew, Downy Mildew and Cercopsora Leaf Spot have been exacerbated by high density plantings.


Results from cooperating farms in winter of 2011/12

Our Milestones for this calendar year are noted below with updates on progress.

• Continue on-site grower trials.

Over the winter of 2011/12 our team continued 5 on-site grower trials and in the fall and early winter of 2012 we began with 18 cooperating farms with grower trials, narrowed down to 9 sites in December, based on crop health.

• On-farm meetings at 2 collaborating farms demonstrate methods to 60 growers.

Winter meetings were held at Canticle Farm in Cattauraugus County on March 5 with 12 people attending, Quest Farm in Allegany County on April 3, 2012 with 20 people attending, and the Cornell Willsboro Research Farm on March 27 with 12 people in attendance.

• Regional winter meetings present findings to 100 growers.

Presentations on the project were made at the NOFA-NY annual winter meeting January 21, Empire State Fruit and Vegetable Expo January 26, a Season Extension workshop held in conjunction with Alfred State College March 5 and a Northern New York Winter Greens workshop in Willsboro on March 27. Total attendance at these three meetings was approximately 200.

• Statewide winter meeting reaches 40 growers.

Both the NOFA-NY annual winter meeting and Empire State Fruit and Vegetable Expo mentioned above could be considered state wide meetings. Attendance at these two meetings is estimated at 175.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

Although not all 2012 data has been processed for reporting, as the growing season extends beyond the December reporting deadline, we did collect some excellent in-sites from 2011/12 as well as growers who ended their 2012 winter season early.

On farm scouting began at a Livingston County Farm in the end of September. A fall/winter crop of carrots, spinach, Swiss chard, and collard greens had already been planted, following a summer crop of cucumbers, beets, Swiss chard and onions. Amongst other pests, there was a high population of cabbage worms in the collard greens. Plots were set up two weeks later and an application of an OMRI approved naturally based pesticide, Dipel, was made in and outside of the tunnel. After nine days the number of live worms had dropped by 80 percent, and after 19 days the worms were 100 percent controlled. Sprays continued into the winter, when the weather was warm enough to apply materials.

Scouting of the summer crop of tomatoes began in late September at a Cattauragus County farm. There were high levels of aphids and spider mites as well as late blight. An Aphid parasite mix, Aphiline Ace Mix, from Syngenta Bioline, was released on October 7 and again on October 18. This product contains the mummies of three different parasites: Aphelinus abdominalis, Aphidius colemani and Aphidius ervi, which will attack several different species of aphids. In the first week of October the tomatoes were removed and greens were planted. The tunnel was planted in beds containing pac choi, kale, beets, spinach and Swiss chard. Throughout the fall and early winter the tunnel was treated with Dipel for cabbage worms and cut worms. Aphids were first found in late January with an average of 2.6 aphids per leaf. Plots were set up in the spinach and Swiss chard. Treatments of Moltx and Mycotrol, two organic insecticides provided by one of our industry partners, began on January 31 and continued until the end of February, when pests were under control. The materials worked well with keep the aphids at manageable levels (see chart). Cold weather made spraying difficult, as applications should be made when temperatures are above freezing, giving the leaves adequate drying time.

When things wrapped up at an Allegany County farm the project technician took some time to discuss how the trial went with the farmer.

Here is his response:

“One of the lessons I learned from participating in this project is that I don’t have to endure significant crop loss to pests – that the controls permissible under organic regulations really do work – I witnessed a growing aphid problem in winter greens be effectively managed – with no loss of marketable greens.
My past experience, and my innate inclination is to endure insect pests and, sometimes very grudgingly, accept the loss of marketable crops.”

More detailed information is available in the attached farm summary document. This information reflects the weekly activity of the program on 5 cooperating farms in the winter of 2011/12. Currently we are active on 9 new farms; collecting data and supporting pest management decisions of the farmers.


Elizabeth Buck

Extension Aide
Cornell Vegetable Program
420 Main St
Batavia, NY 14020
Office Phone: 6074253494
Kathryn Klotzbach

[email protected]
12690 Route 31
Albion, NY 14411
Office Phone: 5857984265
Dr. Brian Nault

[email protected]
Associate Professor
Cornell U. Dept of Entomology
Baron Laboratory-NYSAES
610 W. North St
Geneva, NY 14456
Office Phone: 3157872354