Sustainable Pest Management for New York Urban Farmers

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2021: $136,585.00
Projected End Date: 11/30/2024
Grant Recipient: Cornell Vegetable Program
Region: Northeast
State: New York
Project Leader:
Judson Reid
Cornell Vegetable Program


  • Vegetables: beans, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbages, cauliflower, cucurbits, eggplant, garlic, greens (leafy), greens (lettuces), leeks, onions, peppers, tomatoes


  • Pest Management: integrated pest management
  • Sustainable Communities: urban agriculture

    Proposal abstract:

    Problem and Justification: Urban farmers are unique among agriculturalists as they operate on a smaller scale in settings with less biological diversity and have less pest management options. Members of the project team have conducted more than 300 farm visits in Buffalo and NYC to date and observed that growers are challenged by pests that are not typically significant in rural NY settings, like Harlequin Bug, Two Spotted Spider Mite, and Whitefly.  While pests are universally problematic for all agricultural producers, challenges in urban areas are unique and include limited space, lack of scale appropriate IPM inputs, limited research, and historically minimal technical support from Extension and crop service providers.  

    Solution and Approach: Our solution is to recruit 15 farms in Buffalo and NYC to participate in on-farm demonstration trials. These trials will educate growers on sustainable, non-spray options that are economically and environmentally sustainable while contributing to the social mission of the farms. Furthermore, they will simultaneously be used to evaluate the suitability of certain controls (exclusion, biological controls, varietal resistance, intercropping) in an urban setting. Farmers and project team members will identify site-specific pest management needs and sustainable solutions will be implemented and evaluated. Data and experiences will then be shared with other farmers through virtual and in-person events. Evaluation will document adoption and impact of sustainable techniques by farmers . 

    There are urban farms located in every major city throughout NYS, and although educators have a clear idea of the predominate pests in Buffalo and NYC, urban farms in other cities may experience different pests or challenges in managing them. To assess the needs of the greater NYS urban agriculture community, an estimated 75 urban farms across NYS will be surveyed to assess their respective needs in pest management. The survey will focus on identifying the most challenging pests on urban farms, how pests are currently managed, and perceived benefits urban growers are getting from those practices. This data can in turn be used by Extension educators, crop service providers, and researchers to direct future research and education efforts.    

    As part of the project, we will develop a guide on sustainable pest management practices for urban farms. Findings from the on-farm trials will be included, as well as a review on the different types of pest management practices (mechanical, biological, cultural, etc.), and additional resources that farmers can turn to for pest management help. To reduce barriers to accessing this knowledge, this guide will be translated into three foreign languages. This translated resource can greatly improve the ability for ESL or non-English speaking growers to succeed in their farming endeavors and thus increase the diversity of urban and rural farming in NYS and across the Northeast.  





    Performance targets from proposal:

    15 farmers in Buffalo and NYC will see an increase in revenue of $2000/acre as a result of implementing sustainable pest management practices for urban agriculture; and/or report quantifiable improved success in their social missions such as number of youths gaining pest management skills or diverse audiences reached. Increase in revenue will be the result of higher quality vegetables, improved yields, and decreased labor on pest management and sorting. This project will reach a diverse farmer base including minority and female farmers, new and beginning growers, and youth.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.