September 1, 2013

Leek moth threatens crops

PLATTSBURGH — The Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) associations of Northern New York are asking growers to report any findings of leek moth, a pest that prefers onions, garlic, chives, shallots, leeks and other Allium crops. Cornell University and CCE researchers working with a Northern New York Agricultural Development Program grant to trap the pest to identify its range say that if leek moth becomes established in the major onion production areas of New York, the economic damage could be significant to the $54 million industry.

“The Northern New York Agricultural Development Program grant will help us determine where leek moth is, how fast it is spreading and will help growers properly time control treatments,” said Cornell Cooperative Extension of Clinton County Executive Director Amy Ivy, a horticulture specialist.

The farmer-driven program funds practical, real-world on-farm research, technical assistance and outreach projects to support the productivity and economic viability of farms across New York State’s six northernmost counties.

Dr. Masanori Seto with the Cornell University Department of Entomology at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva said the current distribution of leek moth includes Clinton, Essex, Jefferson and St. Lawrence counties in New York and Grand Isle County in Vermont.

A nocturnal pest, the leek moth adult is rarely seen unless trapped.

Leek moth was first detected in the U.S. in Northern New York in 2009 in garlic and onions in a home garden in Plattsburgh. The pest was identified in St. Lawrence County near Canton in 2010. Additional sites were added in those counties in 2011. Commercial growers in Essex and Jefferson counties reported finding leek moth in their fields in 2012.

The adult leek moth is speckled brown, black and white with a white spot halfway down its outer pair of wings. It has three to four generations a year. The adult survives the winters in northern New York and becomes active in the spring. The larva feeds mainly on plant leaves from inside, where they are better protected. It occasionally bores downward into the plant bulb and leaves feeding damage.

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