Strawberry growers have new hope against weevils
PAUL SMITHS — New York strawberry growers are hearing about a promising treatment for their fruit crop based on the success of a Cornell University entomologist with applying microscopic worms to beat back a highly-destructive alfalfa-crop pest. Dr. Elson Shields expects to confirm the success of field trials with native-New York nematodes to control two species of weevils in Northern New York strawberry crops this year.
“Like alfalfa snout beetle, strawberry root weevil and black vine weevil are difficult to control with conventional pesticides, but they are very susceptible to attack by the biocontrol nematodes,” said Shields, who received an Entomological Society of America Award for Excellence in Integrated Pest Management in 2013.
Strawberry growers interested in learning more about Shields’s research, funded by the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program, will have the opportunity to hear him speak on “‘Using Native Nematodes as Biocontrol of Root Weevils in Strawberries” as part of the 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Advances in Field Strawberry Production Workshops set for Tuesday at Paul Smiths and Wednesday at the Cambry Court Activity Center in Gouverneur.
Shields estimates weevil damage at $20,000 to $30,000 of economic loss at the regional berry farm hosting the nematode research trials. The Shields Lab at Cornell will complete a series of soil tests this spring to confirm the effectiveness of the nematodes for controlling the berry pests.
“Based on our years of experience with biocontrol nematodes, we expect to document an excellent level of control in the berry fields in May 2014. We also expect the nematodes to persist within the soil of the strawberry-production environment for a number of years to continue to minimize the root damage by the root weevils,” Shields said.
The workshops focus on new ways of growing strawberries in field soil, detecting and mitigating soil-borne pests, and utilizing biological controls such as Shields’s nematode application treatment. Eastern New York Commercial Horticulture Program Berry Specialist Laura McDermott will present information on June-bearing and day-neutral growing systems, strawberry root problems and spotted wing drosophila.