We are studying the patterns of attack by a community of insect herbivores on plants; the work involves field biology, chemical ecology, genetics, and entomology. Our basic research involves milkweed plants, nearly 120 species from North America (and 20 from South America), which grow in various habitats and are attacked by a specialized community of insects. Some of the work is evolutionary in terms of quantifying phylogenetic patterns associated with the evolution of specialization (in insects parasites) and other work is more ecological, based on community interactions.
Production of fruits and vegetables requires animal, primarily bee, pollination. While honey bees are widely used for crop pollination, honey bee populations are in decline due to a combination of factors, including heavy pathogen load and pesticide use. Native bees—wild bees that occur naturally in the environment surrounding agricultural areas—are contributing significantly to crop pollination, but it is difficult to estimate their exact contribution, and limited resources exist for farmers who want to preserve their native bee fauna.
When released into fields of sweet corn, the tiny wasp Trichogramma ostriniae is effective at suppressing infestations of the European corn borer, a serious pest of the crop. A single release made early in the season is generally all that is needed to reduce damage by 50 percent or more, and multiple releases have proven even more effective. This often results in a reduction in the need for insecticide treatments, thus minimizing risks to health and the environment. The technique is effective in sweet corn and also peppers and potatoes.
Pathogenic organisms such as Escherichia coli and Cryptosporidium parvum continue to cause a threat to our food and water safety. Similarly, organisms such as Dengue virus and rotavirus are important clinical analytes related to human health, especially in the countries of the developing world. Organisms such as Bacillus anthracis and Yersinia pestis are serious threat agents for our safety and security, since they can be used as bioweapon material.
The New York State Field Crop Weekly Pest Report provides timely pest information to field crop extension educators and agricultural professionals. The report compiles weekly pest and crop observations collected by field crop extension personnel across New York. In addition, the weekly report provides a vehicle to disseminate other relevant Integrated Pest Management (IPM) information such as pest identification, scouting techniques and a calendar with suggestions for pest management activities.
We organized a workshop to educate winery owners on waste management and water use planning to conserve water and protect the environment.
Using IPM approaches, New York's vegetable farmers are able to make sound pest management decisions, thus reducing pesticides, increasing profits, and sustaining a safe and plentiful food supply.
Cornell University Cooperative Extension-NYC (CUCE-NYC), in partnership with Central Park Conservancy, planned, delivered and evaluated an intensive 16-session certification course for staff and volunteers of Central Park and other City parks through interactive and hands-on classroom/lab and field instruction in soils, plants, pest management, and other subjects related to managing urban landscapes sustainably.
Building on the success of the annual, campus based IPM In-depth workshop, (a hands-on educational program for growers) we proposed, and received funding from the New York Farm Viability Institute for, adding a series of programs to be held at locations throughout NY over a two year period. We are working with five New York growers and the New York State Flower Industries to gather input regarding the content and the locations of these regional workshops and associated on-farm tours.
The Cornell Cooperative Extension Sea Grant Program worked with the Army Corps of Engineers and Stony Brook University to develop a Regional Sediment Management program for the state's Atlantic coast. This effort brought together federal, state and local interests to identify problems and opportunities for better management and utilization of coastal sediments to protect coastal resources and to maintain natural transport processes to protect the environment and mitigate the impacts of erosion and sea level rise on New York’s coast.