SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. — Grape, apple, peach and tomato crops, along with upstate New York’s vast hardwood forests, are among the resources at risk from invasive species on agricultural lands.
The recently enacted federal Farm Bill has provided $790,000 for the New York State Department of Agriculture & Markets, the state’s Integrated Pest Management program and universities to collaborate on identifying and minimizing invasive threats before they occur.
Funding was made available for nine ag department projects as well as four other projects in New York.
“We’ve seen how insects that prey on crops have wreaked havoc in other states and we’re taking steps to guard against that here in New York,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. “New York’s agricultural industry is essential to the state’s economy and employs thousands of New Yorkers. This funding will help ensure that potential threats to agriculture are contained so New York’s vital agriculture industry can continue to thrive and grow.”
The largest individual grant, $133,000, will allow for reinstatement of a Grape Certification Survey Program. Cornell University has a long history of managing a voluntary grape certification program at its New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, N.Y.
Regular assistance on pathogen indexing and disease management issues is provided to local grape nurseries. The program has support from the National Clean Grape Network for Grapes.
Another grant, for $129,362, went to Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences for plant diagnostician readiness.
Five grants ranging from $36,000 to $74,000 will be used for conducting grape, orchard, nursery, tomato and stone-fruit surveys.
“For over 40 years, I have been a vegetable farmer, continually monitoring my plants for insects and diseases,” said Richard A. Ball, the state’s new agriculture commissioner. “New threats pop up all the time and advance warning to strategically address them is critical to every farmer. The work that this funding supports will protect farmers from invasive species and help them continue to be successful here in New York.”
Another grant, totaling $37,496, is for forest pest outreach.
In recent years, the invasive emerald ash borer and Asian longhorned beetle have decimated large tracts of Northeast woodlands. These invasive insects damage two primary types of trees that are critical to upstate New York’s economy: ash and maple.
The wood from Northern White Ash is used to make baseball bats. A Rawlings factory in Dolgeville, N.Y., makes about 30 percent of the bats used by major league players. Wood comes from a 200-mile radius, from the Adirondacks to Pennsylvania.
Louisville, Ky.-based Hillerich & Bradsby, maker of Louisville Slugger, also gets its wood from New York and Pennsylvania.
Meanwhile, the maple industry is extremely concerned about the spread of the Asian longhorned beetle.
“The potential loss from Asian longhorned beetle will far exceed the upfront costs of prevention,” said Dave Chapeskie, executive director of the International Maple Syrup Institute. “Other invasive insects like the emerald ash borer threaten the integrity of the sugar bush, even if they don’t directly threaten the sugar maples.”
As an international trade leader, New York continuously monitors for risks of pest introduction that can have a harmful effect on agriculture, both in-state and nationwide.
Invasive plant species come in many types and forms. In some cases, they may not be harmful nor have a major economic impact, but are a nuisance nonetheless.
Saratoga County Farm Bureau President John Arnold said: “I am not aware of any particular invasive that is a big problem with farmers in this county, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t all deal with invasive plant problems in one way or another. In my case, I am tying to get a handle on Oriental bittersweet, Japanese barberry, multiflora rose and Japanese knotweed that are problems in one particular pasture.
“The barberry has been here for about 20 years, the Oriental bittersweet about 10 years and the knotweed is somewhat more recent,” he said. “I have no idea when the floribunda rose came, but here it is. It is not bothering the fields because they get cut and worked up often enough to keep them from surviving. But my pasture that is closest to all of the residential homes is littered with them.
“The Oriental bittersweet and the barberry is coming from people’s decorative landscaping,” said Arnold, who raises heifers. “People buy these things from nurseries and plant them, and then by seed from the fruit, they are spread into the surrounding landscape.
“Residents don’t know this is happening until it is too late and the invasives have taken over the trees and grasslands that they loved to look out over,” he said. “They are a challenge to control because mechanical removal is very time consuming and neither I nor my neighbors want a chemical solution if we can help it. In one pasture, we have spent nearly 15 years trying to get these things under control and just when you think you have been successful, they pop up in another spot.
“It’s kind of like weeding your garden, but on a much larger scale,” Arnold said.