“All agricultural production is affected by climate and weather — even greenhouses which can control some aspects, but not all,” said Dr. Elizabeth Lamb, NYS Integrated Pest Management Program.
Dr. Lamb and Dr. Juliet E. Carroll, Fruit IPM Coordinator, NYS IPM Program and Leader /Developer of the Network for Environment & Weather Applications (NEWA), led the 2nd annual Integrated Pest Management Program (IPM) Conference Climate, Weather, Data: Protecting our Crops and Landscapes, where a large cast of speakers discussed weather changes in the Northeast and challenges facing crop growers.
In addition to Lamb and Carroll, the impressive roster of speakers included NYS IPM Program Director Jennifer Grant; NYS Dept. of Ag and Markets Commissioner Richard Ball; Dr. Everette Joseph, University at Albany’s Atmospheric Sciences Research Center; Professor Chris Thorncroft, Department of Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences at SUNY Albany; Becky Wiseman, Agricultural Stewardship Coordinator for Suffolk Co. Extension; Laurie McBride, Agricultural Stewardship Technician for Suffolk Co. Extension; Katie Campbell-Nelson, Extension Vegetable Specialist with the University of Massachusetts; Glen Koehler, Associate Scientist IPM, University of Maine; Mike Hoffmann, Cornell Institute for Climate Change and Agriculture; Steve Young, Director Northeastern IPM Center; David Hollinger, Director USDA Northeast Climate Hub; Allison M. Chatrchyan, Ph.D., Cornell Institute for Climate Change and Agriculture; and Bryon Backenson, Epidemiologist, Communicable Diseases at New York State Department of Health.
Speakers discussed sustainable planning and the future of agriculture, considering the changes in climate. Forecasting weather patterns, insects and disease were primary issues.
“You’d better see the bigger picture that’s out there,” advised Mike Hoffmann. “Warming is twice as fast at the poles as it is for the rest of the planet. Winters are warming faster than summers; nights are warming faster than days. The hottest decade was 2001-2010. 2016 will set new records.”
Hoffmann explained the warmer weather and milder winters are allowing an increase in survival and proliferation of many insects, such as the bark beetle that has affected tens of millions of acres of forest throughout the Rocky Mountains.
Increasing temperatures allow insects such as aphids and moths to reach their minimum flight temperatures sooner, disrupting crop-planting schedules.
However, Hoffmann pointed out, warmer temperatures also provide some new opportunity for crop growers in the northeast. “Food production is moving north,” he said. “Planting zones have moved one full notch north. In New York, we can now grow canola in northern New York; we couldn’t do that in 1990. We grow soybeans throughout most of the state. Lots of changes — not all a disadvantage; there are some opportunities here.”
Thorncroft explained how New York State Mesonet, a network of weather stations in the process of being implemented across the state — with a target of having one site in every county — alerts growers to weather conditions. Temperature, humidity, wind speed and direction, pressure, radiation, and soil information — including snow depth — are continually measured at each site. That information becomes available in real-time on the NYS Mesonet website. Data is collected, archived, and processed in real-time, supplying weather prediction models and decision-support tools for users. An early warning weather detection alert system is part of this program.
Down pours and heavy rainfall events have increased 71 percent in the northeast, resulting in lost crops in the fall and crops unable to be planted in the spring.
During Aug. 12-13, 2014, an official, NYS 24-hour precipitation record was set on Long Island, at Islip, NY, with over 13 inches of rain, breaking the previous record of 11.6 inches at Tannersville, Greene County, NY, Aug. 27-28, 2011.
Wiseman and McBride, both with Suffolk Co. Extension on Long Island, explained to attendees how weather station networks, funded primarily by Suffolk Co. legislature, are used to monitor weather over the county’s nearly 36,000 acres of farmland, aiding in improved pest management strategy and protecting the region’s groundwater, bays and estuaries.
“Our goal, primarily, is to work on farms with growers and increase and improve their pest and nutrient management,” said Wiseman. “We have 18-20 weather stations.”
Wiseman described how microclimates in Suffolk County differ dramatically within short distances. Information from Mesonet and NEWA weather stations can be viewed on the internet, helping farmers determine what best management practices to use from day to day without having to travel through heavy traffic — frequently hauling farm equipment — to check weather conditions only a few miles away.
McBride noted that wind speed is one weather condition that differs dramatically within a few miles and affects spraying conditions.
Producers report diseases new to their orchards and other crops, due to weather changes. Fire Blight, reported by one long-time producer, is new to the Suffolk Co. area. “We’re able to actually calculate changes in his personal climate; changes in humidity levels, changes in moisture levels that are all leading to diseases,” McBride said. Weather stations help to monitor these levels and alert growers to utilize fungicides.
Dr. Lamb remarked that producers upstate are commenting on the changes they are observing in their crops.
“The Christmas tree growers where the ones who mentioned it to me first,” Lamb said, citing the effect of increased heavy rainfall events on Christmas tree production in areas where producers have been growing trees for many years.
An increase of Phytophthora, which lives and spreads through soil and water, has affected conifers and Fraser fir. “Excess water stresses the roots — the disease can more easily infect stressed roots; the trees die. One farm could see clearly where excess water from Hurricanes Irene and Lee moved through the fields by tracking the dead trees. And the excess water was followed by drought to exacerbate the problem.” Lamb said there is such an increase in Phytophthora, that growers are looking into alternative tree species, such as Turkish fir, which may tolerate wet soils with Phytophthora.
“I recognize the importance of weather in driving disease in insect development in orchards and vineyards,” said Dr. Carroll, explaining her work with NEWA. This user friendly “app” is designed to assist growers in IPM and crop management decisions.
Carroll said weather data is collected every 15 minutes and within the next few months improved technology will supply real time weather data every minute. That data is calculated in hourly and daily summaries.
NEWA RainWise stations record temperature, leaf wetness, relative humidity, precipitation, solar radiation, wind speed and direction and optional sensors can be added.
NEWA is a producer sourced, knowledge network. Growers using the weather instrument share their weather data through NEWA, providing critical information for growers, gardeners, landscapers, and public health officials.
NEWA’s IPM & Crop Production Tools include information on the activity of many vegetable and fruit pests, diseases and conditions, turfgrass diseases and soil temperature and soil moisture charts and maps.
Carroll reported that surveys show NEWA users in New York State saved, on average, $19,500 per year in spray costs and prevention measures and $264,000 on average, per year, in crop loss, as a direct result of using NEWA IPM forecast tools.
NEWA has over 350 connected weather stations from New Hampshire to Minnesota to North Carolina, where weather data, pest forecasts, crop management and weather station information is available.
For more information contact Dr. Carroll at email@example.com.