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Long Island leader earns IPM award for innovation at ag-urban interface

Contact: Jennifer Grant 315 787 2209;

by Mary Woodsen

Long Island leader earns IPM award for innovation at ag-urban interface

Geneva, NY: Serving an agricultural region that’s worth $200 million a year—but also grows homes, schools, and playgrounds as well it does crops—makes entomologist Dan Gilrein mindful of finding the safest means of dealing with pests. Now for his innovation and leadership in careful, practical pest management, Gilrein, an educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension in New York’s Suffolk County, has received an “Excellence in IPM Award” from Cornell University’s New York State Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Program.

“Dan has worked with us to develop mating disruption techniques that keep rhododendron borers and oriental beetles from infesting our crops,” says Charles Scheer, who manages 625-acre Half Hollow Nursery in Laurel, New York. “He’s helped us develop scouting techniques that keep us on top of pests before they become problems. Now he’s helping us use beneficial parasites to manage black vine weevils.”

Gilrein is one of the key people at the forefront of dealing with new pests, not only on Long Island and in New York, but in the Northeast. “Nearly every year we’ve found unreported pests on Long Island,” Gilrein says. “And invasive species such as Asian long horned beetle have really come onto the radar.”

One of the most recent and worrisome pests has been the new “Q-biotype” whitefly, found in a couple of Long Island’s production greenhouses, which collectively sum nearly 10 million square feet of growing space. This whitefly is mainly an aesthetic problem for growers and their customers. But if it gets out of greenhouses and into tomato crops, it can cause devastating losses.

“Dan’s timely experiments provided some of the vital early information that the nation’s greenhouse industry is using to control this unusually resistant pest,” says Margery Daughtrey, a plant pathologist at Cornell University’s Long Island Horticultural Research and Extension Center.

Gilrein has looked at controls ranging from soil microbes, fungi, soap, and plant-based insecticides like one derived from neem-tree seeds—which doesn’t work—and the oil of the jojoba shrub, which does, but can make leaves turn yellow.

“We’ve tested about two dozen products on this new whitefly,” says Gilrein. “We are also looking into releases of natural enemies for biological control of this pest. There’s no silver bullet, but some products work well if you know how to use them right.”

Diagnosing pests correctly is critical to sound IPM. A parade of hundreds of beetles, mites, aphids, and other small creatures finds its way to his lab every year in jars, envelopes, and bags. They come from vegetable farmers, nursery growers, vineyards, landscapers and arborists, garden center staff, and greenhouse growers.

Gilrein is quick to respond with careful advice on the safest, most practical options for control. “Dan’s phone hums all day long with questions on how best to manage troublesome insects or mites,” says Daughtery.

Jennifer Grant, an assistant director of the New York State IPM Program, will present the award at the Long Island Agriculture Forum on January 18. “Agriculture is an important part of Suffolk County’s economic stability,” says Grant. “Dan’s attention to the industry’s needs coupled with his knowledge of pests have the potential to save growers thousands of dollars each growing season. But the value of his work goes far beyond agriculture, bringing safe pest management into schools, parks, and backyards across Suffolk County.”