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North Country Cutworm Crusader and Worm Wrangler Honored with IPM Award
GENEVA NY, July 11, 2019: Mike Hunter, a field crops specialist in the Cornell Cooperative Extension North Country Regional Ag Team, received an Excellence in Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Award from the New York State Integrated Pest Management Program (NYSIPM) at Cornell University’s Aurora Farm Field Day. Hunter was supposed to receive the in January at the crop congress meeting in Watertown but dangerous snowstorms delayed the presentation. NYSIPM develops sustainable ways to manage pests and helps people to use methods that minimize environmental, health and economic risks. The award honors individuals who encourage the adoption of IPM in their businesses, schools, communities, and farms, and who develop new tools and tactics for sharing these practices.
Hunter has served the farming communities of Jefferson and Lewis counties for over 17 years as a field crops specialist. His personal experience on his family’s farm and in the private sector of agricultural business has inspired his passion for practical crop production and pest management solutions. He is considered an expert on weed management and the Western Bean Cutworm (WBC), an insect that recently invaded the North Country, and has spent years monitoring the pest and giving talks about it here and in Canada.
In 2017, Hunter was one of the first people in New York to encounter a population of WBC that were resistant to the CryF1 toxin that is incorporated into genetically modified corn. The WBCs are the larvae of a Noctuid moth notorious for causing significant yield and quality losses to corn and dry beans – the cutworm made its debut here in the Empire State in 2009. Of Hunter’s on-farm efficacy trials, Kitty O’Neil, an extension specialist in Canton NY, said, “the results were so clear and important, and Mike’s expertise is valued so highly, he was invited to speak at nine different winter field crop meetings across NY and Ontario last winter.” She continues, “Mike’s generosity and willingness to teach others has massively multiplied his impact.”
Hunter has collected data from pheromone trapping and field scouting, and made IPM recommendations for farmers suffering with WBC. Stephen Eisel, of the Copenhagen, NY farm where Hunter first identified the resistant pest reported, “Mike Hunter has been a great help to my farm…. We treated the fields following Mike’s recommendations and the fields recovered perfectly. Thanks to Mike and his IPM expertise, I was able to avoid a big and costly problem for my farm.”
In his role helping farmers with their crops, Hunter has also been a champion of using native beneficial nematodes (EPN) as a biological control for the alfalfa snout beetle, an invasive pest that causes much concern for farmers in the north country. Nematodes are tiny worms that parasitize and eventually kill the beetles, and stay in the soil to infect future generations of the pest. Hunter has researched the feasibility of applying EPNs to the soil via liquid manure—an application method that many farmers are excited to embrace.
Michael Kiechle, a farmer in Philadelphia NY, noted, “Over 10 years ago, Mike diagnosed a problem with Alfalfa Snout Beetle over the phone, confirmed it through farm visits and introduced me to the nematodes for control. I now have a pretty decent alfalfa crop… Mike followed up his reasoning with relevant research, and made contact with other researchers and agronomists on my behalf… He is knowledgeable, he understands agriculture and can adapt solutions to the unique needs of the farm.”
Ken Wise extension educator with NYSIPM said, “Mike takes time for everyone and helps them in a respectful and informative way.”