IPM

Ana Legrand: Educator Spotlight

Creating Sustainable Landscapes Through the Interactions of Plants and Insects

Educator Spotlight: Ana Legrand

Ana LegrandAna Legrand built her career around helping people understand the benefits that insects provide. Legrand is an entomologist and UConn Extension educator in the Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture. Entomology is the study of insects, and it plays a vital role in our environment and landscapes.

“My interest in entomology started when I was young,” Legrand says. “I worked with an agricultural ecology professor in college, and she focused on insects for her research. I saw that it was a good path to follow because I was also interested in agriculture.”

Legrand started working on the project as an undergraduate. Then, she took a class on entomology that showed the formalities and that it could become a profession. “Part of my educational experience was working in the laboratory. I found that collaborating with the graduate students and professors was fun,” Legrand recalls. “I went on to pursue research in graduate school at the University of Maryland because you’re always learning something and that’s exciting. Teaching is also exciting because you are sharing that new information.”

At UConn, Legrand’s research and extension program focuses on plant and insect interactions in vegetable crops. Her work uses insects to enhance biological controls and looks at plant traits that impact insect pests. Legrand’s lab team is investigating plants that attract pests away from crops. Their goal is to trap insects on crops in the early stages before any damage to the food being grown.

Educational outreach including field days and fact sheets target growers and other researchers. “It’s rewarding to find something that wasn’t documented before, even if it’s a small thing,” she says. “I also enjoy seeing the diversity of insects. It might seem like a quiet agricultural field, but it’s really complex with a lot of activity out there.”

Ana Legrand teaching an Extension programShe enjoys getting students and growers excited about insects. Watching undergraduates complete research and pursue entomology in graduate school is also rewarding. “I want everyone to know that insects are a diverse group of animals,” Legrand says. “We face many challenges from pest problems – including health issues. But we also need to appreciate the beneficial insects and make them better allies in what we’re doing. Obviously, there is pollination. But beneficial insects also help with waste management, pest control, and in other areas.”

Remote sensing for early detection of pest damage is one of her new research projects in agriculture and entomology. Legrand and Bivek Bhusal, her graduate student, are partnering with researchers in the Department of Natural Resources and the Environment. They are using drones to identify insect damage to plants. Analyzing the way the light bounces back from the plant surface helps them find tissue damage and then look for patterns. There is a lot of data, and it has many other applications for agriculture production, specifically in vegetable crops.

Extension educators at several Northeast states are collaborating on a brassica project. The results of their research will enhance agricultural operations. Maussi Arrunategui, another of Legrand’s graduate students, is working on the project with her. Brassica crops include broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and turnips. Her research avenues continue expanding and innovating beyond these projects. She is also securing more grant funding to sustain her research and extension initiatives.

“Extension work is valuable, and we want to keep people informed of the latest IPM developments,” Legrand concludes. “There are so many new pest challenges and there are new options available for management of traditional pests. The local environment is important too, our research is more applicable to what people are facing here in Connecticut.”

Article by Stacey Stearns

2021 Vegetable Production Certificate Course

vegetables in a greenhouse with vegetable course text on them lettuce with vegetable course text on it

We’re offering a Vegetable Production Certificate Course, beginning on January 20th 2021. It is a fully online course for new and beginning farmers who have 0-3 years of vegetable growing experience or no formal training in agriculture. The participants will learn answers to the basic questions about farm business planning, planning and preparing for vegetable farm, warm and cool-season vegetable production techniques, season extension, identification of biotic and abiotic issues, and marketing. The price of the course is $149. See the course description here.

Please contact the course coordinator, Shuresh Ghimire (Shuresh.Ghimire@uconn.edu, 860-870-6933) with any questions about this course.

Register Here.

High-Value Greenhouse Production

greenhouse flowers
Photo: Leanne Pundt

High technology greenhouses across Connecticut provide cover for many types of plants. Bedding plants, edibles (vegetable and herb transplants, greenhouse vegetables grown for production), ornamental herbaceous perennials, hemp and poinsettias all grow in greenhouses.

UConn Extension supports the Connecticut greenhouse industry with information and educational programming on sustainable production methods. In Connecticut, the greenhouse industry is a significant part of agriculture. Greenhouse and nursery products are Connecticut’s leading source of agricultural income.

Approximately 300 commercial greenhouse businesses have eight million square feet of production space under cover. In addition, many Connecticut farmers have added greenhouse crops to their businesses to increase income.

UConn Extension offered 111 training sessions to Connecticut wholesale and retail greenhouses with 1,566,088 square feet of intensive greenhouse production and 1,021,000 square feet of outdoor container production in 2019. Diagnostic trouble shooting, grower visits, phone calls, emails and text messages helped growers not participating in the intensive program offered by our UConn Integrated Pest Management (IPM) educators.

One grower stated, “I would like thank you for all the guidance and information that you provided the interns and me this year. I always receive a new piece of information that helps me keep the crops on track for that excellent product.”

Greenhouse production continues to be one of the largest segments of Connecticut agriculture, and the success of the industry helps build the infrastructure that other operations depend on.

Article by Leanne Pundt

Pruning Guide

hydrangea plant

Check out this handy pruning guide and refresher from our Sustainable Landscaping and Nursery IPM Educators.  This was written for professionals, and is also applicable to home gardeners just getting started with the basics of pruning. It includes links to other resources for continued learning as well!

PRUNING TIPS AND RULES OF THUMB

– Identify the purpose of each pruning job. (Table 2)
– The amount of living plant material that can be re-moved at one time depends on the age and level of establishment of the plant (Table 3).

– Dead, broken, or diseased plant material can be pruned at any time of the year.

– To rejuvenate multi-stemmed shrubs, remove one or more of the oldest stems at the base each year to stimulate new shoots to arise from the base of the plant. Many flowering shrubs bloom more prolifically on younger, 2 to 3-year-old wood. Shrubs that respond well to having some of the 3+ year-old stems removed include forsythia, weigela, deutzia, mock orange and beauty bush.
– Newly established hedges should be pruned early in the growing season to promote the desired growth and density. More established hedges may be kept vigorous and dense by thinning out older branches, which will encourage new growth.”
Read more at bit.ly/Pruning_UConn

Vegetable Production Certificate Course

We’re offering a Vegetable Production Certificate Course, beginning on March 12, 2020. It’s a hybrid format, online and in-person for new and beginning farmers. This year only, we have a special introductory fee of $100 or $150 plus $4 convenience fee depending on the course option you choose.

The course description is available at http://bit.ly/Vegetables2020 and online registration is at http://bit.ly/ExtensionStore.

Registration is due by 5 PM on March 2, 2020.

Please contact the course coordinator, Shuresh Ghimire (Shuresh.Ghimire@uconn.edu, 860-870-6933) with any questions about this course.

Workshop: Production Agriculture – Back to Basics

back to basics flyerProduction Agriculture – BACK TO BASICS 

Farmers of all experience are encouraged to join the Connecticut Department of Agriculture, University of Connecticut, and the American Farmland Trust on Thursday, January 9, 2020 from 9 AM to 1 PM at the Tolland Agricultural Center in Vernon, Connecticut to hear the latest in IPM/biocontrol, soil management, and water programs.

Aaron Ristow of the American Farmland Trust will discuss his findings on the economic and environmental impacts of soil health practices. This is a free program and pesticide credits will be offered.

Register online now at http://bit.ly/2PNPDPC. For more information please contact Erin Windham at 860-713-2543 or Erin.Windham@ct.gov.

Christmas in July at CT Greenhouses

It is Christmas in July for the greenhouse producers who grow poinsettias. In order to have plants that are blooming for December sales, greenhouses start the process early. Poinsettias require months in the greenhouse before they are ready to be purchased and taken home.

Leanne Pundt, one of our Extension educators was scouting the plants for whitefly immatures at one the Connecticut growers last week and took these photos.

poinsettias as seedlings
Poinsettias are purchased as seedlings by the greenhouses. Photo: Leanne Pundt
poinsettia plants in a water tunnel
The planting line in the watering tunnel. Photo: Leanne Pundt

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

poinsettias on cart to be transported into the greenhouse
Potted plants are placed on carts to be transported into the greenhouse. Photo: Leanne Pundt
poinsettias growing in the greenhouse
Poinsettias growing in the greenhouse. Photo: Leanne Pundt

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

poinsettia plants in the greenhouse
Poinsettia plants in the greenhouse. Photo: Leanne Pundt

 

Evan Lentz: Intern Spotlight

Evan Lentz and Casey Lambert spent the summer of 2018 as undergraduate interns scouting for diseases and insects at vineyards and small fruit farms throughout the state with the iPiPE grant through the National Institute for Food and Agriculture.

iPIPE is the Integrated Pest Information Platform for Extension and Education. It’s a weather and pest-tracking tool for growers to use. The program uses technology to categorize endemic pests, users, and data. Extension Educator Mary Concklin has a two-year iPiPe grant.

“We collected information on farms, uploaded it to iPiPE, and shared our results with the growers,” Evan says. “I got to know many of the farmers and

their day-to-day routines. Some of them really cared that we were at the farm, and we were a resource to help with their problems.”

Evan graduated in May of 2019 with a major in Sustainable Plant and Soil Systems, and a minor in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. He starts graduate school in the fall. “I highly recommend Extension internships to anyone, in any major,” he concludes.

Article by Stacey Stearns

Extension Interns Receive Award

Casey Lambert (’19) and Evan Lentz (’19) won 2nd place honors for their poster and presentation at the national meeting for the USDA-iPiPE project (Integrated Pest Information Platform for Extension and Education) held in Raleigh, NC February 4-6. Mary Concklin, Fruit Extension Educator, PSLA, is the grant PI. The primary focus of the project was to provide grape pest monitoring and IPM information by working closely with CT grape growers during the 2018 season, uploading the information to the iPiPE website and writing newsletter articles. In addition, they collected and tested plant tissue samples for sap nutrient analysis – a new area of fruit plant nutrition. Another part of their work involved working with blueberry and strawberry growers to validate 4 pest models for the NEWA system (Network for Environment and Weather Applications) located at Cornell. These included strawberry Botrytis and anthracnose models which would alert when the risk of infection during bloom and fruit ripening by the pathogen is either low (none), moderate or high; the blueberry maggot degree day model alerts when to hang traps to monitor adult emergence; and the cranberry fruitworm degree day model is used to predict the onset and end of egg laying and to time blueberry fruit protection with insecticides that are low risk to pollinators.

Helping Connecticut Farmers Succeed: A Collaborative Journey

Billy Collins on farm
Billy Collins at Fair Weather Acres. Photo: Winter Caplanson

“Educating farmers in sustainable, profitable and environmentally-sound food production practices benefits every man, woman and child in the country directly, on a daily basis, by helping to maintain a safe and secure food source. Knowledge of effective IPM practices helps prevent excess application of pesticides by otherwise frustrated growers,” Jude Boucher says.

The name Jude Boucher is synonymous with vegetable production in Connecticut. Jude joined UConn Extension in 1986 as the Extension Educator for vegetable crops Integrated Pest Management (IPM).

Jude provided cutting-edge solutions to growers on pest management and crop production problems, keeping them competitive on the local, regional, and national level. A multi-faceted approach is used in vegetable IPM that reaches a vast number of growers, not only in Connecticut, but; throughout the Northeast. During the growing season, Jude worked with numerous farms to improve their business and address crop issues as they arose. From conventional to organic farms, new farmers to experienced farmers; Jude worked with everyone and improved their economic viability and production.

Diversifying a Traditional Farm

Jude assisted Fair Weather Acres in Rocky Hill in diversifying and building resiliency to the challenges Mother Nature provided. The farm is over 800 acres along the Connecticut River. Jude advised Billy and Michele Collins on ways to diversify their marketing efforts and the number of crops they grow, after flooding from Hurricane Irene in 2011 washed away much of the crops, and left the farm in debt.

Originally, the farm received IPM training on three crops: beans, sweet corn, and peppers. With diversification, Billy began producing 55 different varieties of vegetables. Jude taught him pest management for his new crops, and the Collins hired an Extension-trained private consultant to help monitor and scout pests and implement new pest management techniques.

“I encouraged and advised Michele on developing a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) venture on their farm and introduced them to other successful CSA farm operators,” Jude says. “Michele started the CSA with 120 members in 2012, and – through a variety of methods – has exceeded 500 summer CSA shares.”

Michele and Billy give back to Extension by speaking at state and regional conferences, hosting twilight meetings, research plots on their farm, and UConn student tours. “Jude has been an integral part of the growth and diversification of our farm. His extensive knowledge and passion for agriculture, coupled with his love of people and farmers in particular, made him an unrivaled asset to Connecticut agriculture,” Michele says. “Jude taught us, advised us, and offered us unlimited guidance in many areas including IPM, alternative farming concepts, marketing, and agribusiness just to name a few.”

Building a New Farm

Oxen Hill Farm is a family enterprise in West Suffield that began when the Griffin family inherited an idle hay and pasture farm with the intent of creating an organic vegetable and cut flower farm.

“Besides small-scale home vegetable and flower gardens, they had no experience operating a commercial vegetable and cut-flower business,” Jude says. “They signed up for training with me, and the first year, 2009, started with an acre of organic vegetables and cut flowers.”

Despite the challenges of their first year, they expanded their business in 2010, growing from 36 CSA members to over 150. Oxen Hill enlarged their acreage onto their parents’ home farm, to almost 20 acres of crops, and learned to grow everything from artichokes to zucchini. The farm continues to flourish.

Finding a Better Way

Jude worked with farmers throughout the region on deep zone tillage (DZT). “DZT allows a grower to prepare a narrow seedbed, only inches wide, rather than exposing the surface of the whole field to wind and rain,” Jude explains. “Farms can also till deeply, right under the crop row to loosen any hardpan that has formed after years of using a plow and harrow. This allows the soil to absorb and retain more water and allows the plants to extend their roots deeper into the soil. The system also improves soil quality over time.”

Due to his work, there are Extension programs in every New England state advocating the use of DZT, and over 45 growers in the region have switched to DZT. Although he retired in 2017, the work of Jude carries on in the farmers across the state. They organized a grower’s organization, and are looking forward to working with our new vegetable crops Extension educator, Shuresh Ghimire, who started on July 1st.

Article by Stacey Stearns