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Around the Quad

Worms to the Rescue


It’s a battle of the bugs, and in this case, farmers are being encouraged to raise roundworms to combat the invasive alfalfa snout beetle (ASB), which has already destroyed more than 500,000 acres of New York’s agricultural land.

Working with CALS research support specialist Antonio Testa and Cornell Cooperative Extension interns Joshua Knecht ’10 and Allyson Jones-Brimmer ’11, a dozen North Country farmers mass-produced insect-attacking native nematodes using small fish-bait cups. Each cup inoculated with some 15,000 nematodes produced about 25 million infective juvenile nematodes, which were added to water and sprayed onto fields. For about $75, a farmer could protect up to 25 acres of field, a bargain compared to the devastating costs associated with losing an entire crop to the pest.

Meanwhile, plant breeder Don Viands has developed ASB-resistant alfalfa varieties, which are currently being prepared for commercial production. “We have seen root damage scores consistently drop and believe we can achieve even better results with subsequent selections,” Viands says.