07/10/12 5:00pm
07/10/2012 5:00 PM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Ashley Schmitt of Phil Schmitt and Sons Farm on Sound Avenue in Riverhead husks some corn for a customer at the farm stand on Sound Avenue. Some farmers growing corn will have an opportunity to try a new type of fertilizer.

Local farmers growing sweet corn will have an opportunity to try a new fertilizer this season designed to better protect groundwater and the Long Island Sound, according to a press release from Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County.

The controlled-release nitrogen fertilizer is designed to break down over time according to the plant’s need for nutrients as opposed to regular fertilizer which dissolves from heavy rain, the release states. Suffolk County’s sandy soil, especially during spring rain, is susceptible to leaching of nitrogen from conventional nitrogen fertilizer.

Suffolk farmers can experiment with the new product at no risk to losing money.

The collaborative project involving Cornell, Agflex and American Fundland Trust is part of the grant-funded BMP Challenge system, which reimburses farmers who experience any reduction in their harvest after implementing the new product.

“The BMP Challenge protects the investment for farmers so they don’t have to ‘bet the farm’ on new techniques,” said Dr. Tom Green, president of Agflex.

Participating farmers will set up a side-by-side comparison with at least 8-planted rows wide running the full length of the field.

“This project will help demonstrate that it is possible to reduce the fertilizers while maintaining profitability,” said David Haight of American Farmland Trust.

Suffolk County farms sold over $300 million in farm products, more than any other county in New York, according to the 2010 U.S. Census of Agriculture, officials said.

Non-point sources of nitrogen, such as fertilizer, accounted for an estimated 72-82 percent of the total nitrogen from Suffolk County into the Sound, according to a model developed by the county with funding from the Environmental Protection Agency.

joew@timesreview.com

06/22/12 7:00pm
06/22/2012 7:00 PM

BETH YOUNG PHOTO | Cornell Cooperative Extension and Empire State Development Corporation staff toss adult scallops into the Peconic Bay off Cedar Beach Friday afternoon. The state recently awarded a $182,000 grant to the project.

The folks working to rebuild the stock of Peconic Bay scallops have a new best friend in the state government.

Researchers at Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Peconic Bay scallop restoration program, based at Cornell’s Cedar Beach, Southold, marine laboratory, had a special visit Friday afternoon from Kenneth Adams, commissioner of the Empire State Development Corporation. The corporation awarded a $182,000 grant earlier this year toward the continuing scallop project.

Lead researchers Dr. Stephen Tettelbach of Long Island University and Dr. Chris Smith of Cornell said they’ve used the funds to expand the hatchery and hire additional employees to help grow scallops to full size in the lab.

“We’ve increased production in our hatchery,” said Dr. Tettelbach. “We plan to grow the scallops from spring to market size in the fall. This is the first time it’s being done in New York State. Other states are selling cultured scallops.”

Dr. Tettelbach said the scallops, which are smaller than wild scallops, will likely be sold whole in the shell.

“It’s a different way of marketing, a different market niche,” he said.

Since scallops are short-lived, usually living no more than two years, their contribution to the population is limited to one spawning season.

Dr. Smith said program researchers have also used grant funds to expand their long-line grow-out system in Orient Harbor. In that system, scallop larvae collect on a mesh surface inside an aerated bag that protects them from predators. Initially, researchers were using the bags, known as spat collectors, as a tool to quantify the number of scallops in the bay. They’re now using them as nurseries for scallops cultivated by humans.

“We’re now using Japanese techniques where you use spat collectors to produce numbers of scallops,” he said. “It’s increasing our capability of spawning and growing scallops.”

Mr. Adams said his office had received marching orders from Governor Andrew Cuomo to provide $785 million in grants by asking regional Economic Development Corporations for advice on the most crucial projects in their areas, instead of having the state dictate where the money would go. More than 700 grants were awarded.

Kevin Law, president of the Long Island Regional Economic Development Council and a former head of the Long Island Power Authority, brought the scallop project to Mr. Adams’ attention.

“This is an incredible, historical, vital natural asset,” Mr. Adams said of the scallop fishery. “Fisheries are a very important part of the regional economy. How would I know about this project sitting back in Albany?

“It really worked well,” he added. “I’d like to think this is the beginning of a long and healthy relationship.”

“I think scallops brought us over the line,” Mr. Law said Friday afternoon at a ceremony on a barge overlooking the laboratory. “Everybody had high tech, but nobody else had scallops.”

Dr. Smith estimated that the scallop industry, which had a negligible economic value for years after the brown tide destroyed the fishery in 1985, brought $3 million in economic activity to the region in 2010 after his research team helped to rebuild the fishery. He estimated the 2010 numbers were about 10 percent of the value of the industry before the brown tide hit.

Dr. Smith said his group hopes to continue building the number of scallops in the bays until there are three to five scallops per square meter on the bottom.

“I think we’re within a few years of that,” he said.

“Can you do lobsters next?” asked Mr. Adams.

“Lobsters are a whole different story,” said Dr. Smith.

byoung@timesreview.com

06/07/12 2:00pm
06/07/2012 2:00 PM

Cornell Cooperative Extension will hold an eelgrass restoration workshop, open to the public, between 3 and 5:30 p.m. Friday at the corner of New Suffolk Avenue and First Street.

CCE’s Marine Meadows Program staffers will lead the hands-on program.

Participants will be taught how to assemble eelgrass-planting discs to increase local population of sea grasses.

The event is co-sponsored by Peconic Land Trust and the New Suffolk Waterfront.

For more information contact Kathy Kennedy at 283-3195 or email her atkkennedy@peconiclandtrust.org.

The following is a video we made from a previous workshop:

04/20/12 8:00am
04/20/2012 8:00 AM

TIM KELLY PHOTO | Dandelions are arguably the most common and obvious weeds to pop up each spring.

As you roll out the lawn mower this weekend, don’t be surprised if the weeds encroaching on the Kentucky blue grass or fescue seem more abundant than in years past.

Most winter annual weeds, such as doveweed, redstem filaree and chickweed, are typically suppressed by cold weather. Due to this past mild winter, however, many weeds were nurtured through the season and are expected to come out in full force this spring.

Lawn experts say that because the winter of 2010-11 was harsh, with several feet of snow and frigid temperatures, many lawns weren’t plagued with certain weeds that are already popping up this spring.

Dr. Andy Senesac, a weed science specialist at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County’s Long Island Horticultural Research and Extension Center in Riverhead, said he’s seeing an unusual amount of weeds.

“Last year was the first time I’ve ever noticed less crabgrass because of that crazy winter,” Dr. Senesac said. “But with this mild winter, I’m expecting more this year. We are going to see a worse year for weeds.”

Lawrence Kaiser, owner of Kaiser Maintenance in Jamesport, agreed that more weeds will pepper lawns this year and suggests homeowners use a holistic approach to managing their turf.

“A balanced fertilization program will provide a thick turf which in turn out-competes the weeds for space,” Mr. Kaiser said. “If you are unsure what fertilization requirements are needed, a simple soil test taken to Cornell Cooperative Extension or the Long Island Cauliflower Association will provide the right course of action.”

Here are suggestions for combatting some pesky winter annual weeds:

 

 

 

 

• Dandelions are arguably the most common and obvious weeds to pop up each spring. They’re hard to eliminate because the seeds are numerous and will settle quickly into any opening in a lawn. Pulling them out is challenging. The plant sends down a taproot up to 10 inches deep that breaks off easily — and the weed will regenerate if even a small portion remains.

Spraying with vinegar offers an organic alternative to garden variety herbicides such as Roundup or Weed-B-Gon, But since the vinegar used in cooking is low in acetic acid, which is what kills the weed, one option is to boil it down to increase its strength.

Vinegar and Roundup will kill grass as well as weeds so they must be sprayed on the foliage. Weed-B-Gon, however, targets only broadleaf weeds.

 

 

 

 

• Doveweed  starts growing around mid-September. In the spring, it should disappear after a few mowings. To rid your lawn of stubborn doveweed, hand removal is recommended for single plants, herbicide for larger amounts. To deter growth, a pre-emergent herbicide application is suggested in the fall.

 

 

 

 

• Redstem filaree  also begins to grow around mid-September and should also vanish after two or three spring mowings. Redstem filaree may also die back during the heat of the summer. A fall treatment with a standard turf herbicide for broadleaf weed control is the most effective method to deter future growth.

 

 

 

 

• Chickweed  can reproduce throughout the summer months. Selective herbicide treatments for lawns and hand removal combined with a pre-emergent for gardens are suggested. A fall treatment with a standard turf herbicide for broadleaf weed control will also be effective.

 

 

 

 

• Nut sedge is a hardy perennial weed that’s very difficult to control. Mr. Kaiser said hand weeding is not an option because even a small piece left behind could continue to grow and multiply. Dr. Senesac said it’s possible to remove the weed by hand as long as you’re careful to get out all the roots. Only a few non-selective herbicides can eliminate this weed, so check the label.

 

 

 

 

• Purple dead nettle is another winter annual that gets going about mid-September. This weed should disappear after a few mows in the spring. To rid your lawn of stubborn specimens, apply a selective herbicide treatment with a balanced fertilization program. To deter growth, a fall treatment with a standard turf herbicide for broadleaf weed control is recommended.

 

 

 

 

• Hairy bittercress is a winter annual that can actually be spread by mowing, so it’s better to hand pull it before mowing and carefully put it in a bag so the seeds won’t spread to nearby areas. Spring pre-emergent application for lawns and gardens is suggested. When heavy population exists, a pre-emergent is suggested in the fall.

jennifer@timesreview.com

01/09/12 7:00am
01/09/2012 7:00 AM

CORNELL COOPERATIVE EXTENSION FILE PHOTO | With an eelgrass project now abandoned in a section of Hallock's Bay in Orient, the spot will open back up to fishermen.

A large section of Hallock’s Bay in Orient will soon be open to shellfishing, after an eelgrass restoration project there was abandoned by Cornell Cooperative Extension.

The Southold Town Trustees changed the town code to close about one-third of the bay to shellfishing five years ago when the study began, and last week the Town Board held a public hearing on changing the code again to re-open the section of the bay.

Chris Pickerell, who specializes in eelgrass habitat restoration for CCE, said his research group had tried several times to hand broadcast eelgrass seeds there. Each time, the grass grew strongly and steadily until the hot weather of mid-summer caused the young shoots to all die.

“It’s a function of lack of light, high summer water temperatures and issues relating to sediment texture,” he said. “All those things apply to Hallock’s Bay. We tried to plant it several times. It never worked in there.”

Mr. Pickerell said muddy bay bottoms like the one in Hallock’s Bay have proved to not be good places to grow eelgrass, and his research group is now planting only in sandy, cooler areas, including two successful beds in Greenport Harbor and off Paradise Point, as well as at several locations in Long Island Sound.

Mr. Pickerell said his group often hand broadcasts seeds before setting eelgrass transplants in an area, because the success of the hand broadcast seeds often gives them a better idea of whether the transplants will thrive there.

“We sometimes prospect with seeds,” he said. “We look for areas where they’ll take. We never found that spot in Hallock’s Bay.”

A public hearing to open the study area back up to shellfishing was held by the Southold Town Board on Jan. 3.

byoung@timesreview.com

Read more about the re-opening of Hallock’s Bay in Thursday’s issue of The Suffolk Times.

10/10/11 8:00am
10/10/2011 8:00 AM

COURTESY PHOTO | Researchers at Cornell Cooperative recently discovered a concentration of nine-spotted ladybugs on the East End.

New York’s state insect is the nine-spotted ladybug, but the rare bug has barely been seen east of the Mississippi for 30 years.

At the end of July, all that changed, when a researcher with the Agricultural Stewardship Program of Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County, based in Riverhead, found a nine-spotted ladybug on a sunflower while searching for the insect at Quail Hill Farm in Amagansett.

He sent his find to the directors of the Lost Ladybug Project at Cornell University in Ithaca, who visited the farm 10 days later and found 20 more nine-spotted ladybugs on the organic farm.

Professor John Losey is Cornell’s lead researcher on the project, and he was with the group that found the treasure trove of bugs.

Mr. Losey said ladybugs tend to be attracted to organic farms, where there are no pesticides and are an abundance of aphids, bean beetles and other bugs that ladybugs prey on.

“When we went back, they weren’t really on the sunflowers. They were on a large planting of green beans,” he said.

“There are a lot of aphids and bean beetles in beans, and right next to that was a planting of cosmos and zinnias. That’s where we found a lot of individuals.”

But why such a large concentration of nine-spotted ladybugs have congregated in one small area on Long Island, after being missing from the Northeast for decades, still remains a mystery. Mr. Losey said that there are likely more nine-spotted ladybugs to be found on Long Island, since his team also found another one of the bugs at another site operated by Quail Hill Farm half a mile down the road from the initial treasure trove.

“Not every homeowner is going to find one in their yard, but we encourage other people to look,” he said.

Mr. Losey’s team is collecting data from citizen scientists throughout North America, and asks volunteers to photograph all ladybugs they see so that his team can track not only where the rare ladybugs are, but where the common ones are abundant as well.

Volunteers can upload their photographs at www.lostladybug.org.

To learn more about the project, check out Thursday’s issue of The Suffolk Times.

byoung@timesreview.com

06/13/11 9:57am
06/13/2011 9:57 AM

DAN GILREIN COURTEYS PHOTO | Stink bugs likes all plants; and peaches, apples, plums, cherries and blueberries are some fruits they favor.

Calverton farmer Howard Lewin can handle potato bugs; he fought back with flamethrowers when the pest infested his 70 acres of spud back in the late 1970s.

Brown marmorated stink bugs, insects originally from Asia that are now destroying acres of cropland in Maryland and Pennsylvania, are Lewin’s new worry, especially if their population on the East End reaches the numbers reported further south.

And that could soon be the case. Suffolk County is poised for a stink bug infestation, said Daniel Gilrein, an entomologist with the Cornell Cooperative Extension in Riverhead.

Mounting evidence shows there are established populations of the insect in Nassau County, and alarming numbers of the pest were found in a Fort Salonga home, Mr. Gilrein said. The growing population means the East End could be next — if not this year, then in the next few.

“It will be a problem when they come and establish in Suffolk,” Mr. Gilrein said. “The effects will be different depending on who and where you are.”

A tractor driver in Calverton last month was the first to spot one of the bugs on the East End, Mr. Gilrein said. A single bug, identified from other, less harmful pests by its white-spotted antenna, may mean more are coming to feast on their favorite foods such as tomatoes, peppers, berries and apples. The brown marmorated stink bug proliferates easily in the U.S. because it has no natural predators here, Mr. Gilrein said.

Stink bugs are nuisances for homeowners, Mr. Gilrein said. They don’t irritate skin like bed bugs, and don’t damage houses like termites. But they can leave dark marks on the leaves of ornamental landscaped plants, according to a fact sheet from Cornell.

For homeowners with small gardens, Mr. Gilrein recommends brushing the bugs off plants into bowls of soapy water — when they’re squashed, or even threatened, they expel the odor that gave them their name.

Covering plants with protective netting or screens works too, but only lasts for a short period of time, he said.

Another concern for homeowners is the bug’s wintering habits – they invade houses and other buildings in the late summer and early fall for shelter from the cold, Mr. Gilrein said. To protect against the unwelcome visitors, homeowners should seal any small cracks or crevices in siding, walls or door or window frames, he said.

Sherry Brezinski, the nursery manager at Talmage Farm Agway & Garden Center in Riverhead, has not had any home gardeners complain to her about the pests, at least not yet. She thinks she may hear more about the problem in the fall, when the bugs move indoors.

Mr. Brezinski suggests leaving the bugs alone or spraying them with an insecticide. Some beetle killer products will eliminate the pest, she said.

Anyone who suspects they found a stink bug can drop it off at Cornell’s diagnostic lab on Griffing Avenue in Riverhead, Mr. Gilrein said.

Stink bugs pose a much greater threat to farmers, as they can severely impact their livelihoods. As the bugs feed, they leave deep brown marks that may be mistaken for rot, making crops unmarketable.

“I guess I’ll just have to use a stronger insecticide,” said Jonathan Sujecki, who farms 105 acres in Calverton and is concerned about protecting his tomato crop from a stink bug invasion.

Farmers can use insecticides to combat the pest, but even those become ineffective if the population skyrockets to high levels, Mr. Gilrein said.

But the area’s organic farmers are practically defenseless against the winged invaders – few pesticides are approved for use by organic farmers, Mr. Gilrein said. Products that contain natural pyrethrins, a type of pesticide, work, but only for a very short period of time, he said, adding that those chemicals can’t control large numbers of stink bugs.

Crop covers are another option for organic farmers, he said.

Less than five percent of Long Island farms are organic, according to Long Island Farm Bureau officials.

Anthony Panarello, who owns Natural Earth Farms in Calverton, is one of the organic farmers. He worries about the pest’s effects on his 30,000 to 50,000 pounds of peppers, tomatoes and eggplants he sells each year wholesale.

“I’m concerned about what it would take to control the bug,” Mr. Panarello said.

Mr. Gilrein and the Cornell Cooperative Extension are closely monitoring any potential stink bug population on the East End.

Researchers have so far set up traps to catch the bugs and are working with entomologists in Upstate New York to monitor an expected invasion, a collaborative effort called the Eastern New York Brown Marmorated Stink Bug Project.

When confronted with the possibility of a stink bug infestation, farmers like Mr. Lewin and  Mr. Sujecki griped it would be yet another issue on their lengthening list of problems, like hot weather and cucumber bugs.

But “it’s a bit more serious than their everyday problems,” Mr. Gilrein said.

04/15/11 10:00am
04/15/2011 10:00 AM

COURTESY PHOTO | Restoration ecologist Chris Pickerell (pictured) and Suffolk County Legislator Ed Romaine have been named the recipients of two annual environmental awards given by the North Fork Environmental Council.

Chris Pickerell has been named Environmental Champion of the Year for his work on coastal habitat restoration with Cornell Cooperative Extension for the past 18 years.

His team has established several eelgrass meadows in the Long Island Sound and in Shinnecock Bay in Southampton and is planning to establish more eelgrass meadows in the eastern Peconic estuary and Gardiner’s Bay.

This year he plans to restore at least one eelgrass meadow in the Peconic Bay in Greenport.

Mr. Romaine has been named the recipient of the Richard Noncarrow Environmentalist of the Year award for his long-standing efforts to preserve the North Fork environment, and his recent efforts to preserve the Sound Avenue/Route 25 corridor in Wading River.

Both awards will be given to the recipients at a NFEC meeting at Martha Clara Vineyards in Riverhead on May 13, where the environmental group will also kick off a plan to fight to keep Sound Avenue in Riverhead Town from being overdeveloped.

Mr. Pickerell said this week that his work is necessary because development pressure, dredging, algae blooms and other factors have destroyed most local eelgrass meadows in the past 25 years.

“In order to maintain productivity and diversity in our local waters, it is important that we do what we can to protect what is left and restore historic meadows wherever possible,” he said.

Mr. Pickerell’s eelgrass program, which has five full-time staff members and three vessels, began in 1994.

“2011 will be the first year that we are planning to utilize volunteers as shoreside support for our underwater planting efforts,” he said. “A new method we developed will allow us prepare our transplants on onshore and reduce planting time underwater.  We look forward to greater public involvement that will not only increase overall awareness, but should also increase the size of meadows that we can create.”

“I am honored to be recognized in this way and I accept the award on behalf of my entire team since our program truly is a team effort,” he added.  “Without the hard work and dedication of everyone involved in our program, none of this would be possible.”

Mr. Romaine is being honored for his entire body of work, including his recent effort to help define the extent of a toxic plume at the EPCAL facility in Calverton, his work on public transportation issues, his support of  efforts to curb pollution in the Peconic estuary and his backing of legislation to support research on safe ways to reduce deer tick population.

“I’m honored and delighted. I believe in protecting the environment,” said Mr. Romaine of the award on Friday. “I try to do a lot of work quietly behind the scenes, but it’s so important in many different ways…. I’m a huge supporter of alternative energy and public transportation.”

Mr. Romaine said that he’s currently working on a project to open up a dredge spoil dumping area that was  blocking the water flow at Terry Creek at Indian Island County Park in Riverhead, and is currently advocating for the shut-down of the Millstone Nuclear Power Plant near New London, Conn., among numerous other environmental issues.

byoung@timesreview.com