The first success in controlling the alfalfa snout beetle that has infested nine New York counties has been reported by Cornell University entomologist Elson Shields. The insect, which migrates by walking, has eaten its way across northern New York alfalfa fields, sometimes destroying a crop in a single year and dramatically reducing milk production on affected dairy farms.

But the combination of two species of entomopathogenic (insect-killing) nematodes appears to have caused beetle populations to collapse to manageable levels. “Researchers in New York have been working since 1989 to develop strategies to effectively manage alfalfa snout beetle. I am more than pleased to report that we have seen our first success,” Shields says.

He will present his findings during the 2008 Crop Congresses, March 12-13, in Madrid and Carthage, NY. For more information, call 315-788-8450 or 315-379-9192.

The Northern New York Agricultural Development Program will fund continuing research on the use of biological controls as well as the work of Cornell plant breeder Donald Viands, who is developing alfalfa varieties resistant to the pest.

At the Crop Congresses, Shields will focus his presentation on the progress of research using nematodes to control alfalfa snout beetle and on a joint effort between Viands’ Cornell Forage Breeding Project and Shields’ Alfalfa Snout Beetle Research group to develop resistant alfalfa. With funding from the New York Farm Viability Institute, Shields will work with producers within the infested counties to establish the biocontrol nematodes on infested farms.