February 8, 2008
Contact: Michael E. Hunter, Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) of Jefferson County, 315-788-8450; Joe Lawrence, CCE of Lewis County, 315-376-5270; Peter Barney, CCE of St. Lawrence County, 315-379-9192

Cornell Researcher Offers Info on Brown Root Rot at March Meetings

As if the Alfalfa Snout Beetle hasn�t done enough damage to North Country alfalfa fields, here comes brown root rot. Cornell University Professor of Plant Pathology Gary C. Bergstrom says the fungal disease that plagues alfalfa and clover has the potential to seriously damage production of the crops that are critical to the agricultural industry. Bergstrom will speak about brown root rot and other diseases of alfalfa, corn and soybeans at the 2008 North Country Crop Congresses on March 12 in Madrid, NY, and March 13 in Carthage, NY.

Dr. Bergstrom says, �Brown root rot is present in a majority of the alfalfa fields tested in the Northeast with most lesions advanced into the internal tissues of the plant roots and crowns.�

Bergstrom and Cornell graduate student Michael Wunsch have received funding from the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program to work with Cornell Cooperative Extension educators in Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties in 2008 to develop management strategies for controlling brown root rot in alfalfa and forage grasses.

The disease was detected in eight of 10 fields sampled in New York state in 2005, including fields in Northern New York � in Clinton, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties. Because the disease affects the internal tissue of the plants, it can be difficult to identify brown root rot as present in a farm field without laboratory analysis. What options do farmers have for dealing with the difficult disease?

Bergstrom says, �Currently, there are no measures available to farmers to control this difficult disease. But we hope our work will change that. Our research is aimed at identifying the alfalfa and grass varieties that perform better than others in the presence of brown root rot fungus.�

Joe Lawrence, field crops educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Lewis County, says, �The March Crop Congresses provide the opportunity for North Country farmers to get ahead of the curve on how to deal with brown root rot and other crop diseases. Learning the latest science from Dr. Bergstrom and our other panelists gives producers a head-start on growing the best crops they can under North Country growing challenges and opportunities.�

Also on the Crop Congresses� agenda are presentations for dealing with field crop insect pests by Cornell entomologist Dr. Elson Shields, and on new herbicides and weed control by Cornell weed scientist Dr. Russell Hahn. Lawrence and Cornell Cooperative Extension Field Crop Educators Michael E. Hunter of Jefferson County and Peter Barney of St. Lawrence County will provide North Country Field Crop Research updates.

The registration fee for the 10 am to 3 pm Crop Congresses on March 12 at the Madrid Community Center and March 13 at the Carthage Elks Club is $15 by March 7; $20 after; with lunch included. Register with Cornell Cooperative Extension in Jefferson County at 315-788-8450 or in St. Lawrence County at 315-379-9192. The annual Corn Congress at the William H. Miner Agricultural Research Institute in Chazy, NY, will be held on March 4 with guest speaker Dr. Limin Kung, Jr. of the Dairy Nutrition and Silage Fermentation Lab at the University of Delaware. Call 518-846-7121 x117 for more details. # # #