Northern New York Agricultural Development Program Press Releases

September 27, 2005

Contacts: NNYADP Co-Chairs Joe Giroux, 518-563-7523; Jon Greenwood, 315-386-3231;
Cornell University researchers Elson J. Shields, 607-255-8428; Janice Thies, 607-255-5099; 
Local Cornell Cooperative Extension crops educators

Now to Mid-November Optimal Time to Scout for Invasive Pest, 
Crop Damage on NNY Farms

Northern New York Agricultural Development Program researchers and Cornell University Cooperative Extension educators are scouting alfalfa fields in Essex, Clinton, Franklin, 
St. Lawrence, Lewis and Jefferson counties for the destructive alfalfa snout beetle. Training sessions will be conducted by Dr. Elson Shields, field crop entomologist at Cornell University to refresh the Extension educators on the identification of snout beetle larval feeding damage and snout beetle larvae. Farmers can assist this search and identify mission by assessing fields for damage by the alfalfa snout beetle. 

From now to mid-November, root feeding damage to alfalfa plants by snout beetle larvae is most apparent and larvae may still be present around the roots. . At this time of year, severely injured plants may be already dead or the leaves may by yellowed. Areas of fields often have a yellowed, stressed appearance. Alfalfa roots from affected plants must be inspected for the presence of snout beetle feeding damage to confirm the presence of the insect in the field. 

Mature larvae begin moving to their overwinter depth from mid-September through soil freezeup. They burrow 18 to 24 inches into the soil to hibernate for 18 months. While deep in the ground, the larvae mature into adults that emerge in the early spring of the 3rd year to lay eggs and complete the lifecycle. The beetles migrate to new fields by walking and by riding on vehicles and farm or tiling equipment. 

Currently, the only viable management strategy for alfalfa snout beetle is to grow alfalfa on a 3 year rotation (seeding year + 2 production years). The field then needs to be rotated to a non-host (corn, soybeans or grass) for a minimum of 2 years. 

Cornell researchers Dr. Elson Shields and Dr. Janice E. Thies are investigating the use of biological control organisms to reduce the populations of snout beetle below damaging levels. Shields and Dr. Don Viands of Cornell, the alfalfa plant breeder are working together to develop a snout beetle-resistant alfalfa variety.

The results of the Fall 2005 Extension field surveys and input from regional farmers will help map the current range of the alfalfa snout beetle. Research into identifying the territory and managing this crop pest is funded by the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program (NNYADP), a farmer-driven research and education program for Jefferson, Lewis, St. Lawrence, Franklin, Clinton and Essex Counties. 

This invasive crop pest arrived in the U.S. from Europe prior to 1895 in sailing ships´┐Ż ballast discharged at the Port of Oswego. Alfalfa snout beetle is currently found across all of Northern New York, and in two Canadian provinces.

To see photos of the adult alfalfa snout beetle and its larvae, go to the Photo Gallery.

For NNYADP fact sheets on alfalfa snout beetle and other NNY agricultural topics, go online to www.nnyagdev.org or contact Board Chairs Joe Giroux, Plattsburgh, 518-563-7523 or Jon Greenwood, Canton, 315-386-3231, or Dave Smith, Cornell University, 607-255-7286.

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