Each year, UConn Extension Educator Jude Boucher helps commercial vegetable growers find sustainable solutions to pest problems. The program emphasizes healthy soils, balanced plant nutrition, proper pest and beneficial identification, scouting and monitoring techniques, preventative management strategies, reduced-risk pesticide selection application, and resistance management.
Farmers apply to become part of the program, as space is limited to 12 farms per year. Those accepted into the program receive weekly, or every-other week farm visits from Jude, as he provides education and guidance for the specific challenges the farm is facing. This year’s farmers are from 9 different towns, with operations varying from 2 to 120 acres of vegetables, with over 40 different vegetable crops being grown.
“This group were all so young,” Jude says, “they gave me confidence that we do have some talented young farmers getting into the business and willing and able to take over for the next generation.”
It may not be the Olympics, but we’ve been busy with Brazil too. Last week, Leanne Pundt visited Geremia’s Greenhouses in Wallingford to help train their interns on how to identify and monitor for insects on their yellow sticky cards. The interns are all from Brazil and part of The Ohio Program, an International Exchange Program of The Ohio State University specializing in Internships for Horticulture, Agriculture and Turf Grass.
Yellow sticky cards are used in greenhouses to monitor for winged insect pests such as whiteflies, thrips, fungus gnats, aphids, shore flies, and leafminers and leafhoppers. Growers can look at trends and see if insect populations are increasing or decreasing to determine if they need to treat and how well their management strategies are working. For more see: Identifying Some Pest and Beneficial Insects on Your Sticky Cards http://ipm.uconn.edu/documents/view.php?id=888
Interns were: Giovane Giorgetti, Thales Fogagnoli, and Paulo Boaretto (holding the reference book).
The name Jude Boucher is synonymous with vegetable production in Connecticut. Since joining UConn Extension in 1986, Jude has made a profound impact on the industry as the Extension Educator for vegetable crops Integrated Pest Management (IPM). Jude received his bachelor’s degree in Entomology from the University of New Hampshire, his masters in Entomology from Virginia Tech, and then earned his Ph.D. at UConn in Plant Science.
Jude provides cutting-edge solutions to growers on pest management and crop production problems, keeping them competitive on the local, regional, and national level. “Educating farmers in sustainable, profitable and environmentally-sound food production practices benefits every man, woman and child in the country directly, on a daily basis, by helping to maintain a safe and secure food source. Knowledge of effective IPM practices helps prevent excess application of pesticides by otherwise frustrated growers,” he says.
Jude has a multi-faceted approach to his Extension education program that allows him to reach a vast number of growers, not only in Connecticut, but, throughout the Northeast. During the growing season, he works with numerous farms to improve their business and address crop issues as they arise. From conventional to organic farms, new farmers to experienced farmers; Jude works with everyone and improves their economic viability and production. In 2015, he worked with 18 farmers one-on-one throughout the state on a weekly or every other week basis.
As the co-editor of Crop Talk, a quarterly newsletter on vegetables and small fruit, science-based updates reach a circulation of approximately 1,000 people. Crop Talk provides growers with a calendar of upcoming events and workshops, and articles on cutting-edge production practices. Each year, Jude co-chairs the Connecticut Vegetable and Small Fruit Growers’ Conference in January. The conference is widely attended, with over 300 people and 30 exhibitors. He has served on the steering committee for the three-day New England Vegetable and Small Fruit Conference and Trade Show for many years, and as General Chairman from 2013-2016. This biennial conference has outgrown its location twice, and has a reputation as the conference to attend throughout the Northeast, with up to 1,800 attendees.
A weekly pest message is produced and emailed to his list serve, posted on the IPM website, or recorded as a message farmers can call in and listen to. In 2014, Jude was unable to get into the fields to gather crop scouting and monitoring data to share with the hundreds of growers who depend on the pest messages because of a late-season ski accident. His message became reports from the farm, with over 25 of his previously trained IPM farmers contributing throughout the summer.
Jude adopted a hybrid to this plan in 2015, which included his own scouting reports as well as those from his trained farmers. The weekly pest message now includes more photographs, equipment for small farms, trellis systems, and high tunnel production systems.
Diversifying a Traditional Farm
Jude has assisted Fair Weather Acres in Rocky Hill in diversifying and building resiliency to the challenges Mother Nature provided. The farm is over 800 acres along the Connecticut River. Jude advised Billy and Michele Collins on ways to diversify their marketing efforts and the number of crops they grow, after flooding from Hurricane Irene in 2011 washed away much of the crops, and left the farm in debt.
Originally, the farm received IPM training on three crops: beans, sweet corn, and peppers. With diversification, Billy began producing 55 different varieties of vegetables. Jude taught him pest management for his new crops, and the Collins hired an Extension-trained private consultant to help monitor and scout pests and implement new pest management techniques.
“I encouraged and advised Michele on how to develop a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) venture on their farm and introduced the couple to other successful CSA farm operators for additional consultations,” Jude says. “Michele started the CSA with 120 members in 2012, and – through a variety of methods – has exceeded 400 CSA shares, and expects to reach 500 summer shares in 2016. In 2013, they started offering separate fall CSA shares to their customers, and that now has over 400 members.”
Michele and Billy give back to Extension by speaking at state and regional conferences, and by hosting twilight meetings, research plots on their farm, and UConn student tours.
“Jude has been an integral part of the growth and diversification of our farm. His extensive knowledge and passion for agriculture, coupled with his love of people and farmers in particular, make him an unrivaled asset to Connecticut agriculture,” Michele says. “Jude has taught us, advised us, and offered us unlimited guidance in many areas including IPM, alternative farming concepts, marketing, and agribusiness just to name a few. Without Jude’s support and encouragement through our difficult years after the storm, we would not have such a positive outlook on the future of our business. We hope Jude will continue to offer his exceptional assistance for years to come.”
Building a New Farm
Oxen Hill Farm is a family enterprise in West Suffield that began when the Griffin family inherited an idle hay and pasture farm with the intent of creating an organic vegetable and cut flower farm.
“Besides small-scale home vegetable and flower gardens, they had no experience operating a commercial vegetable and cut-flower business,” Jude says. “They signed up for training with me, and the first year, 2009, started with an acre of organic vegetables and cut flowers.”
A deluge of rain during June and July taught the family many hard lessons about late blight on tomatoes and wet season pests, but they also effectively combatted weeds without herbicides, improved strategies to market their produce, and developed techniques to preserve produce with proper sanitation and post-harvest handling.
“Despite the challenges of their first year, they expanded their business in 2010, growing from 36 CSA members to over 150,” Jude continues. “They also enlarged their acreage onto their parents’ home farm, to almost 20 acres of crops, and learned to grow everything from artichokes to zucchini. They learned how to prevent or combat caterpillars on their broccoli, leafhoppers on their beans and potatoes, blights on their tomatoes, and many other pests that all wanted a share of their crops.”
The farm is entering its fifth year of USDA Organic Certification through the Baystate Certifiers, and has expanded to over 120 acres, residing at the home farm and land purchased in 2014. The cut flower business remains at the inherited farm, and also caters to weddings, floral arrangements and retail sales.
Finding a Better Way
Nelson Cecarelli of Cecarelli Farm in Northford and Wallingford contacted Jude for advice on transitioning to deep zone tillage (DZT) after multiple severe rainstorms in 2006 left 4-foot deep erosion ditches in his sweet corn fields. Jude, Nelson, and Tom Scott – of Scott’s Yankee Farms in East Lyme – researched the options, and co-wrote a pair of grants to document the benefits and problems of using DZT versus conventional field preparation.
“DZT allows a grower to prepare a narrow seedbed, only inches wide, rather than exposing the surface of the whole field to wind and rain,” Jude explains. “Farms can also till deeply, right under the crop row to loosen any hardpan that has formed after years of using a plow and harrow. This allows the soil to absorb and retain more water and allows the plants to extend their roots deeper into the soil. The system also improves soil quality over time.”
Jude organized conferences, workshops and twilight meetings on DZT and published many articles and fact sheets to help growers get started with this form of reduced tillage. The three of them have made presentations at various state and regional workshops and Nelson and Tom have both continued to seek ways to improve their farms, and worked with Jude to mentor other farmers on DZT. There are now Extension programs in every New England state advocating the use of DZT, and over 45 growers in the region have switched to DZT.
Although the grant has ended, Jude and Nelson are researching soil quality in DZT fields. Jude continues working with different farmers on IPM, bringing economic viability to farms throughout the state, and securing the future of our local food systems
Another great annual conference is in the books for UConn Extension and the Connecticut Agriculture Experiment Station. 266 growers, agricultural exhibitors, and educators came together Monday January 11th at Maneely’s in South Windsor for a session filled with valuable information in which growers will take back and apply to their operations.
Topics covered included how to comply with labor laws, heat treating seeds for disease management, the effects of environmental extremes on crop physiology, weed management in berries, irrigation, how to grow for a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), and the brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB). The crowd was also given some great updates on risk management and crop disaster assistance programs from USDA-Farm Service Agency given by Bryan Hurlburt, grant opportunities from the Department of Agriculture given by Commissioner Reviczky, Worker Protection Standards given by Candace Bartholomew of UConn Extension, and updates on the Food Safety Modernization Act given by Diane Hirsch, also from UConn Extension. The growers who were licensed Pesticide Applicators received 3.5 pesticide credit hours from this event.
Not only were the talks great but so was the tradeshow. Coming from all New England states, New York, and Ohio 43 exhibitors represented 26 organizations. These ranged from seed companies to agricultural service providers as well as the UConn publications stand where growers could purchase beneficial publications such as the “2016-2017 New England Vegetable Management Guide”.
The crowd also enjoyed a delicious locally sourced lunch on Monday. Locally grown and made products were provided for the conference from 8 businesses in Connecticut. The conference received outstanding ratings and positive feedback through the evaluations where 95% of the recipients rated the program as “excellent” or “good”.
Congratulations to Mary Concklin of UConn Extension and the UConn Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture on receiving the Award of Merit from the CT Pomological Society, “In recognition of outstanding service to the Connecticut Fruit Industry.” Well done Mary, we appreciate everything you do!
Jude Boucher of our Vegetable Crops Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Program has had a busy summer. He helps commercial vegetable growers find sustainable solutions to pest problems. The program emphasizes healthy soils, balanced plant nutrition, proper pest and beneficial identification, scouting and monitoring techniques, preventative management strategies, reduced-risk pesticide selection and application, and resistance management. This summer he worked with farmers across the state, including Daffodil Hill Growers in Southbury and the Enfield Prison. Daffodil Hill Growers is part of UConn Extension’s Scaling Up for Beginning Farmers program.
Through its offices located throughout Connecticut, UConn Extension connects the power of UConn research to local issues by creating practical, science-based answers to complex problems. Extension provides scientific knowledge and expertise to the public in areas such as: economic viability, business and industry, community development, agriculture and natural resources. This post, written by Mary Concklin explores how UConn Extension programs impact an agricultural business.
Integrated pest management (IPM) takes many forms at Bishop’s Orchards in Guilford. Dr. Jude Boucher, UConn Vegetable Production & IPM extension specialist, has been working with Bishop’s in season long vegetable IPM training aimed at increasing the production of high quality produce while avoiding unnecessary pesticide applications. Boucher has worked with Bishop’s field manager, Michaele Williams, scouting tomatoes on a weekly basis and teaching how to install preventative practices that help lower the incidence of disease and raise the yield and quality of their tomatoes. Preventative practices include plastic and living mulches for weed control, which also serve as a mechanical barrier for spores that might otherwise splash up from the soil. Timely irrigations through trickle lines under the plastic, trellis systems, plant pruning, and proper site selection help keep the plants healthy and growing, lift the plants off the ground, thin the leaf canopy and allow the leaves to dry quicker so that they are less prone to diseases problems. Fungicides can be used only when needed and applied when computer models call for an application or when a disease is actually found during weekly scouting. Insects on tomatoes, Brussel sprouts, onions and other crops are controlled with microbial insecticides that are not toxic to humans and spare natural enemies to help prevent future pest outbreaks. Working with Extension also helps Michaele learn to recognize pests and natural enemies and design management systems on a host of new crops that the farm is now growing, from squash blossoms to beets.
Mary Concklin, UConn Fruit Production & IPM extension specialist, works with Bishop’s Orchards with fruit crop IPM. Bishop’s Orchard has been the site of in-field workshops conducted by Concklin for the fruit industry including blueberry pruning and apple tree grafting. Blueberry pruning is important for maintaining plant health, improving berry production, and reducing pest problems, while grafting is an important tool used to top work fruit trees to varieties that are more productive, more marketable or resistant to particular diseases. Through a USDA Specialty Crop grant, Concklin installed a solar powered weather station whose data feeds directly into the Network for Environment and Weather Applications (NEWA) at Cornell University. The data, run through pest models and accessible at www.newa.cornell.edu, is used by growers to help with pest management, irrigation and fruit thinning decisions. Concklin, in cooperation with Bishop’s Orchards and the USDA, has also been using pheromone traps to monitor for the presence of the new invasive insect pest, the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug. In addition she has monitored the bramble crops for the presence of the Spotted Wing Drosophila, another new invasive insect pest. Information garnered from these activities has been useful to the Bishop’s in determining management strategies.
A group of 13 Hispanic adults from Danbury and Bridgeport are participating in an Urban Agriculture program. This UConn Extension program has been designed in a way that students learn the science behind agriculture (botany, soils, vegetable production, integrated pest management, etc.), apply their knowledge by producing vegetables, and promotes entrepreneurship by allowing students sell their produce at a local Farmer’s Market.
(Back row left-rigth back): Juan Guallpa, Saul Morocho, Vicente Garcia, Simon Sucuz, Jose Rivera, Leonardo Cordova, Rolando Davila
Front row left-right: Patricia Morocho, Laura Rivera, Partha Loor, Rosa Panza, Maria Lojano.
At left: Danbury’s Mayor Mark Boughton visiting UConn Extension Urban Agriculture students at Danbury Farmer’s Market on June 27th.
At right: Connecticut State Representative David Arconti Jr. visiting UConn Extension Urban Agriculture students at Danbury Farmer’s Market on June 27th.