Onion growers get help in fighting voracious pest


Maloney announced federal grants to fight the pest

PINE ISLAND – An insect, native to Europe, that can ruin onion
crops has become established in the United States, and now threatens Orange
County’s rich black dirt region. The war against the allium leafminer,
also known as onion leafminer, is on.

Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney, accompanied by experts and other local
lawmakers, detailed the battle plan at Caravallo Farms near Pine Island.

“The key thing is to get in the game right now so that we don’t
have a problem where we have lost millions of dollars of local onion crop
because we waited too long to fight this pest,” Maloney said.

The 2014 Farm Bill created the Foundation for Farm and Agricultural Research,
an independent non-profit entity that oversees agricultural research.
Grants from the program require a local match and that has come from another
organization. Maloney said total funding available for allium leafminer
research, through those sources, is $130,000

Dr. Brian Nault, a professor of entomology at Cornell University, said
this will be a long-term project.

“We’re going to try to identify locations where we can actually
conduct research and generate data that will lead us to identifying these
effective management strategies,” Nault said. “This is going
to require weeks and weeks of field work to identify how well these pest
management tactics work and then, that information will be relayed to
the growers at both local meetings as well as regional meetings.”
Nault noted that traditional techniques used in Europe to control the
damage, including crop rotation, are not suited to the black dirt region,
where most available flat soil-rich land is already in use.

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