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Improving White Grub Control in Sod through Establishment of Persistent Entomopathogenic Nematodes

Grant Program: OAR
Agricultural Sector: Green Industry
Region: Statewide
Project Duration: 5/1/2015 - 4/30/2017
Amount Awarded: $70,000.00
Lead Organization: Cornell University
Project Leader: Kyle Wickings
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Proposal Abstract

New York sod producers are tasked with meeting high consumer expectations of pest and pathogen-free turf.  Current options for pest control in sod are limited, and sod producers have voiced a need for improved alternative pest control options.   

Entomopathogenic nematodes (EPNs) have shown promise in biological control of turf pests, and there are many species available commercially. Commercial EPNs, however, exhibit poor persistence in the field, require multiple applications, and are typically too costly for use in sod production. An alternative, low-cost approach for exploiting EPNs in sod is to establish native EPNs that persist in soil, thus eliminating the need for multiple applications.    

Our project will identify feasible methods for establishing native EPNs on sod farms for persistent control of white grubs. We will work closely with 3 sod growers to establish native EPNs and measure their effectiveness against white grubs in sod grown on different soils and under different soil management practices. We will also measure EPN persistence in harvested sod as a value-added trait that can be passed on to the consumer.     

Our ultimate goal is to provide sod producers with the necessary knowledge and resources to incorporate native EPNs into their own pest management toolkit. We will present our findings to NY sod growers via multiple channels including a Cornell webinar, a presentation at a state-wide conference, and a handbook on the use of native EPNs in sod.   

Final Report Summary Statement

In this study we evaluate the usefulness of native entomopathogenic nematodes in managing soil-dwelling insect pests of sod.  First, we assessed whether native nematodes can be established in different sod-producing soils.  Second, we evaluated their ability to survive sod harvest, transport, and installation at a new sight to serve as an internal biological control at the site of installation. Four different fields (two muck soil, two mineral soil) were inoculated with biocontrol nematode species in August of 2015 following sod establishment.  Biocontrol nematodes showed signs of persistence one month following inoculation, but showed low biocontrol capacity under drought conditions (2016).  However, biocontrol potential increased after harvest and installation, especially in sod produced on muck soils.  Our findings suggest that biocontrol nematodes have potential for improving pest control for the sod and turfgrass industry.  Future research will evaluate this practice at larger field scales and under more diverse soil conditions.

Project Impact Data

Producers Participating: 2

Producers Advising: 2

Research/Extension Employed: 0.25

Articles/Publications: 1

Presentations: 6

Total Producers Engaged: 704

Leveraged Funds: $84,500.00

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