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Fostering Adoption of the Cornell Onion Thrips Management Program and Gauging its Success

Grant Program: OAR
Agricultural Sector: Vegetable
Region: Statewide
Project Duration: 4/1/2015 - 5/31/2017
Amount Awarded: $39,326.00
Lead Organization: Cornell University
Project Leader: Brian Nault
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2/15/19 Onion Thrips Management: Learn How to Avoid Insecticide Resistance

Proposal Abstract

Onion thrips is the most significant pest facing the New York onion industry. Thrips damage onion by feeding on leaves, which results in smaller, less-valuable bulbs. Thrips also transmit economically damaging plant pathogens to onion. Based on a survey by the New York Onion Industry Council in May 2012, onion growers ranked thrips as the most important pest of onion and the most important problem requiring research. To address this concern, the Cornell Onion Thrips Management Program (COTMP) was developed to provide season-long thrips control using reduced-risk insecticides and fewer applications. In a pilot project involving a few onion growers in 2014, the COTMP used 74% fewer insecticide applications to control thrips compared with the standard, weekly insecticide program. We propose to foster implementation of the COTMP in all major-onion growing regions in New York, and to document its success. The project will 1) cooperate with 16-20 onion growers across the state who will implement the COTMP with guidance from CCE and Cornell researchers, 2) disseminate information about the COTMP and related research efforts in thrips management at annual workshops and industry meetings, 3) evaluate the impact and adoption of the COTMP by onion growers through surveys and questionnaires. Expected outcomes are significant reductions in insecticides and fuel that will lead to substantial savings and profits for New York onion growers.

Final Report Summary Statement

The goal of our Cornell Onion Thrips Management Program was to provide season-long onion thrips control in onion fields using fewer insecticide applications and in a manner that would mitigate insecticide resistance development. To attain this goal, growers were encouraged to use an action threshold for determining if and when to apply a prescribed insecticide. A majority (94%) of onion growers said that they benefited from this Program. Results indicated that 60 to 78% of growers followed an action threshold for making an insecticide application, while 65 to 67% followed recommendations to rotate classes of insecticides. Growers who regularly used the action threshold and rotated insecticide classes made approximately one to three fewer insecticide applications per year than those who did not follow these recommendations. Over this 2-yr project, more than $180,000 was saved on insecticide costs by following the Cornell Onion Thrips Management Program.

Project Impact Data

Producers Participating: 18

Producers Advising: 11

Research/Extension Employed: 0.35

Gross Farm Savings: $181,370.00

Presentations: 5

Total Producers Engaged: 331

Onion Thrips Management: Learn How to Avoid Insecticide Resistance

Ten years ago NY onion growers routinely lost 30-50% of their crop’s value to thrips. Since then, new insecticides have minimized loss.  Unfortunately, the new products are being used almost weekly, are expensive, and thrips can build up resistance. 

Professor Brian Nault of Cornell University has developed a management approach that integrates active monitoring, higher action thresholds, and rotating insecticides to control the pest. The approach, developed in a 2014 pilot, was further tested in grower’s fields across the state. The program, funded in part by a New York Farm Viability Institute grant, demonstrated that season-long thrips control using reduced-risk insecticides and fewer applications is possible.  To learn more visit


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