|Annual Report 2001|
The Division of Plant Industry's goal is to safeguard New Jersey's plant resources from injurious insect and disease pests, a goal made more challenging by the globalization of the world economy. Through its detection, inspection, eradication and control programs, the division helps to ensure that farmers and others who buy and sell plants and plant products enjoy high quality, pest-free products.
The division oversees programs that certify that plant stock for interstate and international shipments is free of plant pests, conducts surveys for new plant pests, protects forested communities from defoliation and tree loss caused by the gypsy moth, inspects honeybees for harmful bee diseases and pests, regulates the quality of plant seeds, and produces and releases beneficial insects to reduce crop and environmental damage and decrease dependence on chemical pesticides.
BIOLOGICAL PEST CONTROL
Under the Division of Plant Industry's biological control program, exotic and native beneficial insects are raised for release into the field to control invasive agricultural, forest and environmental pests. Many of these pests have come in from other states or nations and have no natural enemies to control their numbers. The biological control program identifies nature's own defenses and helps to establish them to control these insect and disease pests. Biological control of insect and weed pests reduces the need for chemical controls and minimizes pest resistance to existing pesticides while protecting crops, forests and valuable environmental habitats. Biological controls also allow native populations of beneficial insects to increase, putting more pressure on the pest population.
This year, the Division of Plant Industry conducted five biological control programs which required laboratory rearing of beneficial insects for release into the field. The goal was to reduce specific pest populations below economically significant levels and to establish new beneficial insect species in the state. The beneficial insects are released into the environment only after thorough review to ensure that their release will not be detrimental to the environment. The four major continuing insect-raising programs were:
The fifth major effort is a pilot program involving production of a parasitic insect to control tarnished plant bug (TPB), a pest that feeds on a broad range of plant species including forage crops and fruit. A strong laboratory colony of the TPB parasite has been established and the focus now shifts to establishing the species in central and southern New Jersey.
Additional programs included gypsy moth parasite evaluations and field production of a fly that feeds on Canada thistle, a weed pest of cultivated crops and pasture.
PLANT PEST SURVEYS
NJDA's continued participation in the Cooperative Agricultural Pest Survey Program, a cooperative effort between USDA/Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service/Plant Protection and Quarantine Program (APHIS/PPQ), state universities and state departments of agriculture throughout the nation, grows more critical every year. In FY01, surveys were conducted to detect chrysanthemum white rust and the Brown garden snail, both of which seem to be under control in the Garden State, as well as the potentially economically-devastating foreign pests, Asian long-horned beetle and plum pox.
The Asian long-horned beetle, a foreign cerambycid beetle discovered in North America in New York in 1996 and in Chicago in 1998, poses a threat to the forests of the northern United States. Live larval stages of the Asian-long-horned beetle, were found in wood crating in a warehouse in Linden, resulting in placement of insect traps in and around warehouses in New Brunswick, Hackensack, Moonachie, Carlstadt, Plumstead, Cream Ridge, Allentown, Englishtown, Imlaystown, Kearny and Cedar Grove. These are sites where other types of exotic adult beetles were found or which receive high-risk cargo. Trap results for Asian long-horned beetle were negative.
Although live adult and larval stages of other foreign cerambycid beetles have been found and eradicated in packing materials shipped from China and offloaded in New Jersey warehouses, there is no evidence that they have spread to other locations.
Plum pox virus affects stone fruits (peaches, nectarines, plums). Previously known to occur only in the Mediterranean, the Middle East and Chile, it was recently found in stone fruit orchards in Pennsylvania and Canada. This viral disease could have serious repercussions for New Jersey's stone fruit industry since infected trees produce unmarketable fruit and decline in vigor.
As a result of the Pennsylvania discovery in 1999, APHIS/PPQ initiated a national Plum Pox Surveillance Program and allocated $74,000 for the program in New Jersey in 2001. Department inspectors collected foliage samples from stone fruit nurseries, and from orchards that purchased budwood from nurseries served by the affected Pennsylvanian and Canadian growers.
Field collections were made throughout the state yielding 23,499 samples representing 3,503 acres from 44 stone fruit growers, one stone fruit nursery and two ornamental nurseries. The department's Plant Laboratory used ELISA tests to analyze the samples all of which were negative for the virus. The Plum Pox Surveillance Program will continue in 2002.
GYPSY MOTH SUPPRESSION
The gypsy moth is New Jersey's most serious insect pest of shade and forest trees. Over the past 30 years there have been three major cycles of the pest and there are signs that gypsy moth infestations are on the rise, threatening vast areas of northern New Jersey with heavy defoliation and potential tree losses. As a result, NJDA has increased its control efforts to reduce the pest's impact in forested residential areas and recreational forests.
The voluntary gypsy moth suppression program is conducted in partnership with the USDA's Forest Service and municipal governments. NJDA uses aerial and ground survey techniques to locate gypsy moth-infested residential areas; prepares an environmental impact statement that enables participating municipalities to qualify for federal reimbursement of 50 percent of the treatment costs; and supervises aerial treatments each spring using the non-chemical insecticide, Bacillus thuringiensis (B.t.).
In the spring of 2001, 8,500 acres in 23 municipalities throughout the state were treated, a 95 percent increase in treated acres compared to the previous year. Treatment costs averaged less than $16 per acre.
Gypsy moth defoliation rose by about six percent from 132,762 acres in 2000 to 140,838 acres in 2001. More than 90 percent of the damage was in Bergen, Hunterdon, Monmouth, Morris, Passaic, Somerset, Sussex and Warren Counties.
With hundreds of millions of dollars worth of crops dependent on pollination by bees and other insects, out-of-state bee colonies are imported to augment the work of native colonies each spring. In FY01, NJDA inspectors reviewed more than 10,000 imported colonies to validate the sanitary certificates issued by the shipping states.
New Jersey's domestic honeybees were hard hit during the winter of 2000-2001 with losses of about 60 percent in domestic colonies. Dry weather during the summer and fall months yielded a poor honey crop in the fall of 2000, resulting in inadequate food reserves and limited production of young bees to survive through the winter.
SEED CERTIFICATION AND CONTROL
The seed certification and control program protects farmers, vegetable growers, the turf industry and other consumers from purchasing contaminated, mislabeled, and inferior seed products that result in lower crop production and economic loss. Unfair trade practices and untruthful seed labeling can result in costly weed removal efforts on sod farms and golf courses and higher farm production costs for many agricultural products.
A total of 454 samples of vegetable, turf grass and field crop seed were tested in NJDA's plant laboratory in FY01. These samples included 147 lots of agricultural, vegetable and turf grass seed analyzed to determine seed quality and germination standards as established by the New Jersey Seed Law. Approximately five percent of the samples collected from seed dealers or growers contained violations involving noxious weed seed that was not noted on the label, germination rates that were below label claims, or incorrect labeling as to variety. Penalties were levied against these seed companies.
Farmers and others requested vigor testing on another 294 samples in order to make planting decisions. This service provides valuable information to growers who must decide which seed lots would perform well if planted early and which would not. Reports from farmers using the testing service indicate that the vigor test results reliably predicted germination percentages observed in the field.
In addition, samples were taken from 13 lots of certified turf seed representing almost 60,000 pounds of seed shipped to New Jersey from other states. These samples were tested to determine eligibility for use in the interagency certified seed program. Seed sold under this program is certified to meet high standards of genetic identity and purity. Under strict supervision by the Division of Plant Industry, seed wholesalers mixed a total of 36,000 pounds of high quality turf seed for use by sod growers.
Conservation plant material developed by USDA continues to play an important role in preventing beach erosion through coastal soil stabilization. New Jersey plant growers entered 30 acres of conservation plant material in the certification program. A variety of soil conservation plants were inspected at the Cape May Plant Materials Center for distribution to growers in New Jersey and throughout the Northeast.
PLANT LABORATORY SERVICES
The Plant Laboratory Services unit provides technical support for the regulatory programs of the Division of Plant Industry with primary testing emphasis on seed, apiary and plant protection programs.
In FY01 plant laboratory staff continued to monitor the quality of seed sold by seed companies directly to farmers and golf courses, the state's two largest purchasers of expensive seed. Germination tests as well as analysis for troublesome or noxious weeds were conducted on the samples submitted to the laboratory with results indicating that generally high quality, accurately labeled seed is sold directly to purchasers.
The laboratory also filled nearly 50 requests from farmers for vigor testing of sweet corn and pepper seed. Vigor testing can be used to differentiate seed lots from each other on the basis of their ability to survive or flourish in less optimal growing conditions. The vigor testing information provided to farmers helps them to better manage planting times as well as growing and seed storage conditions.
The laboratory supported the apiary inspection program through the analysis of bees for Varroa and tracheal mites and testing for American foulbrood, a bacterial disease of bees. This year laboratory staff initiated a new type of test that determines whether Varroa mites have become resistant to fluvalinate, the pesticide widely used by beekeepers to control the pest. To date, no resistant mites have been detected in New Jersey hives. In a similar vein, laboratory staff are investigating ways to screen Bacillus larvae, the bacterium that causes American foulbrood, for resistance to terramycin, a popular control for the disease.
In addition, the laboratory continued testing for aflatoxin, fumonisin, vomitoxin, zearalenone, and T-2, mycotoxins that contaminate livestock feed and can be lethal to farm animals. Because each species of farm animal has a different threshold of tolerance for a particular mycotoxin, test results were quantified in parts per billion or parts per million and reported to the county agricultural agents who then helped farmers develop feed mixtures that mitigated the effects of the mycotoxins.
NEW JERSEY AGRICULTURAL INVASIVE SPECIES COUNCIL
In FY01 the New Jersey Agricultural Invasive Species Council began its work with 12 members representing the State Board of Agriculture, the New Jersey Farm Bureau, and the nursery, fruit, grain and forage, turfgrass, vegetable, aquaculture, livestock and organic farming industries. In addition, advisory members were appointed representing NJDA, the New Jersey Department of Transportation, USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service, USDA/APHIS/PPQ, and Rutgers University research and extension programs. The Council immediately began development of an agricultural invasive species management plan for the Garden State.