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Annual Report 1998
Division Director
(609) 292-5441

Bee Inspection
(609) 292-5443

Beneficial Insect Laboratory
(609) 530-4192

Gypsy Moth Suppression
(609) 292-5443

Nursery Inspection
(609) 292-5442

Pest Detection
(609) 292-5442

Plant Laboratory Services
(609) 292-5443

Seed Certification and Control
(609) 292-6075

Plant Industry

Robert J. Balaam, Director

The Division of Plant Industry's goal is to safeguard New Jersey's plant resources from injurious insect and disease pests. 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 also oversees programs that certify plant stock for interstate and international shipments, protect forested communities from defoliation and tree loss caused by the gypsy moth, inspect honeybees for harmful bee diseases and pests, regulate the quality of plant seeds, and produce and release beneficial insects to reduce crop and environmental damage and decrease dependence on chemical pesticides.

Biological Pest Control

Under the department's biological control program, exotic and native beneficial insects are raised for release into the field to control pests of forests, fruits, vegetables, ornamental plants, field and forage crops. The release of beneficial insects reduces the need for pesticides, thereby minimizing the amount of pesticide residue in the environment and delaying pest resistance to costly pesticides. Fewer pesticide applications in the field also allows the native population of beneficial insects to increase, putting more pressure on the pest population.

This year, the department conducted eight biological control programs, four of 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 four programs which released laboratory-raised beneficial insects included beneficial wasps that attack the Mexican bean beetle, a pest which feeds on soybean and snap bean foliage; a new predatory beetle which feeds on the hemlock woolly adelgid, a pest that is devastating native hemlocks in the state; a predatory beetle and two parasitoids which feed on euonymus scale, a pest of many varieties of the ornamental euonymus shrub; and two beetles which feed on purple loosestrife, an aggressive wetland plant which is displacing native plants.


During the 1997 growing season, 134,000 acres of soybeans were produced by New Jersey farmers. Approximately 107,000 of those acres (80 percent) are susceptible to feeding by the Mexican bean beetle. Small beneficial wasps which cannot withstand New Jersey winters are raised in the laboratory and released into the field each summer to kill the Mexican bean beetle larvae.

The pest population has been so significantly reduced by the parasite release program that no pesticide applications were required on any soybean acreage to control the Mexican bean beetle in 1997. This resulted in estimated savings to growers of between $382,000 to $1,377,000, depending on the severity of the problem. No grower participating in NJDA's biological control program has had to spray for the Mexican bean beetle since 1985.

Hemlock trees of all ages that are found in natural stands throughout the state are being decimated by the hemlock woolly adelgid (HWA) with some study sites showing mortality rates of more than 80 percent. While chemical control of the pest is relatively easy in small trees found in ornamental plantings and nurseries, it is impossible to treat most native hemlock stands due to site inaccessibility and the dense vegetation canopy over the trees.

After many years of research by NJDA and foreign exploration by USDA's Forest Service for beneficial insects that prey on this Asian pest, a biological control program focusing on three ladybug species from Japan and China is under evaluation at several locations in the Northeast.

In cooperation with USDA, this year NJDA began development of a HWA biological control program requiring establishment of a laboratory colony of one of the potential predators, P. tsugae, and development of a more efficient method of predator mass production. NJDA's efforts were phenomenally successful, resulting in the trial release of 75,000 beetles at 15 sites by the end of the fiscal year. Observations at many of the release sites have verified field colonization and host feeding by the beetles.

For several years, the department has been investigating beneficial insects which may be useful in combating euonymus scale, a major pest of ornamental plants. Because one type of ladybug has already proven its effectiveness on plants in landscaped areas, a pilot project was initiated this year to determine its control capabilities against other types of scale under nursery conditions. Two commercial nurseries in Cumberland County were chosen as test sites. The ladybug controlled the scale populations in the field, reduced pesticide applications and proved to be effective against several different types of scale. Unfortunately, they did not overwinter at the nursery. Additional trials will continue.

In addition, this year two parasitic wasps and a tiny predatory beetle were laboratory reared and released against euonymus scale in an effort to increase the predator pressure on this economically significant pest.

An exotic freshwater wetland plant, purple loosestrife, is displacing the native flora of marshes around the country and threatening many animals which depend on those native plants for food and shelter. Large stands of this plant can reduce ground water recharge, decrease water storage capacity of a wetland, reduce a marsh's ability to attenuate floods, reduce open water space and species diversity, and jeopardize the health and vitality of the ecosystem. Until recently the only methods of control were expensive and temporary and impacted non-target species.

USDA research of the plant's native European habitat have found four predatory insect species -- two leaf-feeding beetles, a root-mining weevil and a flower weevil -- which have been released in several states. As part of a cooperative program with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection's Division of Fish, Game and Wildlife, NJDA began raising the two leaf feeders with more than 180,000 released this fiscal year at six state wildlife management areas and at two preserves controlled by the New Jersey Natural Lands Trust. The beetles appeared to have overwintered at most of the sites. The effort will continue in the coming year.

Additional programs included evaluation of gypsy moth and alfalfa weevil parasites and a fly which feeds on Canada thistle, a weed found in cultivated crops and pasture.

Pest Surveys

Nursery Inspection

All nursery stock sold in New Jersey or exported to other states or countries is required to be free of injurious pests, ensuring that ornamental plants purchased by consumers are healthy and do not contain pests that could spread to other plants.

This year, the nursery inspection staff inspected 13,514 acres in 925 nurseries to certify freedom from dangerous insects and diseases. These inspections found a total of 481 active pest infestations that required treatment. The most frequently observed pests were bagworm, calico scale, white pine weevil and two-spotted spider mites, white peach/prunicola scale, hemlock woolly adelgid, cooley spruce gall adelgid and rose mosaic virus.

Major emphasis was placed on certifying as plant dealers all landscape firms which provide nursery stock through landscaping services. As a result, 720 establishments, including garden centers, retail outlets and landscape firms, were certified as plant dealers for 1998.

In addition, the department issued 518 state and 55 federal phytosanitary certificates, enabling export of plants and plant material to other states or countries.

Vegetable Transplant Inspection

Approximately 7.3 million vegetable transplants shipped into the state for use by New Jersey farmers in the spring of 1998 were inspected by the department. This inspection is conducted to ensure compliance with New Jersey regulations which require Flowersthat only vegetable plants that are certified to be free of plant pests be permitted entry into the state. The predominant crops inspected were pepper, leek, escarole and endive as well as cabbage, collard, kale and tomato plants. No lots were rejected for disease or insect problems during 1998 and plant quality was very good.

CAPS Program

The department remained an active participant in the Cooperative Agricultural Pest Survey (CAPS) Program, a joint effort involving USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Plant Protection and Quarantine (APHIS/PPQ), state universities and state departments of agriculture throughout the nation. Included under the program are the European spruce bark beetle, golden nematode, the Asian long- horned beetle and the brown garden snail.

The European spruce bark beetle, a serious pest of spruce and pine in Europe first found in southern New Jersey last year, was discovered this year by APHIS/PPQ inspectors in crates at an importer's facility in Bergen County. These bark beetles are frequently intercepted in dunnage and wood crating associated with shipments of steel and other materials from European countries arriving at seaports in the Northeast. In addition to continued monitoring of survey traps for the European spruce bark beetle and other foreign bark beetles in Camden County's port area, the department also inspected survey trap sites around the Bergen County location. Neither pest was found.

Soil samples were collected from 10 potato fields in Burlington, Monmouth and Hunterdon Counties and examined for golden nematode as part of the CAPS golden nematode survey project. This was the final year of a three-year survey of potato producing areas throughout the state. No golden nematodes have been found in any of the samples collected in New Jersey. Data gathered in these surveys will be used to support export certification of international shipments of USA-grown wheat, potatoes and nursery stock.

The Asian long-horned beetle (ALB), a foreign wood-boring cerambycid beetle discovered in New York in 1996 and in Illinois in 1998, poses a threat to the forests of the northern United States. A biometric survey of 318 sites in New Jersey was conducted last year in cooperation with APHIS/PPQ but no signs of infestation were found.

In May 1998, however, a warehouse in Middlesex County which received goods from China was found to be infested with live adults and larvae of a related foreign cerambycid beetle. The warehouse was fumigated under the supervision of USDA's APHIS/PPQ. Additional sites storing similar types of imports from China were inspected with more larvae of both types of cerambycid beetles found in Bergen, Camden, Ocean and Union Counties. All infested wood crating was incinerated.

In cooperation with APHIS/PPQ, the department placed a variety of insect traps near the Middlesex County site to determine if an infestation had developed outside the warehouse. Twelve weekly checks of the traps throughout the summer revealed no foreign species.

A serious plant pest that feeds on a wide variety of plant hosts, the brown garden snail was found for the first time in Atlantic County in the summer of 1998. Currently 11 states have quarantines or regulations prohibiting the introduction and/or distribution of live plant-feeding snails. Although New Jersey does not have such a quarantine, live plant-feeding snails can no longer be moved or raised in the Garden State and a survey and control program for brown garden snail is under way.

Blueberry Maggot

NJDA continued to work with specialists from the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station and Rutgers Cooperative Extension, representatives of the New Jersey blueberry industry, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and APHIS/PPQ export certification staff to develop a new certification program for the movement of fresh blueberries into and throughout Canada while reducing the risk of further spread of the blueberry maggot. The blueberry maggot, a serious pest of fresh blueberries, is a quarantine pest limiting or preventing shipment of fresh blueberries to many parts of Canada, other countries and states. The new certification program is being developed in coordination with various Canadian Provincial Agricultural Ministries, other blueberry producing states and the USDA. The current program of exporting fresh blueberries to Canada under a U.S. No.1 grade certificate is slated to expire at the end of 1998.

Seed Certification And Control

The seed certification and control program protects farmers, vegetable plant growers, the turf industry and the general public 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 the introduction of noxious weeds in sod or on golf course fairways, higher farm production costs, costly weed removal, increased food costs and decreased farm income.

Of the 1,224 samples of seed tested in the department's seed laboratory, 902 were analyzed to determine seed quality and germination standards as established by the New Jersey Seed Law. Violations in the required labeling and quality standards, especially seed unfit for planting and seed contaminated with noxious weed seed, occurred in just two percent of these samples.

With particular emphasis on increasing the sampling and testing of seed sold to farmers through direct sales and from New Jersey seed wholesalers, more than one-third of the 430 samples tested this year were comprised of vegetable, turf grass and field crop seed. Of the 37 samples, representing 663,692 pounds of agricultural seed, which were inspected only two percent were found to contain prohibited and restricted noxious weed seed. This seed was removed from sale in New Jersey and administrative penalties were assessed.

An additional 139 lots of vegetable seed sold to New Jersey growers were inspected and sampled and found to be of good quality although vigor testing of several different kinds of vegetables found lower germination under stressful conditions. This service provided valuable information to growers trying to establish early planting schedules.

New Jersey golf courses purchase large quantities of turf grass seed each year through direct sales. This year 21 samples of turf grass seed, representing 23,125 pounds, were inspected and sampled for quality. Laboratory analysis found four lots (2,400 pounds) in violation because they contained noxious weed seeds not listed on the label. A fine was levied against the seed companies involved.

Twenty-six turf seed samples were taken from lots of certified turf seed shipped to New Jersey from other states. These samples were tested to determine eligibility for the inter-agency certified seed program which made 81,100 pounds of high quality turf seed, mixed under strict supervision by the department, available to sod growers.

Conservation plant material developed by USDA for use primarily for coastal soil stabilization continues to play an important role in preventing beach erosion. Plant growers entered 25 acres of conservation plant material in the certification program. Fifty-two samples of several different kinds of soil conservation plants were also tested for the Cape May Plant Materials Center for distribution to growers in New Jersey and throughout the Northeast.

Gypsy Moth Suppression

The gypsy moth is a voracious and devastating insect pest of shade and forest trees in the Garden State. However, after nearly 30 years and three major cycles of the pest, there are signs that major biological control factors are diminishing its ravages. This year, just 760 acres in two municipalities and one county park required treatment under the department's gypsy moth suppression program compared to 4,448 acres treated in 18 municipalities in FY97. The reduction is primarily due to the department's aerial gypsy moth suppression program using the biological insecticide, Bacillus thuringiensis (B.t.), combined with the natural occurrence and widespread distribution of a fungal disease which attacks gypsy moth larvae. Treatment costs remained under $12 per acre.

In partnership with the USDA's Forest Service, the department continued to offer municipalities the opportunity to participate in the gypsy moth suppression program. Through the annual program, the department locates gypsy moth-infested residential areas using aerial and ground survey techniques and supervises aerial B.t. treatments each spring. The department also prepares an environmental impact statement each year, thereby enabling participating municipalities to qualify for federal reimbursement of 50 percent of the treatment costs.

The summer aerial survey indicated that gypsy moth defoliation of the state's forest and shade trees had increased slightly from 1,910 acres in 1997 to 1,995 acres in 1998 with the heaviest damage in Atlantic, Burlington, Camden, Cape May and Salem Counties.

Apiary Inspection

During the winter of 1997-1998, New Jersey lost as much as 15 percent of its domestic bees due to the Varroa mite, tracheal mite and winter weather, a tremendous reduction from the decimation suffered in 1996. A generally milder winter, combined with improved beekeeping management practices, kept mortality low.

Although reports of feral colonies are on the rise, the number of feral colonies is still substantially lower than prior to the 1996 season when Varroa mite populations exploded in the state. Mite levels for 1998 were moderate and, with proper treatments, beekeepers were able to maintain strong colonies into late summer.

Bee Keeper A regional research initiative involving New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Maryland continued to search for new methods to treat mites and broaden the industry's knowledge of how mites kill honey bees. In addition, this year an independent researcher at Rutgers began looking for alternative mite treatments.

The Beekeeping Advisory Board worked closely with the department to advise the Secretary of Agriculture and the apiary program of areas which most concerned the beekeeping and related grower communities.

The department inspected 8,200 bee colonies that entered New Jersey from other states for commercial pollination of fruit crops, blueberries and cranberries to validate the sanitary certificates issued by the shipping states. No significant parasitic mite infestations were detected among the out-of-state colonies.

Plant Inspection Services

The plant laboratory services unit provides technical support for the regulatory programs concerning seed, apiary and related programs.

One of the laboratory's primary responsibilities is to monitor the quality of seed sold by seed companies directly to consumers, especially to farmers and golf courses, the two largest consumers of expensive seed. The laboratory conducts germination tests and analyses for troublesome or noxious weeds in samples submitted to the laboratory. The results of this year's tests indicated that seed sold in the state directly to purchasers is generally of high quality and accurately labeled.

Laboratory tests were also conducted on certified wheat seed grown in New Jersey this year. All had germination percentages above the specified standard of 90 percent and were free of weed seeds.

Requests by farmers for vigor testing of sweet corn and pepper seed increased this year. Vigor testing, unlike germination testing, can be used to differentiate seed lots from each other on the basis of physiology. A seed lot with a good germination percentage might not be physiologically fit to survive or flourish in less than optimal growing conditions. While the department's surveys of seed germination assured farmers that seed would perform at the germination percentages specified on the seed labels under ideal conditions, vigor test results enabled farmers to modify planting times as well as growing and storage conditions.

The laboratory also supported the apiary inspection program by analyzing bees for Varroa and tracheal mites and testing for American foulbrood, a bacterial disease of bees. This year a new laboratory test was developed to determine if varroa mites are resistant to the miticide fluvalinate.

Liquid chromatography enables the plant laboratory to identify plant varieties, plant toxins and fungi with gas chromatography playing an increasing role in insect and microbial identifications for both plant and animal diseases. DNA technology is also being incorporated into plant pest and disease identifications.

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