|Annual Report 1999|
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 insure that farmers and others who buy and sell plants and plant products enjoy high quality, pest-free products.
The division's programs 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.
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 division conducted eight biological control programs, including gypsy moth parasite evaluations, alfalfa weevil parasite evaluations, and an ongoing hemlock woolly adelgid impact study in New Jersey's forests.
Four of these programs 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 1998 growing season, 133,000 acres of soybeans were produced by New Jersey farmers. Approximately 106,400 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 1998. This resulted in estimated savings to growers of $452,200. No grower participating in NJDA's biological control program has had to spray for the Mexican bean beetle since 1985.
Since 1988, the division has been involved with an impact study of the hemlock woolly adelgid (HWA), a devastating pest that has heavily infested almost half of the 26,000 acres of natural hemlock stands in the state. Some study sites show 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 FY99 in cooperation with USDA, NJDA continued an HWA biological control program that started three years ago with the establishment of a laboratory colony of one of the potential predators, P. tsugae. Observations at many of New Jersey's release sites have verified field colonization and host feeding by the beetles. The beetle has proven its ability to overwinter in the Garden State and to travel as far as 300 feet from a release tree.
As part of the agreement with USDA, the division supplied beetles for field release and as laboratory starter colonies to Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island, Maryland, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and North Carolina.
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 groundwater 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 and Wildlife, NJDA raised the two leaf feeders and released more than 91,000 this fiscal year at 13 sites. The beetles appeared to have overwintered at most of the sites.
Euonymus scale is a serious pest of ornamental plants in New Jersey and has been the subject of study for several years. One type of ladybug, introduced during the mid 1980s, is established and can be observed on infested euonymus plants throughout the state, but its ability to control the pest seems to be limited to large bushes, trees and hedges. Three additional beneficial insects, two parasitic wasps and a tiny predatory beetle, are currently being laboratory-reared for release against euonymus scale in the landscape. The wasps have been released at 31 sites in 11 counties since 1993 with only one recovery. Work is under way to better understand why the parasites have not become established. The beetle was released in 12 counties this year and observations at many of the release sites have verified its ability to colonize on both small and large euonymus plants and reduce scale populations. Dispersal of the beetles from established colonies in those counties to new sites has been documented. The beetle was released in 50 additional sites in FY99.
All nursery stock sold in New Jersey or exported to other states or countries must be free of injurious pests to insure that ornamental plants purchased by consumers are healthy and do not contain pests that could spread to other plants. To meet this standard, in FY99 NJDA's nursery inspection staff inspected 14,597 acres in 944 nurseries to certify them free from dangerous insects and diseases. The 672 active pest infestations found by inspectors were treated. Among the most frequently observed pests were bagworm, calico scale, juniper scale, pine tip/shoot moth, azalea and rhododendron lacebug, Cooley spruce gall adelgid, and wax scale.
In addition, a total of 762 garden centers and landscape firms were certified as plant dealers for 1999, an increase of more than five percent over last year.
The division's inspectors also issued 530 state and 58 federal phytosanitary certificates enabling export of plants and plant material to other states or countries. This 2.6 percent increase over last year was directly related to internet marketing.
Vegetable Transplant Inspection
Division staff inspected approximately 9.15 million vegetable transplants shipped into the state for use by New Jersey farmers in the spring of 1999, a 25 percent increase over the number of transplants inspected in FY98. The predominant crops inspected were pepper, leek, escarole and endive transplants but cabbage, lettuce and Swiss chard transplants were done as well. Because plant quality was very good, no lots were rejected for disease or insect problems. These inspections insure compliance with state regulations which require that only vegetable plants that are certified to be free of plant pests be permitted entry into New Jersey.
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, the Asian long-horned beetle and the brown garden snail.
The European spruce bark beetle, a serious pest of spruce and pine in Europe, was found by APHIS/PPQ officers in crates at an importer's facility in the northeastern part of the state in FY97. 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. However, the division has found no evidence of this or other foreign bark beetles in survey traps since the initial finding.
The Asian long-horned beetle, a foreign cerambycid beetle discovered in New York state in 1996 and in Chicago in 1998, poses a threat to the forests of the northern United States. A survey of 318 sites in New Jersey was conducted in cooperation with APHIS/PPQ and showed no signs of infestation. However, this year wood crating received in shipments from China at a New Brunswick warehouse was found to be infested with live, wood-boring cerambycid beetles of a different variety. The warehouse was fumigated under USDA supervision.
Further investigation by APHIS/PPQ resulted in detections of live larval stages of the second variety of beetle in wood crating in warehouses in Camden, Mahwah, Plumstead and Secaucus as well as live larval stages of the Asian long-horned beetle in Linden. The USDA destroyed all of the beetle infestations by burning the infested wood crating. As a further follow-up, the division placed a variety of insect traps near warehouses in New Brunswick, Trenton, Linden, Edison, Plumstead, Cream Ridge, Secaucus and Camden to determine if an infestation has developed outside the warehouse. No foreign species were detected during FY99.
The brown garden snail, a serious plant pest that feeds on a wide variety of plant hosts, was found for the first time in New Jersey last year in Margate. Although New Jersey does not have a quarantine on the introduction and/or distribution of live plant-feeding snails, as many other states do, the Garden State will not authorize the shipment or raising of live plant-feeding snails under USDA permit. A survey and control program for brown garden snail continued this year on the infested Margate properties, including informational brochures distributed to landscapers, homeowners and APHIS/PPQ inspectors, describing the biology and recommended control practices for this agricultural pest.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (Agriculture Canada) published new import requirements for the movement of fresh blueberry fruit into and throughout Canada. The program is based on implementing an approved blueberry maggot control program on the farm, grower self-inspection of fruit for blueberry maggot, and auditing by the division. The division worked with specialists from the Rutgers Agricultural Experiment Station and Rutgers Cooperative Extension, representatives of the New Jersey blueberry industry and Canadian Food Inspection Agency and USDA APHIS/PPQ Export Certification staff to develop the new certification program.
Because growers must be enrolled in the program in order to ship fresh blueberry fruit to markets in Toronto and Montreal, Rutgers Cooperative Extension and the division co-sponsored three training sessions for blueberry growers at the Rutgers Blueberry Cranberry Research Center in Chatsworth. Topics included blueberry maggot biology and control, the blueberry maggot control program requirements, and a demonstration on the process required to test fruit for maggot larvae. A total of 28 blueberry growers were approved by the division for participation in the program.
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 646 seed samples tested in the division's seed laboratory, 411 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 five percent of these samples.
Of the 411 samples analyzed, 35 percent (145 samples) were vegetable, turfgrass and field crop seed received from farmers, golf courses and wholesalers. Of these, 60, representing 541,336 pounds of agricultural seed, were inspected and sampled for quality control testing with only eight percent found to contain prohibited and restricted noxious weed seed. This seed was removed from the marketplace in New Jersey and administrative penalties were assessed.
Eighty-five lots of vegetable seed sold to New Jersey vegetable growers were inspected and found to be of good quality although vigor testing of several different kinds of vegetables found that stressful conditions could result in lower germination. This service provided valuable information to growers trying to set planting schedules.
New Jersey golf courses purchase large quantities of turfgrass seed each year through direct sales. In FY99, 31 samples of turfgrass seed, representing 15,475 pounds, were inspected and sampled for quality. Laboratory analysis found 11 lots representing 7,500 pounds in violation because they contained prohibited and restricted noxious weed seeds not listed on the label. A fine was levied against the seed company involved.
Twenty-one 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 interagency certified seed program which made 94,550 pounds of high quality turf seed, mixed under strict supervision by the division, available to sod growers.
Conservation plant material developed by USDA for use primarily for coastal soil stabilization continues to play a important role in preventing beach erosion. Plant growers entered 31 acres of conservation plant material in the certification program. Thirty samples of several different kinds of soil conservation plants were tested for the Cape May Plant Materials Center for distribution to growers in New Jersey and throughout the Northeast.
The gypsy moth is New Jersey's most serious insect pest of shade and forest trees. However, after nearly 30 years and three major cycles of the pest, there are now signs that major biological control factors are reducing the ravages of this pest. This reduction is the result of the division's aerial gypsy moth suppression program using the biological insecticide, Bacillus thuringiensis (B.t.), the raising and distribution of imported parasites and predators and the natural widespread distribution of a fungal disease deadly to the gypsy moth.
In partnership with the USDA's Forest Service, the division continues to offer municipalities the opportunity to participate in its annual gypsy moth suppression program. Through the program, the division locates gypsy moth-infested residential areas using aerial and ground survey techniques; prepares an environmental impact statement which enables participating municipalities to qualify for federal reimbursement of 50 percent of the treatment costs; and supervises aerial treatments each spring using B.t.
In the spring of 1999, nearly 1,400 acres in six municipalities in Salem and Burlington Counties were treated under the program. Although this was almost double the previous year's program when 760 acres were treated in two municipalities and one county park, total treatment costs remained at less than $12 per acre with almost $6 per acre reimbursed to the participating municipalities.
Overall, gypsy moth defoliation of the state's forest and shade trees decreased from 1,995 acres in 1998 to 1,380 acres in 1999 with heaviest damage in Burlington and Salem Counties.
During the winter of 1999 New Jersey beekeepers lost about five to 10 percent of their domestic bees due to the Varroa mite, tracheal mite and winter loss, a loss considered normal in the industry. Improved bee management practices and a mild winter were credited with low loss rate. Mite levels for 1999 were moderate and, using proper treatments, beekeepers were able to maintain strong colonies going into late summer.
Although overall hive health was significantly improved during FY99, inspection of approximately 6,200 New Jersey colonies indicated a 1.45 percent incidence of American foulbrood, a bacterial disease of bees. This represented a 100 percent increase in the disease's incidence from 1998.
Reports suggest that the number of feral colonies is still extremely low, despite short-lived increases between Varroa mite infestations. These colonies are still substantially lower than they were before Varroa mite populations exploded statewide in 1995 and 1996.
More than 8,100 colonies entered New Jersey from other states for commercial pollination of fruit crops, blueberries and cranberries. All were inspected to validate the sanitary certificates issued from the shipping state with no significant parasitic mite infestations detected among the out-of-state colonies.
The Beekeeping Advisory Board continued to work closely with the department to advise the Secretary of Agriculture of the direction the apiary program should go and those areas which most concern the beekeeping and related grower communities. In FY99 the introduction of the small hive beetle (SHB) was of great concern to the Board, requiring the department to request EPA approval for the use of Coumaphos to treat the hives.
On the advice of the Advisory Board, the department implemented regulations requiring that colonies coming from states and counties with SHB infestations be treated with Coumaphos within seven days of entering the Garden State. The regulations stipulated that incoming SHB-infested colonies would be quarantined in a single location, with the beekeeper required to treat the soil near those colonies with Guardstar but having the option of treating the colonies with Coumaphos. Moreover, regulations required that colonies infested with SHB larva be destroyed and only those colonies treated with Coumaphos and found free of SHB be released from quarantine.
In all, 43 colonies that contained SHB which were ultimately quarantined in one location for research purposes. In 1999 the department joined USDA in research on the SHB in a quarantined yard in southern New Jersey. This research will continue into FY 2000.
The plant laboratory services unit provides technical support for the regulatory programs of the Division of Plant Industry including the seed and apiary 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. Germination tests as well as analysis for troublesome or noxious weeds were conducted on the samples submitted to the laboratory. The results of this work indicated that the general quality of seed sold in the state directly to purchasers is of high quality and is accurately labeled.
Laboratory tests were conducted on certified wheat seeds 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 division'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 through the analysis of bees for Varroa and tracheal mites, and testing for American foulbrood. In FY99 the laboratory initiated a new test designed to determine if Varroa mites are resistant to the miticide, fluvalinate. To date, no resistant mites have been detected in New Jersey.
Liquid chromatography, a chemical separation technique, is being used for a number of applications within the division's programs, including the identification of plant varieties, plant toxins, and fungi. DNA technology is also being incorporated into plant pest and disease identifications and gas chromatography is being used increasingly by both the Division of Plant Industry and the Division of Animal Health for insect and microbial identifications. Greater use of automated equipment enables the laboratory to perform more intricate tests without increasing staff.
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