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Sweet Corn IPM Newsletter No. 8 – August 15, 2014

Please visit the Highmoor Farm website for the University of Maine Sweet Corn Integrated Pest Management Newsletter No. 8, August 15, 2014, “Pest Numbers Increase in Most Fields.”

Image Description: Sweet Corn

Made in Maine: Thoughts on Food, Animals, and Agriculture

Only YOU Can Prevent …

By Donald E. Hoenig, VMD

On one of my recent flights out of Portland, it was a clear, cloudless morning and the plane flew right over the eastern end of Long Island, New York. As I admired the scene out the window at 33,000 feet, I noticed that I had an amazing view of Plum Island, which lies just off the north fork of Long Island. Plum Island is the site of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s high containment animal health laboratory. It also houses the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s research lab. The island is owned entirely by the U.S. government and is the only place in the country where certain highly contagious livestock and poultry pathogens, such as foot and mouth disease virus (FMD), are kept. Special clearance is required to visit Plum Island and security is obviously very tight. Access to the island for workers and visitors is by a short ferry ride. The last time I visited in 2008, the DHS security detail was armed with automatic weapons and didn’t smile too much. Guarding foot and mouth disease virus is serious business.

In March 2001, I was part of the first contingent of ten U.S. veterinarians who travelled to the United Kingdom to assist the British government in battling an outbreak of FMD. (Eventually, over 400 U.S veterinarians would assist in the outbreak response.) The disease had not been present in that country since the late 1960s and agricultural officials were doing everything in their power to contain and eradicate the disease from the British livestock population. The disease was eradicated by October, but at great cost — at least six million animals killed at a cost of $7-10 billion.

FMD is present throughout much of Asia and Africa, but it is rarely seen in Europe and has not been present in the U.S. since 1929. The disease affects all cloven-hooved (two hooves) animals including cattle, sheep, goats, swine, llamas, alpacas, and many wild species, including deer, moose, and elk. It is considered to be the most highly contagious livestock disease and can be spread in many ways — by infected animals who are shedding the virus, by animal-to-animal contact, through the air on dust particles, by manure-contaminated equipment, or by people who may not have cleaned their clothing or boots properly.

FMD has what is referred to as a high morbidity (many animals in the herd get sick, up to 90-95%), but a low mortality (few animals die of the disease). The virus causes vesicles or blisters in the mouth, on the lips, on the teats of the udder, and on the sensitive, growing tissue of the hooves. These blisters quickly rupture causing ulcerations in the affected areas and pain. Affected animals don’t want to walk around and eating becomes very painful. Pregnant animals may abort. Over a period of weeks and months, affected animals can recover, but in the meantime they can spread the disease to other animals in the herd and are a threat to other herds in the region. In the case of dairy cows, milk production goes to zero. Beef cattle and swine lose weight due to decreased appetite. The disease has a devastating impact on the farm’s productivity and income. For these reasons, many countries practice a “stamping out” approach if FMD is discovered. That’s the approach that was taken in the UK in 2001.

What I saw and did in England during the month I spent there had a profound and lasting impact on my life and career. I participated in the destruction of hundreds of healthy sheep and cattle that were not infected but were exposed by proximity to infected herds and deemed to be a threat. I came back depressed and saddened by all the destruction I had witnessed and by the disruption to farmers’ lives and livelihoods. I met farmers who hadn’t left their farm for weeks during the crisis. I sat at farmers’ tables as they cried when I told them their animals would be destroyed. But I also came back energized and determined that we could and should do better for our animals and our farmers. I realized that, while we thought we were prepared for FMD in the U.S., we really weren’t.

In the past 13 years, I’ve been involved in national and regional efforts to enhance and improve our preparedness and response to FMD. Our response plans have been dramatically upgraded. State, federal, and industry stakeholders have held countless meetings and training sessions and conducted numerous tabletop and on-farm, functional exercises to test our plan. A major development in our response planning is the acknowledgement that, if an outbreak becomes widespread, a large-scale FMD vaccination strategy will need to be implemented. Unfortunately, preemptive vaccination is not feasible or practical since there are seven serotypes of FMD virus and over 65 subtypes. Predicting which of these viruses might come to the U.S. is impossible.

Efforts to keep FMD out of the country have also been improved at airports and border crossings through the use enhanced screening techniques and additions to the Beagle brigade, but there are things that individuals can do to keep FMD out of our country. If you travel abroad, please follow U.S. Customs’ rules and don’t bring back agricultural products or food from foreign countries, no matter how tempting. If you’re a livestock farmer and your animals are sick with puzzling signs such as blisters or ulcers, please immediately notify your veterinarian. To paraphrase Smoky the Bear, only YOU can help prevent FMD.


Dr. Hoenig retired as the Maine State Veterinarian in 2012 and, after completing a year-long Congressional Fellowship in Sen. Susan Collins’ office in Washington DC last year, in January 2014 he started working as a part-time Extension Veterinarian for University of Maine Cooperative Extension.

Dr. Hoenig invites you to submit questions and comments to dochoenigvmd78@gmail.com. Answers to selected questions will appear in future blog posts.

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Mainers Urged to Sign Up for Free Disposal of Banned, Unusable Pesticides

AUGUSTA—This October, the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry’s (DACF) Board of Pesticides Control (BPC) will team up with the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to help Mainers dispose of banned or unusable pesticides.

This free disposal program is open to homeowners, family-owned farms and greenhouses. Collection will occur at sites located in Presque Isle, Bangor, Augusta and Portland. To qualify, people must register by September 26, 2014.

Governor Paul R. LePage is urging Mainers to take advantage of this opportunity to protect the environment and save money through this once a year collection event that highlights cooperation between government agencies. “This is an opportunity for Mainers to dispose of unusable pesticides properly and at no expense,” said Governor LePage. “By consolidating collections into four central locations and using in-house resources and expertise, we can reduce disposal costs to about $2 per pound. That’s a great value for Maine taxpayers.”

It’s not unusual for homes and farms to have unintentional hazardous waste—banned pesticides or pesticides that have become caked, frozen, or otherwise rendered unusable—sitting around in basements, garages, or barns. These chemicals can be difficult and expensive to dispose of; DACF Commissioner Walt Whitcomb stressed the importance of proper disposal of banned or unwanted pesticides.

“It’s important for the protection of public, wildlife, and environmental health that these products are dealt with properly and not thrown in the trash or down the drain, where they can contaminate land and water resources, including drinking water,” said Commissioner Whitcomb. “People holding these chemicals should contact the BPC as soon as possible to register for the October collection.”

“Providing an easy and no cost solution for Mainers to properly dispose of pesticides is a win for the environment and public health,” said Maine DEP Commissioner Patricia Aho. “The collection events cover the State and are held in Presque Isle, Bangor, Augusta and Portland providing accessible methods of collection and future disposal.”

The collected chemicals go to out-of-state disposal facilities licensed by the federal Environmental Protection Agency where they are incinerated or reprocessed.

Registration by September 26, 2014, is mandatory—drop-ins are not permitted. To register, get details, and learn important information about the temporary storage and transportation of obsolete pesticides, go to the BPC Web site at thinkfirstspraylast.org, or call 207-287-2731.

The Maine Obsolete Pesticides Collection Program, jointly sponsored by the BPC and DEP, and paid for entirely through pesticide product registration fees, has kept more than 90 tons of pesticides out of the waste stream since its start in 1982.

Local Bread Wheat Project Cited in Press Herald Report

A Portland Press Herald article about Maine bakeries using more local grains mentioned the Northern New England Local Bread Wheat Project, a USDA-funded collaboration of researchers, farmers, millers and bakers in Vermont and Maine that aims to help farmers increase organic bread wheat production and quality. For the past four years, Alison Pray, co-owner of the Standard Baking Co. in Portland, has been working with the Northern New England Local Bread Wheat Project at the University of Maine and the Northern Grain Growers Association. The groups occasionally send her new heritage wheat varieties to bake with so she can evaluate their properties and flavor, according to the article.

UMaine’s Aroostook Farm Celebrates 100 Years

The University of Maine’s Aroostook Farm in Presque Isle is celebrating 100 years of service to the state and Maine’s potato industry with a centennial celebration and alumni social on Aug. 13.

As the College of Natural Sciences, Forestry, and Agriculture’s potato research facility, the farm is the center for agricultural research and development for Maine’s potato industry. Research and outreach programs at Aroostook Farm aim to provide essential information for Maine’s potato industry to remain competitive in a rapidly changing marketplace.

The farm’s celebration will include tours, a program commemorating the anniversary, and a social and picnic.

Invitations were mailed to more than 1,000 individuals and organizations including growers, producers and other representatives from the agricultural community; local, state and federal policymakers; university administrators; and alumni.

More information about Aroostook Farm and its centennial celebration is online.

Dill Quoted in AP Article on Berry Growers’ Fruit Fly Battles

James Dill, a pest management specialist with the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, was quoted in an Associated Press article about Northeast berry growers learning how to combat an invasive fruit fly — the tiny spotted-wing drosophila — that wiped out 80 percent of some farms’ late-season fruit two years ago. Growers in Maine, the country’s largest producer of wild blueberries, are spraying and harvesting sooner and planting earlier varieties, the article states. “You take a loss, but the loss is on green berries rather than having to put more pesticides out there,” Dill said. The Portland Press Herald, Yahoo! News and Fox Business carried the AP report.

Sweet Corn IPM Newsletter No. 7 – August 8, 2014

Please visit the Highmoor Farm website for the University of Maine Sweet Corn Integrated Pest Management Newsletter No. 7, August 8, 2014, “Pest Pressure Variable – Higher Along the Coast.”

Image Description: Sweet Corn

Spotted Wing Drosophila Update: 8/8/2014

We caught single flies in traps in Levant, Limington, Buxton and Gray. We caught six flies in our Turner locations.

Please visit the Highmoor Farm website for the August 8, 2014 Spotted Wing Drosophila Update, where you can subscribe to blog updates.

Image Description: Male Spotted Wing Drosophila

Dill Gives Tips for Dealing with Garden Pests, Diseases on WVII ‘Backyard Gardener’ Segment

James Dill, a pest management specialist with the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, was featured in the latest installment of the “Backyard Gardener” series on WVII (Channel 7). Dill spoke about common garden pests and diseases such as beetles, woodchucks and late blight and offered advice on easy ways to prevent damage. For beetles, Dill suggests plucking them off plants and placing them in a cup of water with liquid soap detergent, or using traps. The ideal solution for dealing with larger wildlife such as woodchucks and groundhogs is to trap and release them, Dill says.

Press Herald Advances UMaine Extension’s Backyard Locavore Day

The Portland Press Herald previewed the University of Maine Cooperative Extension’s sixth annual Backyard Locavore Day on Aug. 9. Several UMaine Extension experts will be on hand during self-guided tours of six backyards in Freeport and Brunswick. Visitors can learn do-it-yourself strategies for becoming a locavore, or a person who eats food locally grown and produced. Demonstrations and talk topics will include vegetable and square-foot gardening, backyard composting, greenhouses and beekeeping. Each garden session will feature food-preservation methods, including drying, hot water bath canning and making herbal vinegars and jam. Complimentary food samples will be provided.


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University of Maine Cooperative Extension


Contact Information

Cooperative Extension: Agriculture
5741 Libby Hall
Orono, Maine 04469-5741
Phone: 207.581.3188, 800.287.0274 (in Maine) or 800.287.8957 (TDD)E-mail: extension@maine.edu
The University of Maine
Orono, Maine 04469
207.581.1110
A Member of the University of Maine System