In our last blog post on the New Family Farm, Natalie Hernandez explained that there are many different aphid species that can pose a major threat to seed potato farmers as carriers of Potato virus Y (PVY) – a serious concern for seed producers. In this follow up story, we will see how one of those aphid species—the soybean aphid, an accidentally-introduced pest from the Far East—is linked to two other deliberately-introduced invasive species, common buckthorn and the Asian lady beetle, which have each emerged as serious pests in their own right.
It all began with common buckthorn, a fast-growing shrub that was brought to the US from Europe in the early 1900s to use as a windbreak plant to reduce soil erosion in Midwestern farm fields. It did a poor job as a windbreak but survived and flourished in southern Wisconsin and Michigan where it has become a serious threat to woodlots because it outcompetes natural vegetation. (more…)
Today is Earth Day when nature is awakening and signs of spring abound. Flowers are opening across the landscape and soon the countryside will be resplendent with fruit trees in full bloom. We enjoy the profusion of scents and colors but rarely do we ponder why they exist. If you stand in an orchard or watch a patch of roadside flowers on a quiet afternoon, you will soon discover the answer. You will hear a soft buzz and see small insects of all shapes and sizes flitting between blossoms on their endless quest for nectar and pollen to feed their young. As they are doing this, they are at the same time performing a vital service to the plants by moving pollen between flowers and making it possible for fruit and seeds to form. When they do this, they are generally referred to as “pollinators.”
Lately in the news, there have been lots of stories about the importance of pollinators, namely bees. But why is this such a hot topic today? Well, the bees (as well as of the other pollinators) are vital to our food systems. However, the honey bee that has been historically used by farmers to pollinate their crops is under threat from a pervasive malady called Colony Collapse Disorder. (more…)