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NYS IPM 2006
Excellence-in-IPM Award Winners:
Russ Hahn

Weed warrior wins IPM award for reducing herbicide risk

Russell Hahn was working toward his Masters at the University of Nebraska when the Cooperative Extension weed specialist had a heart attack, and Hahn helped fill in for several months. That’s when Hahn knew what he wanted his life work to be.

Now, for a quarter-century of careful research on reduced-risk weed management that New York’s farmers have come to trust, Hahn, professor of weed science at Cornell University, has received an “Excellence in IPM Award” from the New York State Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Program.

“Russ is generous with his time, talent, and expertise,” says Keith Waldron, New York State field crop and livestock IPM coordinator. “He has won a loyal following among New York’s farmers because he’s tested what will work, or won’t, with their crops and weed spectrums and under their growing conditions.”

Both conventional and organic growers find weeds to be among their most daunting problems. It’s hard to develop “soft” pesticides or find natural enemies for weeds because most will attack only one species, and once you get rid of one weed, another takes its place. So Hahn’s research has zoned in on how farmers can reduce herbicide use, often steeply, using IPM.

In fact, Hahn has shown that that many farmers could cut their herbicide applications by one-third to one-half by eliminating preemergence herbicide applications in favor of total postemergence weed control programs. These programs allow farmers time to scout for weeds ahead of time so they can make better choices among products for postemergence control measures. Yet while these tactics can save time and money, they require a basic knowledge of weed life cycles and in some cases, of which weed is which.

“To choose the most effective, least-toxic products, growers need to appreciate the difference between, say, horsenettle and ragweed and how each grows,” Hahn says. “If my prayers could be answered, it would be for growers, whether conventional or organic, to know their weed identification and basic plant biology. And then to get the planting date, seeding rate, nutrient management, and other cultural practices right. The package has to go together.”

Hahn’s personal package—humor, integrity, practical orientation—go together well. “Many farmers decide to attend a winter crops meeting based on whether Russ Hahn is on the program,” says colleague Gary Bergstrom, professor of plant pathology at Cornell University. “Russ is the face of Cornell Cooperative Extension to many of the state’s field crop producers. It can be a little daunting to follow him as a speaker.”

Sales reps trust Hahn’s expertise as much as farmers do. “Russ tells it like it is,” says Charlie Smith of United Agri Products. “It works or it doesn’t. Everybody relies on what Russ Hahn has to say about the products they are introducing to farmers.”

Hahn is a past president of the Northeastern Weed Science Society and served as an associate editor of Weed Technology. He has won the Robert B. Musgrave Award for Excellence in Agronomy and the New York State Association of County Agricultural Agents Award. He has edited the Extension newsletter What’s Cropping Up? and the annual Cornell Guide for Integrated Field Crop Management, each winning an award during his tenure.

Professor Don Rutz, director of the New York State IPM Program, will present the “Excellence in IPM Award” to Hahn on July 26 at the Musgrave Research Farm Field Day in Aurora, New York.