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Mark Zittel

Good Bugs Help Vegetable Grower Earn Excellence in IPM Award

by Mary Woodsen

mark zittel

Curiosity, vision, tenacity — these are the qualities that have earned vegetable grower Mark Zittel an Excellence in IPM award from the New York State Integrated Pest Management Program.

Zittel participated in an on-farm study to test if beneficial insects could have an impact on greenhouse pests, says Robert Hadad, a Cornell Cooperative Extension fresh-market specialist. “We wanted to see if that impact would translate to large-scale operations in the field — and have a considerable impact on insecticide use,” says Hadad.

Zittel farms 240 acres of vegetables in western New York. He grows his transplants in greenhouses that are also home to his wholesale spring home-garden crop. Zittel’s pepper transplants have been especially hard-hit by greenhouse pests. Those pests hitched a ride outside on pepper transplants early in the growing season, soon becoming full-scale infestations.

The IPM answer? Marigolds — and the Orius bug. Flats of marigolds provided a nursery for these tiny predators until prey populations built high enough to sustain them. Once outside, the marigolds provided the habitat that kept Orius at work. Hadad says that Zittel has been able to cut insecticide use by as many as eight sprays per season.

“Mark’s commitment to IPM, to the environmental well-being of his farm is inspiring,” says Jennifer Grant, co-director of the NYS IPM Program. “We hope it inspires others too.”

Zittel received his award on Tuesday, January 20, 2014 at the Empire State Producers Expo in Syracuse, NY. Learn more about IPM at nysipm.cornell.edu.