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Hudler and O'Brien promote green practices for plants

Being surrounded by attractive trees and shrubs is one of the joys of visiting park and garden landscapes. And for their efforts in contributing to these joys, primarily by producing "Branching Out" -- an integrated pest management (IPM) newsletter used by arborists, landscapers and growers -- since 1994, Cornell plant pathologist George Hudler and extension plant pathologist Dawn Dailey O'Brien accepted an Excellence in IPM Award from the New York State IPM Program at the New York State Arborists Fall Education Seminar at Cornell Sept. 26.

"Branching Out" connects the research community with landscape professionals by providing information on keeping ornamental trees and shrubs from being ruined by insects or diseases. The newsletter not only helps plant professionals identify pests but also predicts pests' arrival in locations across the state. And when it comes to controlling insects, timing is critical.

"We not only provide details of when to look and potentially treat problems, but when the window of opportunity has passed," says Hudler, chair of Cornell's Department of Plant Pathology and director of the Northeast Plant Diagnostic Network.

O'Brien and Hudler write about other tenets of IPM as well. Selecting the optimal site for plants, using resistant varieties and paying close attention to soil health and fertility are important tools, Hudler says. Naturally occurring predators can keep destructive insects at bay, and "Branching Out" includes strategies to protect and maximize the benefits from these free, safe and battle-ready allies. The newsletter also helps consumers understand that some pests and pathogens, while present, pose no threat, Hudler says. In these cases treatments are not required, which reduces overall use of pesticides.

"'Branching Out' is an essential tool for many Christmas tree growers," says Elizabeth Lamb, who works as a New York State IPM program coordinator for ornamentals at Cornell. "Whenever we hold educational programs, we talk about resources and always have very positive responses from growers on how useful 'Branching Out' is."

To read the newsletter, go to http://branchingout.cornell.edu/.

Elizabeth Thomas works with the New York State Integrated Pest Management program.

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John Carberry