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Suffolk pest management program gets $50G

As part of the state budget agreement reached this week, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk will receive $500,000 to continue a program that has earned strong support from both farmers and environmentalists.

The Integrated Pest Management program tells farmers when to put pesticides and other chemicals on their fields, and how much to spray. Farmers call the extension service in Riverhead with reports of pests and disease outbreaks in their fields.

The extension service keeps records of the kind and severity of disease and pest outbreaks. When the numbers are high enough for spraying to be effective — it’s costly and often ineffective to spray when only a few plants are diseased — farmers can limit the use of insect and fungus control spraying, which saves them money. It also results in less contamination of the groundwater, a prime goal of environmentalists.

Until the budget agreement was reached, the program “was on the verge of being eliminated,” according to Assemb. Dan LoSquadro (R-Shoreham).

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