Mar 11, 2017
Cornell’s Christy Hoepting wins Excellence in IPM award

Christy Hoepting grew up on a small farm north of Toronto, Ontario. Enrolling at the University of Guelph, a top-tier ag school, was a natural fit. And though she focused on onion production while doing applied research for her master’s degree, she never dreamed she’d make a career of it. But then her advisor told her that a job with cooperative Extension had opened up in western New York. She suggested that Hoepting apply. The interview, after all, would be a good learning experience.

“What’s Extension?” Hoepting remembers asking. But exceptional preparation and delivery were second nature for Hoepting. She got the job.

Now, for her work on behalf of farmers, not just in the rich muck-soil region of western New York but statewide and nationally, Hoepting has earned an Excellence in IPM award from the New York State Integrated Pest Management Program (NYS IPM) at Cornell University. IPM weaves together a broad range of tactics that minimize the environmental, health and economic risks of pests and pesticides both.

“Christy is a star in Cornell Cooperative Extension,” said Brian Nault, a professor of entomology at Cornell. “She’s a gifted educator and advocate, more passionate and successful in promoting IPM practices than just about anyone I know.” While onions are Hoepting’s main research focus – they’re a high-value crop for New York, with annual sales upward of $40 million – growers in western New York also welcome her expertise in cabbage, broccoli and garlic.

Few people know onions inside-out as well as Hoepting. That “inside” part is critical. If you’re a farmer, you win when your onions pay their way; in a good year you could make upward of $4,000 per acre. But you lose when one too many onion thrips – tiny pests, hard to find – sneaks between the leaf folds to lay eggs within its tender tissues. Or when pathogens hiding beneath the skin of healthy-looking onions trigger the long road to decline in a crop you’re counting on to get you through the winter.

Which is why Hoepting has conducted hundreds of on-farm research trials in plant pathology, entomology, weed science, cultural practices and crop nutrition, presented at scores of stakeholder and scientific meetings, and published scores of articles and research papers. It’s also why she scouts farm fields, tracking every movement of insect and disease pests. And growers from miles around know that when Tuesday morning rolls around, they’ll meet at a corner of the road and Hoepting will recount what she’s seen.

She calls it the “Muck Donut Hour,” and it doesn’t take long for the conversation to start rolling. “I’m constantly tweaking our recommendations based on our research, of course, but also on what I hear from growers at the corner of the road,” Hoepting said.

“Christy does her research on the farm in growers’ fields,” said onion grower Matt Mortellaro. “It makes us confident that her work will apply to our situations. She’s extremely responsive, and she’s always listening.”

“I wish we had a Christy Hoepting in every crop and corner of the state,” said Jennifer Grant, director of NYS IPM. “She exemplifies the best in IPM, bringing science to the field and the field perspective to the science.”

Christy Hoepting received her award on March 8 at Cornell Cooperative Extension’s “Elba Muck Region Onion School” in Albion, New York. Learn more about IPM at

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