December 4, 2013
AP Biology class continues search for solutions to a local problem
The AP Biology class at BKW will once again be working to find a solution for local farmers who have been struggling with a problem effecting their crop growth and production.
Two years ago, Donna McGovern’s AP Biology students began a partnership with local Agronomist, Mr. Aaron Gabriel, who does research for the Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE). Their collaboration was to help each other determine why farmers were planting 34,000 corn seeds per acre, and yet only growing about 26,000 corn stalks; a loss that was estimated at about $50 per acre.
In 2012, the students contributed to a major find and helped Gabriel discover that the seed corn maggot, a problem previously thought to have been under control, was still harming crop growth. They found that the insecticide used to protect the planted corn seeds was ineffective in preventing the maggot from eating the seed.
Picking up where those students left off, BKW’s current AP Biology class met with Gabriel earlier this year and discussed other ways to keep the seed corn maggots and the black cutworm (another reason for stunted crop growth) from destroying the seeds. This BKW class worked with Berlin High School students to conduct studies on using nematodes (a type of roundworm) as a biological control and determined that their use could mean success in killing the maggots and cutworms.
The BKW and Berlin High School students are now focusing their attention on determining a concentration level of pop-up fertilizer that would allow the nematodes to survive. The nematodes would then be applied to the crop simultaneously with the pop-up fertilizer so they could live in the soil and protect the corn seed from being consumed by the corn maggots and black cutworms.
Students will continue their work this spring conducting additional field studies at local farms, with the help of CCE.
“In the difficult economic climate, we are fortunate to be able to partner with CCE,” said McGovern. “This partnership helps us bring real world science into the BKW classroom.”