Parasitic threat | Black vine weevils such as these pose a significant threat to a variety of crops vital to New York agriculture.

Student Spotlight on Ben Engbers: Researching a Sustainable Way to Control Pests

While many Cornell students were off enjoying summer vacation away from Ithaca, Ben Engbers ’20 remained on campus to defend and improve the vitality of New York’s berry industry. As a research assistant and project manager at Elson Shields Laboratory of Entomology, Engbers has dedicated the majority of his undergraduate career to demonstrating the efficacy of nematodes as a sustainable biocontrol for berry farms.

“Nematodes are a native, sustainable, and organic solution to a food security problem that is affecting New York state and the world,” Engbers said. While Shields laboratory has studied the behavior and application of nematodes as pest control for over two decades, this summer, Engbers facilitated a specific project concerning the control of black vine weevil at Rulfs Orchard located five hours away in Peru, NY. “My work this summer resulted in promising data that I am excited to see published and ultimately applied in the real world,” he said. Black vine weevil is a formidable obstacle to crop growers worldwide and has been a significant detriment to the berry industry.