Blaine Viator, 2012 Friends of IPM Award Winner
IPM Implementer

Blaine ViatorJust minutes after Dr. Blaine Viator assumed leadership of the National Alliance of Independent Crop Consultants as president, he celebrated another victory as winner of a Friends of Southern Integrated Pest Management award.

Viator won the 2012 IPM Implementer Award, one of six Friends of Southern IPM awards this year. The implementer award goes to an IPM professional who performs “on the ground” integrated pest management.

The Friends of Southern IPM Award program began in 2008 to publically recognize the achievements of professionals working in the field of integrated pest management. The program has six categories, each representing a different facet of IPM: Bright Idea, IPM Implementer, IPM Educator, Future Leader, Pulling Together and Lifetime Achievement. Viator won the Implementer award because of his day-to-day practice of IPM as a consultant.

Viator is an independent crop consultant with Calvin Viator, Ph.D., and Associates, LLC, in Labadieville, Louisiana, a company his father, Calvin Viator, started in 1959. He has a B.S. in microbiology and a doctorate in plant health, with a minor in entomology from Louisiana State University.

As a consultant for sugarcane, soybean, and wheat farmers, Viator monitors crop development and provides IPM recommendations for his customers. According to the nomination sent by Dr. Donald Hershman, professor and extension plant pathologist with the University of Kentucky, “The growers he has worked with over the years have most certainly benefitted, financially and logistically, from Dr. Viator’s unwavering IPM approach.”

After spending the winter taking soil samples from sugarcane fields for fertilizer recommendations, Viator and his associates will begin scouting for sugarcane borer in May. His company scouts from May until June and uses economic and action thresholds to recommend timing for insecticide applications when the borer’s natural predators and resistant crop varieties fail to keep up with escalating pest populations. In areas that may be too sensitive for pesticides, he recommends some of the sugarcane varieties that are resistant to sugarcane borer.

“Before my father started the business 53 years ago, many farmers in our area used blanket treatments of insecticides,” Viator says. “The sugarcane borer became resistant to what they were using, and the chemicals also were hard on the beneficial insects. So my father started scouting for pests to discourage resistance.”

To further implement IPM, Viator recommends cultural practices such as mowing and destruction of dead top growth on winter-killed cane, destruction of post harvest crop residue, promoting the preservation of natural predators and alternating pesticide chemistries.

Viator joined the NAICC in 1991 and became a board member 4 years ago. As an NAICC member, he was actively involved in several committees and chaired the Consultants Education Committee, Newsletter Committee, and the Annual Meeting Coordination Committee. He is also a member and past president of the Louisiana Agricultural Consultants Association. He assumed his new role as president of the NAICC last week at the Annual Meeting in Reno, NV.

In 2005, Viator began providing data to a new national online monitoring system for soybean rust, a devastating disease that entered the U.S. in 2004. The system, the soybean rust ipmPIPE, (http://sbr.ipmpipe.org/), tracks locations of soybean rust sightings on soybeans and kudzu, forecasts the probable path of the disease based on weather predictions, and provides recommendations to farmers whose crops may be at risk of the disease. Monitoring efforts have likely saved soybean farmers nationally at least $11 million every year since 2005.

Viator joined the national ipmPIPE Steering Committee in 2009, and now chairs the committee. The Steering Committee provides coordination and facilitation of several component “PIPEs” as well as planning for sustainable support for the system.

“If you get to know Blaine for any length of time, you’ll find out that you can count on him to say ‘yes’ to a call for help,” said Jim VanKirk, director of the Southern Region IPM Center in presenting the award. “Anything that I’ve asked him to do, he’s always come through. He’s a guy you can always count on.”

One of those requests, VanKirk explained, was to join the IPM Voice, a new national advocacy group for IPM.

In addition to the influence of his father, Viator learned the value of IPM at Louisiana State University from the teachings of entomologists mentored and influenced by Dr. Dale Newsome, one of the early pioneers and champions of IPM.

“Many of the entomology, plant pathology and weed science faculty at LSU were trained by Newsome, so they also framed my understanding of the value of IPM,” Viator says.

After working as a consultant for 24 years, Viator says that he believes in IPM because it works.

“We have areas of the industry where most of the cultivated acres are being scouted by growers or consultants, and other areas where growers won’t scout or pay to have someone scout,” Viator says. “In the areas where all of the neighboring growers are scouting and practicing IPM, there is lower pest pressure, and growers have lower input costs. In the other areas where growers aren’t scouting, the moth population is higher, and growers are having to spray more or are experiencing much more yield and economic losses from pests.  The overall impact of area-wide IPM implementation is an amazing success story to IPM, one that requires working with growers in many areas of Louisiana sugarcane areas to truly witness its benefits.”