Growing Better Crops with IPM

Final Report for FNC94-058

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 1994: $3,175.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/1996
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $13,245.00
Region: North Central
State: Indiana
Project Coordinator:
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Project Information


I grew my first wheat crop when I was 16 years old and have been farming ever since. I managed a 1700 acre farm operation for a local popcorn processor while building up my own operation and have been farming full time for the last 8 years. There were originally 800 acres of no-till popcorn, food grade field corn and wheat with three acres of produce. As grain prices and the weather narrowed the profit margin on grain the produce seemed like the way to go, so in 1996 we will have 250 acres of grain and 110 acres of fresh vegetables. The produce is ether marketed at our roadside market, wholesale or through the finest restaurants in Louisville, KY. One thing that makes our market stand out is my wife and I use high school boys for our work force instead of using migrants. These young men not only work in the fields but also work at sales in our market as well as deliveries.

When I first got serious about vegetables I sprayed insecticides using the calendar method. But as the acres grew I realized there was not the need to spray so often. So I entered into an IPM program with Purdue 3 years ago. Dr. Jerry Brust and Dr. Dennis Scott visited my farm several times the first year and the next year I hired a student studying IPM to teach me what to scout for, but my time in the growing season is very limited. So with the grant I was able to train my employees to scout the fields and log the data for me to use in regulating the sprays. This year is the first year that I can say that scouting has been a complete success. Through the field days and other events I have learned that the customer is very interested in what as farmers we are doing to protect the environment for the next generation.

Our goals were to market sweet corn with the least amount of spray possible to grow cantaloupes earlier and with no insecticides applied.

The sweet corn was a total success. In the pheromone traps we did not catch a moth until August 5, and in our area the sweet corn season starts July 10 and is just about over by the middle of August. So only the last field we were growing had to be sprayed more than 1 time. By using the pheromone trap our chemical cost were $753.00, if we were using the calendar method the chemical cost would have been $3,300.00. with the trap we made a total of 54 applications and with the calendar method there would have been at least 275 applications. The other big savings is all the time and risk involved in the extra applications. The product quality did not suffer at all by reducing the sprays. The big thing here is to make sure you check the traps daily.

The cantaloupes under the row covers were able to withstand a 28 degree temperature one night in April and the cantaloupes planted out in the open all died that night. So the idea of frost protection worked great. We used 3 different types of row covers, one was called vexvar, it is a fine holed plastic material that allows sunlight and air through but retains the heat at night for frost protection. The next was a white plastic material that had holes in it about the size of your little finger and the third was a remay cover that is used for tobacco bed covers, it is a thin woven material that is very strong. The plot for frost protection was planted on April 17, about 2.5 weeks earlier than normal planting. All plants are greenhouse grown by our local FFA chapter. We used plastic mulch on the ground with irrigation tubes under it. The plastic not only warms the ground but also helps in weed protection. The plants are set with a tractor mounted pot setter 4 ft. apart in the row and the rows are 6 ft. apart. After the plants are set than the row cover stretched over hoops of wire to keep the cover off of the plants. After you stretch the cover tight you have to cover the edges with soil to keep it from blowing off. As you can imagine this process takes a lot of time and effort. We used the three kinds of covers twice on rows that were 350 ft. in length, so there were 6 rows covered and the rest of the plot was not. After the early plants died we went back in and replanted them on May 8 and at this time we planted the rest of the plot. The row cover rows received no chemicals for control of the cucumber beetles; they transmit a virus that kills the plants. The uncovered rows received 3 applications of insecticide costing $36.00 per acre total. We left the row covers on until the female flowers were starting to set on the vines at this time the vines are approximately 6 ft. long. The cantaloupe at this stage according to Dr. Crust at Purdue University can withstand the feeding of the cucumber beetle. When the row covers come off there are several weeds that grow along the edges of the plastic because it is like a green house under there and the weeds at his stage all have to be removed by hand which takes a lot of time. We harvested the plot on July 19 and at that time we picked 280 lbs. of ripe melons form under the row covers and only 10 lbs. from the traditional way but within 4 days the rest of the field was coming on strong. The yields under the vexvar was nearly double than any of the other row covers but they were about the same total yield of the conventional way. The melons planted on April 17th were not ready any earlier than the ones planed on May 8 so the idea of planting extra early did not work in this case. The idea of having melons 4 days earlier was good but the labor involved in laying, removing and weeding made the effort questionable. This spring although was different in that when it warmed up it stayed warm where sometimes we will get several weeks of cold weather in the middle of May and this would have made a difference in the results. Our farm yields on our cantaloupes are approximately 4000 fruit per acre so you can see why I was very interested in a way to improve on the way we are doing things. At our field day most everybody wanted to know what had been growing under the covers and why because the field is next to a very busy state hwy. and people like to see what we are doing there. They enjoyed listening to why we need to look for better ways to grow without the total use of chemicals so from this point I thought it worked very well for promoting IPM on a large scale.

For our outreach part we started with high school students who grow a lot of my plants. I went to the local school and gave a demonstration to approximately 100 students on why and how to properly scout and apply chemicals and why I am so interested in learning how to get by with less chemicals dependence without suffering in quality. Then in May the same kids and more came to our farm to see first hand how and what we are doing in this project. At that time I let them ride the planter and look under the row covers as well as see how the pheromone trap works. During our field trips in the fall with 1, 2 and 3 grade kids we show them how the trap works and I have a dummy that is wearing the clothes that need to be worn to apply chemicals and they cannot believe the different layers and mask. For our big event we held in late June we had help with advertising in 3 counties of extension newsletters as well as the local ASCS and SWCD office newsletters. My wife and I sent several out to other local growers and industry leaders. The person who brought the most people was my food broker to the restaurants. There were more than 90 people there and of them there were 40 chefs and staff from the finest places to eat in the Louisville area. Dr. Jerry Brust is the entomologist specialist form Purdue who came 150 miles to be with us and tell how and what to scout for in the fields. Roy Ballard and Jerry Dryden both who are extension agents in our area also spoke on what we were doing. We viewed the equipment and looked at some plantings at our farm market then we boarded 2 wagons and 2 pickup trucks to go to the next stop which was a field of no-till pumpkins that I tried for the first time then we went to the field where the row covers were and spent a lot fo time there mainly answering questions about the crops. For most of the chefs this was the first time they had ever been out in the middle ofa a crop field and had a great time. When we went back to our market chef Joe Castro who is president of the local organization of chefs talked about the importance of the chefs to try to buy as much local products as possible then about 60 of us went to a nearby rest. And the chefs prepared a 5 course meal for us that was outstanding. Everyone there had a great time and Dr. Brust has since been working on ways that other areas of the state could take advantage of the same programs. Our business more than doubled with the restaurants since then and am expecting to sell them more than $20,000 worth of product for 1996. Mr. Fred Wiche hosts a television and radio show and is know as The Weekend Gardener has visited our farm several times over the last 4 years because of our IPM projects. This summer he taped 7 television spots that aired and several radio shows telling of different things we are trying and stressing our IPM programs. Fred has been an advocate for reducing the amount of chemicals that farmers and how gardeners apply and can use our farm as demonstrations on how they can work. We also have hosted a home economics teachers meeting as well as going to attending their state meeting in April 1996 to talk about IPM on the farm and why it is good. We also have several farmers stop by for various things and I am always willing to share what we are doing. My name is listed in a publication put out by Ball State University on IPM as a reference and have fielded some calls form that.

In September 1995 we were part of the Ohio Valley Harvest Festival it took place in Louisville, KY and growers were pared up with chefs to cook what we grow to sell to the public. There were approximately 5,000 people at this event and we gained a great deal of exposure from this.

Results of the cantaloupe test plot harvested July 19, 1995
Green Melons , Ripe Melons
Row 1 Vexvar , 29, 35
Row 2 Holey plastic, 51 , 3 Planted April 17
Row 3 Remay , 38 , 13

Row 4 Vexvar , 39 , 0
Row 5 Holey plastic, 10 , 0 Planted May 8
Row 6 Remay , 38 , 1

Regular pray no row covers
Green Melons , Ripe Melons
Row 1 , 45 , 0
Row 2 , 34 , 0
Row 3 , 42 , 0
Row 4 , 50 , 0
Row 5 , 39 , 1 All planted May 8
Row 6 , 45 , 1


Participation Summary
Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.