Similarly as reported in our interim report, in the 2008 experimental year we did not flame the trap crop due to a lack of bug pressure in excess of the pre-set flaming thresholds. The continued very low SB and CB pressures at our farm were unexpected – discussions with our technical adviser and others suggested that we could expect increased bug pressures in our 2nd growing year on the farm. However the 2008 scouting results indicated that SB and CB populations were similar in both years.
In low bug pressure situations, direct seeding of winter squash works excellent, and saves a tremendous amount of labor and space in the propagation greenhouse. Our main objective of planting later in the season than we used to do was to reduce the time between harvest and winter squash distribution to our CSA members, but the higher soil temperatures probably also helped the quick germination and strong growth of our winter squash planting (making the plants possibly less susceptible to SB and CB infestation).
With this project we proposed to study the effectiveness of perimeter trap cropping in winter squash using a backpack flamer to control for squash bugs and cucumber beetles. We planted our Avalon butternut market crop within the trap crop for two seasons. One season, the trap crops were Blue hubbard and Burgess buttercup, the other season, Burgess buttercup only. Our control consisted of a market crop of Avalon butternut. We scouted weekly for squash bugs and cucumber beetles, but in neither year the number of scouted bugs triggered flaming. The combination of prime farming soils and well maintained soil health, and historically low bug pressures may have prevented intervention. Selecting prime farm land for a vegetable operation, and maintaining healthy growing conditions through soil testing and a thorough soil health management plan may be economically advantageous compared to an interventionist approach for matters of purchased off-farm inputs and related labor expenses.