Development and Implementation of Ecologically Sound, System-based Tactics for Managing Pests and Insect-vectored Diseases in Cucurbit Production in the Southeast

Final report for LS18-289

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2018: $270,000.00
Projected End Date: 03/31/2021
Grant Recipient: Auburn University
Region: Southern
State: Alabama
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Henry Fadamiro
Auburn University
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Project Information

Abstract:

This research proposal involving a multidisciplinary team of researchers, extension specialists, and participating vegetable producers from two states in the South (Alabama and Florida) was designed to address the major production challenges identified by local cucurbit growers. Cucurbits, in particular, squash, cucumbers, watermelons, and pumpkins, are produced as high-value crops in Alabama, Florida, and other parts of the southern U.S. However, outbreaks of viral diseases and insect vectors (aphids and whiteflies) have become chronic and persistent threats to the profitability of cucurbit production in the region. The goal of this project is to assist southern cucurbit growers in combating these key pest problems by developing and implementing effective, system-based Integrated Pest Management (IPM) tactics, including row-cover (protective barriers) (Objective 1), plant defense system stimulating soil microbes, habitat manipulation through biologically active ground cover plants, and biocontrol agents (Objective 2). The on-farm integration and evaluation of the economic feasibility of adopting the tactics proposed in Objective 3 will help understand how individual tactics interact and complement each other in a complex agroecosystem. A comprehensive outreach plan in Objective 4 will facilitate the program’s implementation through training, education, and technology transfer.

The results of a multi-year field trial, repeated on-farm in 2020, suggest that the row-cover strategy can provide complete protection to squash against insect pests and diseases. The row-cover strategy could be a potential, economically feasible, pest management tactic, especially for organic or naturally grown cucurbit farmers who lack synthetic pesticides. Field studies were conducted over multiple cropping seasons at a research station and at a commercial organic vegetable farm in Florida to evaluate the efficacy of biological control agents and companion plantings for managing aphids and whiteflies in squash. The results showed that augmentative releases of the predatory mite, Amblyseius swirskii, can lower the incidence of adult whiteflies. Similarly, sweet alyssum as companion plants resulted in a high number of natural enemies (Orius spp., syrphid, and long-legged flies) on the sweet alyssum flowers. As part of the Extension Vegetable IPM program, this project provided direct consultation support to producers (reactive activities) with on-farm visits, telephonic, and email conversations. This project also offered planned events for high-impact training to both beginning and experienced vegetable producers (activity summary in the next section). 

Project Objectives:

The specific objectives of this project were to:

  1. Evaluate a protective barrier as a mechanical tool to manage insect vectors of cucurbit diseases.
  2. Evaluate environmentally sustainable tactics for managing aphids and whiteflies on cucurbits, including plant defense-boosters, habitat manipulation through biologically active ground cover plants, and biocontrol agents.
  3. On-farm integration of effective tactics developed in Objectives 1 & 2 to develop an IPM program for cucurbit production.
  4. Develop a participatory implementation plan of research results for cucurbit vegetable growers using a multilevel extension program, communication, and evaluation plan.

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand
  • Ann Chambliss (Educator)
  • Maricé Lopez (Researcher)
  • Lorena Lopez (Researcher)

Research

Materials and methods:

Obj 1. Evaluate a protective barrier as a mechanical tool to manage insect vectors of cucurbit diseases

Row covers are exclusion screens (physical barrier) used to cover the plants to minimize the possibility of insect pests reaching and damaging the crop plants. A multi-year field trial was conducted to evaluate the following row cover treatments: 1) Season-long row cover with an introduction of bumblebee hives at the start of flowering; 2) Season-long row cover with the ends opened at the start of flowering to enable pollinator access, and the ends closed after ten days; 3) Complete removal of row cover at the start of flowering, and 4) No row covers (control).

Treatment plots consisted of raised beds, each 3 ft wide by 30 ft long for a total of ~ 30 plants. The beds were covered with white plastic mulch and 3-4 weeks old seedlings were hand transplanted. Proteknet “Biothrips” Insect netting row cover (0.35mm × 0.35mm mesh; 89% light transmission; 62% porosity; Weight: 0.74 oz. per sq. yd.) (Johnny’s Selected Seeds, Winslow, ME) was installed immediately after the transplantation and completely sealed along all edges. Hoops made of PVC pipes were used to support the row cover and form a low tunnel system over the plants. Pollinator bumblebees were purchased from a commercial insectary (Koppert Biological systems. Inc. Howell, MI. http://www.koppert.com/). In treatment 1, when the crop begins to flower, the bumblebees were released under the row cover, which was then re-sealed until the end of the crop season. In treatments 2 and 3, the row cover was placed over the crop as described in treatment 1. At the beginning of flowering, both ends of the row cover were opened for 10 days in treatment 2 whereas the row cover was removed completely in treatment 3. Standard production practices were followed to establish the crop. Treatments were replicated four times and arranged in a randomized complete block design (RCBD). Plots were evaluated weekly by sampling five randomly selected plants from each plot and the data were analyzed using ANOVA followed by Tukey-Kramer HSD test (P < 0.05).

Obj. 2. Evaluate environmentally sustainable tactics for managing aphids and whiteflies on cucurbits, including plant defense-boosters, habitat manipulation through biologically active ground cover plants, and biocontrol agents

Here, we investigated three approaches that aim to minimize virus impact on crop yield and interfere with vectors, thereby reducing or delaying virus infection. The first approach was focused on the commercial biologic formulation of beneficial soil microbes that have been proven to enhance plant growth and stimulate plant defense against plant diseases. The second approach was aimed at vector interference by use of inter-row ground cover of marigold/sweet alyssum to attract beneficial insects and serve as a virus depository for viruliferous aphids/whiteflies, and support biocontrol agents. The third approach was focused on predatory Amblyseius swirskii that serve as biological control agents against whiteflies.

Material and Methods

Zucchini squash ‘Cash Flow’ (Siegers Seed Co., LaBelle, FL) was used as a cash crop while African marigold (Tagetes erecta L., Asteraceae) ‘Crackerjack’ (Stokes Seeds, Buffalo, NY), cowpeas (Vigna unguiculata (L.) Walp., Fabaceae) ‘Mississippi Silver’ (Urban Farmer, Westfield, IN), and (Lobularia maritima (L.) Desv., Brassicaceae) ‘Tall White’ sweet alyssum (Urban Farmer, Westfield, IN) were evaluated as companion plants. Plants were drip irrigated and fertigated weekly after germination. To synchronize the maturity periods of all plant species, companion plants were 3-4 weeks old before planting the squash.

Experimental Design

The experimental design was a randomized complete block with four replications. Each plot was 6-m × 4.4-m separated by 7-m of bare soil (buffer zone) on all sides. Each plot comprised of three raised beds (1.06-m apart). Plants were sown in double rows of 22 plants per row, at 30-cm intervals, on 18-cm high and 91-cm wide beds covered with black plastic. Treatments were defined by the type of companion plant grown in the middle row. These include marigolds, cowpeas, marigolds+cowpeas, alyssum, marigolds+A. swirskii, and alyssum+A. swkirskii. The three controls include i) no companion plant and M-Pede (Gowan Company, Yuma, AZ) used in the squash plants for insect control; ii) no companion plant and A. swirskii released in the squash; and iii) without any type of pest management in the squash.

Sampling

Alate and apterous aphids were sampled weekly using the leaf-turn method which involved gently turning over three leaves per plant and counting the number of aphids observed (Nyoike and Liburd 2010). Alate aphids were monitored using tomato cages holding one clear pan trap (PackerWare®) per plot with each pan trap containing approximately 250 ml of 5% detergent solution (Colgate-Palmolive Co., New York, NY). The detergent solution was refilled weekly.

Adult whiteflies were monitored weekly using two yellow sticky traps (Great Lakes IPM, Vestaburg, MI) per plot. Traps were left in the field for 48 hours and the numbers of adult whiteflies were recorded. Immature whiteflies were monitored weekly by collecting leaves from randomly chosen squash. One 4-cm diam. leaf disc was taken from each plant and the number of immature whiteflies was recorded. Adult and immature thrips were counted together in the leaf samples and sticky traps. For each plot, two leaves showing disease symptoms were assayed for four aphid-transmitted cucurbit viruses (PRSV-W, WMV, ZYMV, and CMV) and one recently reported whitefly-transmitted virus (CuLCrV) using DAS-ELISA or TAS-ELISA, and PCR (Nyoike et al. 2008). The whitefly-transmitted virus was assayed only during the fall when symptoms were observed. Additionally, Squash Silverleaf (SSL) physiological disorder was monitored weekly by randomly selecting squash plants and scoring them with an arbitrary index from 0-5 where 0 = a healthy plant and 5 = all leaves were completely silvered (Yokomi et al. 1990).

Total marketable yield was estimated by harvesting and weighing all fruits per plot in the field until crop termination. Unmarketable overgrown squash and fruit showing injuries from pickleworms or viruses were weighed separately. Total marketable yield estimates were compared among treatments. The height (soil to the highest flower) and width (two opposite leaves) of the squash was measured twice during the season.

Statistical Analysis

Repeated measures analysis was performed for all response variables. The number of insect pests per plot were fitted using the PROC GLIMMIX procedure following a Poisson distribution with LAPLACE adjustment. Averaged SSL indexes, plant size, and squash yields per plot were compared among treatments using the PROC MIXED procedure. No transformation was used for these variables. Models considered the fixed effect factors of treatment, week, and their interaction, together with a random effect of the block. Comparisons of means among treatments at each week were obtained by requesting LSMEANS from each procedure. All models were fitted using SAS 9.4 (SAS Institute, Cary, NC 2013).

Obj. 3. On-farm integration of effective tactics developed in Objectives 1 & 2 to develop an IPM program for cucurbit production.

Except for the rhizobacteria (Agricen), all other tactics (ground cover plants, biological control agents, and row covers) evaluated in Objective 1 and 2 showed potential for managing pests and insect-vectored viral diseases in cucurbit production. Thus the PGPR component was excluded from the on-farm integration trial.

Material and Methods

An on-farm trial was conducted at an organic and commercial farm in Hawthorne, FL. An area of 24-m wide × 37-m long (0.1-ha) was designated for the experiment. Two 8.2-m wide × 37-m long plots (0.03-ha) were set up for the experiment. One plot represented the control and the second a single treatment, each plot comprised seven 37-m long raised beds (1.06-m apart). The treatment was defined by the presence of both sweet alyssum and the release of A. swirskii in the squash as follows: Treatment = 25% of the area occupied by sweet alyssum and A. swirskii released in 23% (105) of the squash plants (mixed cultivars) in the middle part of the plot; Control = only squash planted (mixed cultivars), no sweet alyssum nor A. swirskii released or any other pest management tactic. Three cultivars of summer squash (Cucurbita pepo L., Cucurbitaceae) were used for the on-farm experiments: green zucchini squash ‘Cash Flow’, yellow zucchini squash ‘Gold Rush’, and the crookneck, two-toned summer squash ‘Zephyr’. Sweet alyssum (Lobularia maritima (L.) Desv., Brassicaceae) ‘Tall White’ was used as a companion plant. Predatory mites (A. swirskii ) were purchased in a 500-ml bottle shaker formulation with a bran carrier. The amount of bran used per bed was adjusted based on the mite numbers recorded and followed the rate recommended for high infestations (150 – 200 mites/m2, BioBest, 2013, Koppert Biological Systems, 2013). Approximately 70-ml of bran was sprinkled across 15 squash plants per bed (~5-ml of bran per plant). Beds were divided into 11 groups of six,one squash plant was chosen randomly as a sampling point. Each plant represented one sampling point, for a total of 154 sampling points (0.6 – 7-m apart), 77 sampling points per plot, and 11 points from each bed. The sampling grid was geo-referenced using an eTrex Summit GPS receiver. Weekly counts and sample collections were conducted during a five-week period and starting two weeks after transplanting the squash. Whitefly eggs and immatures and predatory mites (immatures and adults) were monitored by collecting two leaves from one squash plant on each of the sampling points. Weekly samples included sweet alyssum leaves together with inflorescences that were examined for whiteflies and A. swirskii. Winged and apterae aphids found in the squash leaves or sweet alyssum were recorded. Squash silverleaf (SSL) disorder was monitored weekly by scoring the squash plants at each sampling point with an arbitrary index from 0-5 where 0 = a healthy plant and 5 = all leaves were completely silvered. Total marketable yield was estimated by harvesting and weighting in the field all fruits per plot until crop termination. Unmarketable overgrown squash and fruit showing injuries from pickleworms or viruses was weighted separately. Destructive sampling was conducted one week before squash termination. Leaf samples were assayed for one whitefly-transmitted virus Cucurbit leaf crumple virus (CuLCrV). Visual observations were conducted to survey for aphid-transmitted Potyviruses. An analysis of variance was conducted using the PROC GLIMMIX procedure (SAS 9.4) to compare whitefly numbers (eggs and immatures separately), predatory mites, and aphid counts, among plots. A negative binomial distribution was followed to correct for overdispersion. Silverleaf ratings were compared using the same procedure following a normal distribution. No transformation was used on the data.

Obj. 4. Develop a participatory implementation plan of research results for cucurbit vegetable growers by using a multilevel extension program, communication, and evaluation plan.

 

Research results and discussion:

Obj 1. Evaluate a protective barrier as a mechanical tool to manage insect vectors of cucurbit diseases

Results and Discussions

The results showed a significant reduction in insect densities and crop damage in all three row-cover treatments compared with the uncovered control. Complete crop damage was recorded in the uncovered control plot within 4 weeks after planting. Removal of row-cover to expose the crop to natural pollinators at flowering resulted in increased crop damage from squash bugs. Season-long row cover with an introduction of bumblebee hives at the start of flowering strategy resulted in significantly higher marketable yield than other row-cover treatments or non-covered control. The results of this study suggest that the row-cover strategy can provide complete protection of squash against insect pests and diseases. The row-cover strategy could be a potential pest management tactic, especially for organic or naturally grown vegetable farmers who don’t use synthetic pesticides.

Obj. 2. Evaluate environmentally sustainable tactics for managing aphids and whiteflies on cucurbits including plant defense-boosters, habitat manipulation through biologically active ground cover plants, and biocontrol agents.

Results and Discussions

Aphids were present in the squash in high numbers by the beginning of the sampling period (three WAP), suggesting that they colonized the plants at a very early developmental stage when plants had less than five true leaves and were less than 25-cm high.

Cowpeas were highly attractive to cowpea aphids. High numbers of winged and apterous aphids were recorded mostly during the spring and fungus proliferation occurred due to continuous secretion of sap on top of the leaves and plastic mulch. Mixing the cowpeas with marigolds continues to harbor large numbers of aphids. Cowpeas were attractive to an aphid species (A. craccivora) that is not commonly found in cucurbits and it had a spillover effect on the squash planted near cowpeas alone or those mixed with marigolds.

Overall, a low incidence of aphid-transmitted viruses was observed in the treatments, but most of the samples that tested positive for viruses were found in the treatments with high numbers of aphids due to the presence of cowpeas. Whitefly populations colonized the squash at the early stages of the crop, just like aphids, yet, no clear establishment pattern was observed across treatments. High numbers of whitefly immatures feeding on the squash worsened SSL disorder symptoms resulting in multiple plants showing extensive silvering between primary and secondary veins. Similarly, high CuLCrV incidence was observed across treatments in the fall. Low numbers of adult whiteflies were recorded in treatments where no companion plants were used but A. swirskii was released. Immature whiteflies in the same treatment did not show low abundances compared with other treatments. The same reduction in whitefly immatures was observed in the fall when A. swirskii was released in the absence of companion plants. The same tendency was observed in the treatment with A. swirskii introduction and marigolds used as companion plants; however, no significant differences were identified among treatments.

The presence of the predatory mite had no apparent effect on the SSL ratings in both spring and fall, and only the squash treated with M-Pede showed significantly lower levels of SSL during the fall season. CuLCrV was detected in all treatments with no apparent differences.

There was no clear establishment pattern identified for thrips species during the experiments. The number of thrips recorded in yellow sticky traps was not consistent with the numbers recorded in pan traps. Only the number of thrips present in the companion plants were consistent through the seasons. Marigolds were highly attractive to various thrips species and marigolds used alone or mixed with cowpeas consistently showed the highest numbers of thrips present in flowers across treatments. African marigolds seemed to play a role as a trap crop for aphids and thrips species.

Conclusion

Significantly higher populations of aphids were observed in the marigolds compared with treatments where alyssum was planted as a companion plant. Yet, the spillover effect observed between cowpeas and squash was not observed for marigolds and squash. This means that when high aphid numbers were present in the marigolds, the squash had low or intermediate aphid infestation. Marigolds seemed to play a role as a trap crop for aphids. Marigolds acted as a host for Orius spp. since adults, and immature stages of the predators were found in their leaves and flowers. Orius spp. were drawn to the marigolds in search of shelter and food because thrips were constantly present in marigold flowers and may have served as the primary food source for this hemipteran. Orius spp. was also able to use marigolds as host for reproduction and development.

The lack of significant differences in size and leaf numbers of the squash with companion plant vs control suggests that competition between squash and companion plants was minimized by planting the latter using the same approach as the crop plants i.e., on top of raised beds and not in the middle of the beds or occupying additional space between the squash. By introducing companion plants this way, competition for water, nutrients, and light was reduced, and additional time and labor were not needed. Overall, the highest marketable yield was obtained from plants treated with M-Pede.

Evaluate the effect of beneficial soil microbes, biocontrol agents, and inter-crop ground cover plants on insect transmission of plant viruses

Field experiments were conducted to assess augmentative releases of the predator, Delphastus catalinae, plant growth promoting biologic formulations and inter-crop ground cover African marigold on populations of aphids and whiteflies over multiple seasons at an Auburn University research station in Alabama.  The following treatments were evaluated with and without inter-crop ground cover: 1) Release of predators, Delphastus catalinae; 2) Treatment of squash seedlings with a biologic formulation from Agricen Inc., and 3) Untreated control (squash seedlings treated only with water).

Experimental plots were 7.6 m x 7.6 m, and separated by 4.5 m of bare soil on all sides.  The squash variety ‘Cash Flow’ (Seedway LLC, Lakeland, FL) was used. An experimental biologic formulation from Agricen Inc. (Agricen, Pilot Point, TX), referred to as Agricen and used previously with success in tomato against infection with TSWV, was used to treat squash seedlings in this study. Agricen consists of naturally occurring microbials and their byproducts, and functions to improve conversion of organic and inorganic nutrient uptake by plants leading to enhanced plant growth. When used as a microbial soil amendment, it improves conversion of organic and inorganic fertilizers into plant-available forms resulting in an increase in plant biomass. Agricen also aids in the building of soil structure and retention of soil water. It was applied at transplant by saturating the transplant plugs with Agricen using a mix of 4-6 ounces to one gallon of water.

Due to abnormally low populations of aphids and whiteflies in the research plots, the results were inconclusive. Therefore, we performed a greenhouse-based evaluation at the Plant Science Greenhouse Facility on Auburn University’s campus. Squash plants were being subjected to the biologic treatments as performed for field-based studies and grown in 6” diameter round pots (one plant/pot). When a single seed had germinated (protruding out of the soil), all plants to be treated by Agricen received 5 ml applied in the vicinity of the seed. A second Agricen treatment was applied seven days later- the same amount and concentration as for the first treatment. Each virus was maintained in ‘Dixie’ squash and systemically infected tissue was ground in buffer and applied to 20 plants treated with Agricen formulations. Experimental squash seedlings were mechanically (rubbed) inoculated with virus applied to the two cotyledons and first true leaf. Five days after inoculation, a third Agricen treatment was applied; the same amount and concentration as the first two treatments. Inoculated plants were monitored for virus symptoms and tested for infection by ELISA. Plants were harvested at 21 days post-inoculation. They were excised at the soil line and fresh weights determined.

Results                                                                                                                                    

At 5 days post-inoculation (dpi), all CMV-inoculated plants were expressing downward curled non-inoculated leaves that appeared to also have vein-clearing. By 7 dpi, non-inoculated leaves were clearly expressing downward curling, vein-clearing and mosaic and were overall chlorotic. By 10 dpi, non-inoculated leaves were small, curled, chlorotic mosaic, with interveinal necrosis. All plants inoculated expressed similar symptoms, this includes all plants treated with Agricen and all plants in the non-treated control treatment. From 10 dpi onward, growth essentially stopped, leaves were extremely chlorotic, downward curled, for some plants the apical bud  was necrotic. In summary, the squash plants treated with Agricen formulation did not show promoted plant growth or provide control against CMV. Therefore, this treatment was not further evaluated in the on-farm trials.

Obj. 3. On-farm integration of effective tactics developed in Objectives 1 & 2 to develop an IPM program for cucurbit production.

Except for the rhizobacteria (Agricen), all other tactics (ground cover plants, biological control agents, and row covers) evaluated in Objective 1 and 2 showed potential for managing pests and insect-vectored viral diseases in cucurbit production. Thus the PGPR component was excluded from the on-farm integration trial.

Results and Discussions

There was a significant difference in the numbers of whitefly eggs and immatures between the control and the treatment plot. Higher numbers of whiteflies were recorded in the control plot. The silverleaf index was also higher in the control plot compared with the treatment plot. Additionally, inoculated predatory mites seemed to influence whitefly distribution patterns in the entire field showing low whitefly egg numbers in some areas where predatory mites were present. Similarly, significantly higher numbers of aphids were recorded in the squash plants from the control plot compared with the plants from the treatment plot (Figure 2). Various aphid species besides A. gossypii were recorded in the examined leaf samples.

Natural enemies were observed visiting the sweet alyssum (e.g., syrphid and long-legged flies) and predators such as Orius spp. were observed inhabiting and reproducing on the sweet alyssum flowers.

Viral diseases. Low incidence of Cucurbit leaf crumple virus (CuLCrV, Geminiviridae: Begomovirus) was observed overall in the experimental field. However, the incidence of CuLCrV was 2.6 times higher in the control plot compared to the treatment plot. Symptoms of aphid-transmitted viruses were not observed during the field experiment.

Yield. There were no significant differences in the total marketable yield from the control and the treatment plots. An average of 28 and 26 lbs. of squash were harvested in the control and treatment plots, respectively. 

Conclusion

Overall, A. swirskii was capable of suppressing whitefly populations and inoculated mites in the treatment plot seemed to influence whitefly populations and silverleaf ratings in the entire field. However, reductions in whitefly populations seemed not to affect the incidence of whitefly-transmitted viruses and  total marketable yield.

Ground cover plants and biological agents were excluded from on-farm integration trials due to very lower incidence of whiteflies and aphids in the multiple fields in Alabama during the study period. On-farm trials were conducted to determine the efficacy and cost-efficiency of integration of row cover tactic developed in the previous objectives.

The results showed that “Season-long row cover with an introduction of bumblebee hives at the start of flowering” and “Season-long row cover with the ends opened at the start of flowering to enable pollinator access, and the ends closed after 10 days” performed significantly better than “Complete removal of row cover at the start of flowering” or “No row covers (control)” treatments. Furthermore, the cost-benefit analysis of each of the row cover treatments revealed that “Season-long row cover with the ends opened at the start of flowering to enable pollinator access, and the ends closed after 10 days” has the highest return and lowest cost; thus a higher net benefit.

Obj. 4. Develop a participatory implementation plan of research results for cucurbit vegetable growers by using a multilevel extension program, communication, and evaluation plan.

 

On-farm demonstration on 06-27-2019
On-farm demonstration on 06-27-2019

 

The results have been disseminated to the stakeholders through the methods outlined below:

  1. Training events for growers:

 

2020 (COVID-19 year)

2019

2018

IPM training through small group training

All events canceled

6 Events, 152 direct participants

5 events, 188 direct participants

IPM workshops

1 event (100 participants), all others cancelled

 

8 events statewide, 158 direct participants

IPM Field Days/Scout School (3 hours per event)

All events canceled

5 events, 300 participants

2 events, 20 participants

IPM exhibitions

2 events, 400 direct participants

4 events, 1160 direct participants

4 events, 550 direct contacts

Three New Virtual Events Launched due to COVID-19 (Virtual Farm Tours/Q&A Fridays/Monthly Webinars)

1,335 direct participants

5589 engagements or interactions

(details on page 5)

 

 

 

  1. Traditional publications:

 

2020 (COVID-19 year)

2019

2018

Handbook/Slide chart

2 IPM slide charts, 1 producer handbook with 2000 circulation total

2 with 3000 copies in circulation

2

Extension bulletin (peer-reviewed)

2

1

1

ACES news releases

5

3

2

Magazine articles

7

4

8

Journal publications

1

 

  1. Digital publications for growers:

 

2020 (COVID-19 year)

2019

2018

Farming Basics Online Course (has cucurbit production and IPM information as part of a certificate course)

1255 enrolment with 30% beginning farmers/farmers from underserved communities & veteran farms

896 enrolment with 30% beginning farmers/farmers from underserved communities & veteran farms

600 enrolment with 30% beginning farmers/farmers from underserved communities & veteran farms

Farming Basic phone app

1000 installations

Launched in Dec 2019

Alabama IPM Communicator E-newsletter

25 issues, 3494 subscribers (25% growth)

19 digital issues, 2932 subscribers

19 digital issues, 2800 subscribers

Beginning farmer webinars

 

3 events, 45 participants

3 events, 40 participants

 

PUBLICATIONS/PRODUCTS

  1.  Majumdar, A., A. Chambliss, H. Fadamiro, R. Balusu, A. Randle, and H. Willis. 2014, revised in 2018. Organic Vegetable IPM Slide Chart in 2018 (formerly called “Alternative Vegetable IPM Recommendation Slide Chart”). ANR-2190. Designed and published by Datalizer Inc., Addison, IL. Information Copyright by ACES. Circulation: 16,750. Awarded the 2015 Blue Ribbon Extension Communications Award by the American Society for Horticultural Sciences. Other state requests: FL, TN, AR, MO, NY, GA, MS, KY, NC, MD, OH, PA, MD, NE, VA, IA, TX, IL, and SC.
  2.  Majumdar, A., R. Balusu, G. Gray, and W. East. 2018. Innovations in large-scale trap cropping for reducing insect pests. Southern SARE Bulletin. [Online] https://www.southernsare.org/SARE-in-Your-State/Alabama/State-News/Innovations-in-Large-Scale-Trap-Cropping-for-Reducing-Insect-Pests
  3. Taylor, A., and A. Majumdar. 2018. Putting the squeeze on squash bugs. Vegetable and Specialty Crop News Printed Magazine Special Edition: Growing Organic, Gainesville, FL. August 20

ACES Timely Information and IPM Newsletter Articles:

  1. Majumdar, A., E. Sikora, and J. Kemble. 2018. The squash bug menace in Alabama. Alabama IPM Communicator Newsletter, Alabama Cooperative Extension System. Vol. 9. No.11. Blog posted on June 9, 2018. [Online] https://sites.aces.edu/group/commhort/blog/Lists/Posts/Post.aspx?ID=464
  2. Majumdar, A.  2020. Common squash insect pests and management. Alabama IPM Communicator Newsletter, Alabama Cooperative Extension System. Blog posted on May 28, 2020.  [Online] https://www.aces.edu/blog/topics/crop-production/common-squash-insect-pests-and-management/

Farm Magazine Publications & Podcasts:

  1. Majumdar, A., R. Balusu, and N. Kelly. 2020. Organic management methods for squash pests. Vegetable and Specialty Crop News, Gainesville, FL (Print Edition). July 2020. Vol. 3. No. 7. https://vscnews.com/organic-management-squash-pests/
  2. VSCNews article, February 2021. Biological control of whiteflies with predatory mites. Lorena Lopez and Oscar Liburd.
  3. 2021 eOrganic webinars. Title: Biological Control of Whiteflies in Squash. Oscar Liburd and Lorena Lopez.
  4. Taylor, A., and A. Majumdar. 2019. Be on the lookout for these summer pests: vegetable and Specialty Crop News, Gainesville, FL. Blog posted on July 19, 2019. [Online] http://vscnews.com/be-on-the-lookout-for-these-summer-pests/
  5. Majumdar, A., and A. Taylor. 2018/2019. Macro bug management. Vegetable and Specialty Crop News, Gainesville, FL. Printed version in April 2019. Blog posted on August 6, 2018. [Online] http://vscnews.com/macro-bug-management/
  6. Taylor, A., and A. Majumdar. 2018. Putting the squeeze on squash bugs. Vegetable and Specialty Crop News Printed Magazine Special Edition: Growing Organic, Gainesville, FL. August 2018.
  7. Majumdar, A., and A. Taylor. 2018. Squish squash bugs in your production system. Vegetable and Specialty Crop News, Gainesville, FL. Posted on June 7, 2018. [Online] http://vscnews.com/squish-squash-bugs-production-system/

Extension Meetings:

Field days:

  1. Majumdar, A., and R. Pacumbaba. 2020. Trap cropping & temporary pest exclusion system for vegetable gardeners and small farms. As part of the ‘Back2Basics’ Webinar Series. Oct 7, 2020. (20 direct participants on Zoom). [Online] https://www.facebook.com/AlabamaExtensionAAMU/videos/942264929594258/UzpfSTY1Nzc4MTQ5NDI0MTQzMjozNTUzNTE0NDI0NjY4MTEw/
  2. Balusu, R., S. Boring, and A. Majumdar. 2019. Cucurbit IPM updates with focus on pest exclusion systems for organic production. IPM Scout School, Tuscaloosa, AL. June 27, 2019. (15 participants).
  3. Majumdar, A. 2019. High tunnel insect pest and management overview. Veteran Farmers Conference, Hanceville, AL. May 18, 2019. (84 participants).
  4. Majumdar, A. 2019. Trap crop and high tunnel pest exclusion updates. Georgia Organics Annual Conference, Tifton, GA. February 9, 2019. (40 participants).
  5. Majumdar, A., G. Gray, and M. Price 2019. Trap crops and bioinsecticides for organic small farms. Horticulture Expo, Clanton Research and Extension Center, Clanton, AL. August 17, 2019. (50 direct participants) (148 indirect participants).

Commercial Horticulture Webinars: May 27, May 24, July 29 (45 participants)

Short IPM presentation (45 min):

  1. Majumdar, A., E. Schavey, and D. Porch. 2019. Tomato and squash insect pest management updates. North Alabama Vegetable Production Meeting, Oneonta, AL. February 19, 2019. (25 participants).
  2. Majumdar, A. 2019. Advanced trap cropping and bioinsecticide tactics for squash and crucifer production. AFVGA Annual Conference and Tradeshow, Clanton, AL. November 21, 2019. (25 participants).
  3. Majumdar, A. 2019. Advanced pest management workshop for small scale vegetable farm and garden. Bessemer, AL. November 14, 2019. (32 participants).
  4. Majumdar, A., and L. Edwards. 2019. Advanced pest management workshop for small scale vegetable farm and garden. New Brockton, AL. September 25, 2019. (20 participants).

Beginning Farmer Webinars:

  1. Majumdar, A. 2018. Cucurbit insect pests and management in conventional systems. Commercial Horticulture Webinar Series, Alabama Cooperative Extension System (team coordinator: A. Majumdar). April 30, 2018. (15 participants). [Online] https://auburn.hosted.panopto.com/Panopto/Pages/Viewer.aspx?id=0eb10038-28ee-489a-b407-a8d300e8446f
Participation Summary
2 Farmers participating in research

Education

Educational approach:

The Alabama Vegetable IPM project is under the Alabama Extension Commercial Horticulture Team program as a multistep educational campaign. For the current project the following steps to information dissemination, project marketing, and evaluation have been established:

Step 1. Technology awareness: This step targets sharing basic project objectives and issues faced by diversified farms in Alabama where cucurbits are commonly grown. These are mainly done through short IPM presentations and indoor workshops in spring and fall. These are also events where continuous needs assessments through written surveys and general group discussions are completed by growers that results in quick feedback about major production issues, nature of the audience, etc. We reached approximately 599 participants via 20+ events statewide and also regionally.

Step 2. Technology demonstration: We established one large cucurbit IPM demonstration plot in Clanton, AL. This site was used for data generation and training of Extension Agents and Extension Coordinators on the Alabama Extension Commercial Horticulture as a capacity-building measure. We invited some key producers to see the demonstrations and begin the technology refinement process (next step). Demonstrations are great at significantly improving Extension Agent knowledge and awareness of key pest issues and IPM tactics. We also plan to use the research location as additional key producer and Extension personnel training. Data and photos from demonstration plots are utilized for blog articles, videos, and other communication projects (e.g., marketing materials like bookmarks) in the pipeline. The evaluation system at this level included pre/post-tests which indicates very high levels of learning among the Extension personnel and key producers.

Step 3. Technology refinement: This step occurs on the producer fields with key producers (evaluation in commercial settings). With the initial field training on overall pest identification in cucurbits and scouting tactics, basic evaluation surveys indicate over 90% use of information since the need for the information is high. We used the pictures and videos of producers adopting IPM recommendations as a motivation for other producers to adopt improved crop production and pest management practices.

Step 4. Full technology adoption: This is achieved at the full execution of the program with key and secondary adopters of IPM information. Steps 3 and 4 are evaluated using a standard written evaluation form and a scannable Qualtrics survey that Extension Agents use to capture major impact cases where growers benefited from the information.

Educational & Outreach Activities

6 Consultations
1 Curricula, factsheets or educational tools
1 On-farm demonstrations
15 Webinars / talks / presentations
6 Workshop field days
3 IPM exhibits in multiple states

Participation Summary

176 Farmers
4 Ag professionals participated
Education/outreach description:

Participating Extension Specialists, Regional Extension Agents and County Coordinators organized several events to train cucurbit vegetable producers. These include workshops (6 events, n = 161), field days (2 events, n = 15), IPM presentations (15 multicounty events, n = 438), and IPM exhibits in multiple states (3 events, n = 200). 

Learning Outcomes

154 Farmers reported changes in knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness as a result of their participation
Key changes:
  • Extension surveys in Alabama indicated that producers would lose over 50% of their vegetable crop yield if they did not use recommended IPM practices. About 88% of respondents were strongly satisfied with the IPM training.

Project Outcomes

3 Farmers changed or adopted a practice
4 New working collaborations
Project outcomes:

The integration of nonchemical pest management tools such as physical barriers, biocontrol agent, and living ground cover in reducing viral disease pressure will contribute to lesser impacts on the environment and improved profitability of cucurbit vegetable production in the South. Our efforts focus on management of viruses transmitted by aphids in a non-persistent manner, which are among the most difficult pathogens to control in several high-value vegetable crops. Therefore, approaches developed in this project can be translated to other crops.

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.