Chickens and Trap Crops – An Integration of Sustainable Approaches to Insect Pest Control in Vegetable Production

Project Overview

FNC13-938
Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2013: $6,462.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2013
Region: North Central
State: Missouri
Project Coordinator:
Gary Wenig
Rocky Creek Valley Farm

Information Products

Commodities

  • Agronomic: millet, rye, sorghum (milo)
  • Vegetables: cucurbits
  • Animals: poultry

Practices

  • Crop Production: catch crops, cover crops
  • Education and Training: farmer to farmer, on-farm/ranch research, workshop
  • Pest Management: integrated pest management, physical control, trap crops
  • Production Systems: holistic management, organic agriculture, transitioning to organic
  • Sustainable Communities: urban agriculture

    Summary:

    Bottom line – it was a great success. After a number of issues including the weather, a steep learning curve and a complete re-evaluation we were able to prove that chickens in combination with blue hubbards can be used to control squash bugs in a vegetable produce business. The addition of the perimeter trap crops brought in a number of beneficial insects. Photographs of the entire project can be seen on our website at http;//www.rockycreekvalley.com/education/studies.html

    Introduction:

    Rocky Creek Valley Farm is a 40 acre farm owned and operated by Elizabeth and Gary Wenig. We, the Wenigs, produce and sell a large variety of heirloom vegetables, free range eggs and raw goats milk. We also grow a large variety of herbs and manufacture a variety of salves, tinctures and products.

    Having both grown up Missouri farm kids from generations of Midwestern farmers we returned to the land in 2001. We have both learned and worked the traditional farm concepts of the 1950’s and 60’s of cattle, horses, feeder pigs, broiler chickens, deep plowing row crops and lots of pesticides. We purchased our current farm in 2009 specifically to break that mold and develop more environmentally friendly all-natural approaches to our vegetable produce, goat dairy and free-range egg business.

    Elizabeth is a Certified Clinical Herbalist with a 4 year degree in clinical herbs. She previously worked for a group of medical doctors who specialized in alternative approaches to healing. We conduct herb classes at the farm on traditional remedies, cooking, holistic wellness, animal husbandry and sustainable gardening. Gary’s background is in construction engineering as a consultant to dozens of major corporations. Both Gary and Elizabeth have taught numerous adult educational classes thru the local school district and corporate continuing educational classes. We run a large web presence that includes several blogs, videos, facebook, classes and how-to projects. We attend various farmers markets each week, a CSA program and setup booths at various farm events.

    In addition to being opposed to the overuse of chemicals our motivation for being chemical free is a result of Elizabeth’s life threatening allergies to many pharmaceuticals and chemicals. We believe that the gross overuse of chemicals is following the same path as the overuse of antibiotics in the medical industry and livestock industry. They will be rendered useless against drug/chemical resistant pest and crop diseases.

    Project objectives:

    Insect pests are a problem for all vegetable producers. For organic or all-natural vegetable producers like RCV Farm pest control without the use of synthetic chemicals can be a challenge at best. Trap crops have been proven to lure pests away from cash crops but then the issue is how to kill the insects once they are on the trap crop plants. More traditional IPM methods use chemicals to kill pests once they are on the trap crops. This reduces the use of chemicals and associated cost, but does not eliminate the use of chemicals. We propose to integrate a sustainable approach of insect pest control using a combination of trap crops, beneficial insect crops and chicken in moveable pens to kill the insect pests. We will be testing a new concept of placing the trap crop inside of movable chicken pens. The trap crops being used are a combination of Blue Hubbard squash and Red Kuri squash. These trap crop plants have been found by Lincoln University researchers to be effective at attracting the most important cucurbit insect pests. Our primary pest is the squash bug, one of the most challenging pests to control in the Midwest.

    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.