- Vegetables: cucurbits
- Animals: poultry
- Animal Products: eggs
- Pest Management: biological control, trap crops
- Production Systems: organic agriculture
Pests can completely decimate organic curcurbit production, removing a staple cash-crop for organic growers. While the use of trap-crops to attract common pest insects is widely studied, use of pesticides to control the pest insects once attracted, or the need to replant the trap-crop over and over again as the pests destroy it reduces efficiency and sustainability of the trap-cropping system. Here we explore the use of the domesticated Japanese quail (Coturnix japonica) to eliminate pesticide and replanting with the accessory benefit of providing meat, eggs, and fertility to the small organic operation.
The quail will be housed in 5'x5' pens on the edges of the cash-crop area. The trap-crop will be planted within each pen. As the pests are attracted to the trap-crop, the quail will eat them. While others have experimented with the use of chickens in similar applications, the quail have the advantage of being small, less destructive, and less prone to eat vegetation. Quail can be housed continuously with the trap-crop, eliminating the need to use pesticides or to constantly replant plants damaged by pests or larger fowl. This system will be more profitable by reducing inputs, time in the field, and by maximizing production of cash-crops and other marketable products.
Project objectives from proposal:
- Successfully control the spread and impact of common pest insects using quail and trap-crops
- Produce marketable cash crops adjacent to and protected by the trap-crop quail system.
- Produce marketable quail eggs, and meat.
- Educate hundreds of visitors to the farm on sustainable farming methods.
- Keep data on all parts of the study to aid in development of best practices, and to assess profitability of the system.