Farmers face immense pressure from squash bugs (Anasa tristis). Because of this, a lot of time, energy and inputs are required to manage for them. While variety trials and breeding has been done for other squash pests and diseases (squash vine borer, powdery mildew, etc), extensive research has not been done concerning this pest. If not managed, many varieties only produce a couple fruit before the plant dies and succumbs to pest pressure. This is not only a problem in the Ozarks, squash bug pressure is increasing all over the North Central region.
Through variety trials and open pollinated cross breeding, I will breed a Cucurbita moschata grex that contains characteristics that are resilient to squash bugs. By growing varieties that already exhibit innate resistance to the pest and not managing for squash bugs, I will be able to select for plants that contain natural resistance. I will collaborate with other farmers in the Ozark bioregion to share seed in an effort to increase adaptability and grow in mutually beneficial partnerships with local farmers. Long term, this moschata grex can contribute many squash bug resistant varieties so that farmers can reduce inputs and energy when growing this crop.
Project objectives from proposal:
- Evaluate moschata plants from squash bug resilient squash varieties through growing trials
- Identify promising crosses to continue to breed in the squash bug resistant grex
- Share findings through blog posts on our website and social media as well as with the growing network of Ozark farmers
- Have a community squash tasting day to select for tastiest varieties, get community feedback and share seeds with community
- In subsequent years, I will conduct trials to continue breeding a moschata squash variety that exhibits natural squash bug resistance.