Red Plastic Mulch as an Alternative to Insecticides in Production of Seedless Watermelons
The principal insect pests that reduce yields of commercial plastic-culture seedless watermelon crops in the Southern Region are cucumber beetles, squash bugs and aphids. A key factor in successful production of the new seedless watermelons is introducing pollinators to assure an adequate fruit set. The problem many seedless watermelon growers face is that honey bees used for pollination are often killed by insecticide spray applications.
The vast majority of farmers in the Southern Region, who grow watermelons using plastic mulch and trickle irrigation, use black plastic. This is unfortunate because the insect pest species actually seem to be attracted to the black covered rows. However, several entomologists have reported that crop rows covered with red plastic have a repellent affect on certain insect pests. The producer wanted to see if he could grow seedless watermelons with fewer pesticide applications.
However, in this project, the producer ended up growing strawberries. He conducted field research over two seasons to determine if the use of red plastic mulch—as opposed to black plastic–worked better on strawberries
The black plastic worked much better for him because it produced more strawberries in the early part of the season. This advantage was so important that it outweighed the fact that the strawberries produced on red plastic were larger. Soil temperatures were higher under the black plastic, it was less expensive than the red plastic and the berries were easier to see. Because insect pressures were low during the two seasons of the trial, there was no data on pest damage.