- Vegetables: cucurbits
- Additional Plants: native plants, ornamentals
- Crop Production: conservation tillage
- Education and Training: extension, on-farm/ranch research, participatory research, workshop
- Farm Business Management: agricultural finance, feasibility study
- Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity, habitat enhancement, hedgerows, hedges - grass, indicators
- Pest Management: biological control, cultural control, field monitoring/scouting, integrated pest management
- Production Systems: agroecosystems, holistic management, permaculture
- Sustainable Communities: local and regional food systems
Disturbances that accompany the production of agricultural crops such as tillage, pesticide application, and harvesting can negatively impact beneficial arthropod communities and the arthropod-mediated ecosystem services they support. Habitat management examines methods that alter agricultural habitats to optimize the performance of beneficial insects. The introduction of floral resources to provide habitat and alternative food and prey for beneficial insects has been shown to increase their diversity and abundance. This project will investigate how the addition of a perennial floral strip consisting of native Ohio forbs and grasses will influence both beneficial insect communities and the biocontrol and pollination services they supply within pumpkin agroecosystems. I will compare beneficial insect abundance, diversity, and biocontrol and pollination services within 6 treatment (with perennial floral strip) and 6 control (crop produced adjacent to mown orchard grass) pumpkin farms across Ohio. Data on beneficial arthropod abundance and diversity will be collected using yellow sticky card traps, pitfall traps, pan traps, and visual observations. Predation and parasitism of cucumber beetle and squash bug eggs and parasitism of adults will be compared across treatment and control pumpkin fields. The rate of effective pollination service and the diversity and activity of the pollinator community within treatment and control fields will also be compared. Importantly, an economic analysis of the net revenue between treatment and control farms will be conducted to evaluate the feasibility of this habitat management tactic. This study will contribute to NCR-SARE’s broad-based goals by providing vegetable growers and extension agents with information on the effectiveness and economics of habitat management within a vegetable cropping system. This information will prove useful in reducing costs of chemical insecticides and in enhancing environmental quality and the natural resources base on which agriculture depends.
Project objectives from proposal:
1. Determine if the addition of a native perennial floral strip enhances the abundance, diversity and service provided by native and managed bees.
2. Determine if the addition of a native perennial floral strip enhances the abundance and diversity of generalist predators and parasitoids and their biocontrol services.
3. Measure the economic costs and benefits of native perennial floral strips to determine if this management practice is feasible for pumpkin producers.
With our findings on the insect communities in pumpkin and floral treatment plots I plan to publish three peer-reviewed research papers. The first paper will focus on the results of Objective 1, examining how the addition of floral strips influenced the diversity, abundance, and activity of pollinators in pumpkin fields. The second publication will report the findings of Objective 2, detailing the influence of floral strip addition on generalist predators, parasitoids, and biocontrol services in pumpkin. The third paper will examine the economics of floral strips (Objective 3). I also plan to publish an Extension bulletin detailing the full costs and benefits of floral strips as a habitat management tactic for growers. My findings will also be posted online by the Pollinator Partnership, an organization dedicated to the conservation of pollinators (see letter of support). I plan to attend annual extension workshops including a pumpkin field day held in Piketon, Ohio and a Beekeepers School, in Cincinnati, OH where I will present my findings. These outputs will aid farming communities and the scientific community as a whole in promoting conservation techniques in agroecosytems.