- Vegetables: cucurbits
- Crop Production: cover crops, intercropping
- Education and Training: demonstration, display, extension, on-farm/ranch research
- Natural Resources/Environment: habitat enhancement
- Pest Management: biological control, integrated pest management, row covers (for pests)
Cucumbers (Cucumis sativus) are one of the most widely grown crops of the North Central Region, yet they are also one of the most likely to face pollination and biological control deficits. Natural enemies and pollinators require additional nutritional and habitat resources that are not found in conventional agricultural fields. The addition of flowering windbreaks within the field could provide these resources. As of now, information on this topic, especially in cucumbers, remains limited. The goal of this project is to integrate flowering windbreaks within a cucumber field in order to increase beneficial insect abundance and diversity while decreasing pest insect abundance and diversity. Ultimately, this will increase cucumber yield quantity and quality. I will test four different flower species planted in a commercial cucumber field and a bare soil control treatment. The experiment will be set up at a collaborating vegetable grower’s farm in Southwest Michigan. Flowers will be planted within the field in a randomized complete block design with six replications in the 2015 growing season. The data will reveal which flowering species enhance beneficial insect abundance and activity the most and at which distances from the flowering areas the response can be observed. The data and photographs generated from this study will be shared widely and used to provide educational materials for growers, extension educators, and the public about integrating flowering resources into agricultural systems. Findings will also be shared at workshops, conferences, and in peer-reviewed publications. The inclusion of flower strips in cucumber fields will likely increase beneficial insect activity on growers’ farms, reducing pesticide inputs, thus increasing cucumber yield and profitability in the North Central Region.
Project objectives from proposal:
The immediate goal of this project is to evaluate the effect of the inclusion of flowering plant species in cucumber (Cucumis sativus) fields on beneficial and pest insect community composition. The data collected will inform us of which flowering species enhance beneficial insect activity most effectively. The learning outcome is that through fact sheets and presentations, growers will become educated on the value and effective implementation of flowering windbreaks in their own farms. The action outcome is to increase grower acceptance of this strategy, which in turn will lead to an overall increase in beneficial insect activity on their farms, thus increasing cucumber yield and profitability in the North Central Region.
I predict that the inclusion of flowering windbreaks in cucumber fields will: 1) increase the abundance of natural enemies 2) decrease the abundance of herbivorous insects, and 3)increase pollinator abundance and diversity , and 4) increase cucumber yield and quality. Additionally, I expect the effect of the flowering windbreaks to be the strongest in rows of cucumbers adjacent to the flowers, meaning that the will be greater abundance and diversity of beneficial insects and fewer pests in rows of cucumbers closest to the flowering annuals.