Development of an Integrated Pest and Disease Management Program Utilizing Companion Plants and Inundative Biological Control for Organic Squash Production

Project Overview

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2017: $16,245.00
Projected End Date: 02/28/2019
Grant Recipient: University of Florida
Region: Southern
State: Florida
Graduate Student:
Major Professor:
Dr. Oscar Liburd
University of Florida


  • Vegetables: cucurbits
  • Additional Plants: African marigolds, Sweet alyssum


  • Crop Production: cropping systems, intercropping, multiple cropping
  • Education and Training: demonstration, on-farm/ranch research
  • Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity, habitat enhancement
  • Pest Management: allelopathy, biological control, cultural control, integrated pest management, mulches - living, row covers (for pests), traps
  • Production Systems: agroecosystems, organic agriculture
  • Sustainable Communities: sustainability measures


    Florida is a major producer of zucchini squash (Cucurbita pepo L., Cucurbitaceae) and produced 17% of the US squash in 2017, valued at about $39 million dollars. Key insect pests including the sweetpotato whitefly (Bemisia tabaci Genn., B biotype, Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae), the melon and the cowpea aphid (Aphis gossypii Glover and Aphis craccivora C.L.Koch, Hemiptera: Aphididae), attack zucchini squash and transmit viral diseases that together cause yield losses up to 80%. Aphids transmit viruses of economic importance and reports of whitefly-transmitted viruses in Florida squash have increased in the last few years. Pesticides are generally used for insect and insect-transmitted disease management but the development of insecticide resistance and their adverse effects on non-target organisms are major concerns. This project evaluated a combination of non-pesticidal approaches including cultural practices, augmentation and conservation biological control to manage key pests in organic squash with the goal of reducing the amount of chemical inputs in the cropping system, limiting the adverse effects of insecticides on non-target organisms, and maintaining environmental quality. The effects of the African marigold (Tagetes erecta L., Asteraceae) and the sweet alyssum (Lobularia maritima (L.) Desv, Brassicaceae) used as companion plants, together with the predatory mite, Amblyseius swirskii Athias-Henriot (Acari: Phytoseiidae) against key insect pests and its effects on viral incidence in squash production were assessed. The outcomes included the development of integrated pest and disease management strategies utilizing companion plants and the predatory mite Amblyseius swirskii Athias-Henriot (Acari: Phytoseiidae) for organic squash and cucurbit growers in Florida.

    Project objectives:

    The overall goal of this study is to evaluate the potential of three companion plant species, in absence or presence of A. swirskii, for biological control of key insect pest populations and its effect on viral incidence in organic zucchini squash. The objectives include 1) monitor the establishment of insect vectors and plant viruses in squash, 2) evaluate the effect of companion plants and A. swirskii introduced in zucchini squash crops, and 3) identify temporal and spatial distribution patterns of key pest species, A. swirskii and other natural enemies in a squash field using geostatistical techniques.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.