Enhancing Biological Control in Vegetable Production in Eastern Virginia and Maryland

Project Overview

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2017: $16,105.00
Projected End Date: 08/31/2019
Grant Recipient: Virginia Tech
Region: Southern
State: Virginia
Graduate Student:
Major Professor:
Megan O'Rourke
Virgnia Tech


  • Vegetables: tomatoes, collards


  • Crop Production: pollinator habitat
  • Pest Management: biological control
  • Production Systems: agroecosystems
  • Sustainable Communities: sustainability measures

    Proposal abstract:

    Vegetable crops rely on frequent insecticides applications to control multiple insect pests in order to meet the high quality standards for commercial fresh market. Reducing insecticide use can save growers money, reduce human and environmental exposure, and help foster more sustainable vegetable production. Reducing insecticide use can be achieved by enhancing naturally occurring biological control of pests. One potential way to enhance this ecosystem service is by planting wildflower plots on farms. Wildflower plots provide extra resources and shelter to beneficial arthropods. The proposed research will measure the effects of wildflower plots on: the biological control of important pests, plant damage, and yield of collards and tomatoes. Biological control will be assessed using sentinel egg masses and sampling arthropod communities. Measurements will be taken on 20 farms located on the Delmarva Peninsula and around Virginia Beach. The expected outcome of this project is to provide growers strategies on how to increase naturally occurring biological control to be more sustainable and environmentally friendly without compromising yield or crop quality. Information will primarily be disseminated to growers through extension events and publications. Findings will also be presented at scientific meetings and in peer reviewed, scientific publications.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    I. Measure the impacts of wildflower plantings on the abundance and diversity of arthropod natural enemy communities;
    II. Determine if wild flower plantings enhance biological control of pests and crop yield;
    III. Disseminate information to growers and researchers.

    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.