- Vegetables: tomatoes, collards
- Crop Production: pollinator habitat
- Pest Management: biological control
- Production Systems: agroecosystems
- Sustainable Communities: sustainability measures
Vegetable crops rely on frequent insecticide 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.
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.