- Fruits: melons
- Crop Production: cover crops, pollination
- Pest Management: integrated pest management
Cover crops offer a range of benefits that include suppressing disease in subsequent cash crops, providing habitat for beneficial insects, and promoting pollinators. Overwintering cover crops can provide early floral resources for pollinators and refuge to other beneficial insects like natural predators before cash crops are planted. These attributes may help bridge beneficial insects into the crop following cover crop termination.
Cover crops have also been found to reduce severity of some watermelon diseases. Based on these benefits, it is worthwhile to investigate the potential of different cover crops for use as an integrated pest management strategy in watermelon production. Such a strategy would benefit watermelon yield while cutting costs and pesticide use, making production more sustainable. This will be a 1-year project designed to determine the cover crop monocultures or mixtures best suited for the watermelon disease suppression, pollinator production, and bridging beneficial insects into watermelon production systems.
To achieve this goal, insects will be sampled in various cover crop treatments before planting, and disease and insects will be evaluated in the subsequently planted watermelon. Findings will be presented to watermelon growers in the form of educational materials and a field day.
Project objectives from proposal:
Objective 1: Evaluate winter cover crops and cover crop mixtures to determine which are best suited for increasing natural enemies.
Objective 2: Evaluate winter cover crops and cover crop mixtures to determine which are best suite for disease suppression in watermelon.
Objective 3: Determine the effect of different winter cover crops and cover crop mixtures on pollinator abundance and diversity, especially for pollinators essential to watermelon production.
Objective 4: Participate in a field day to disseminate information on cover crops in watermelon production systems.