Integrating Perimeter Trap Crops and Row Covers into Cucurbit-crop Farming Systems

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2013: $199,250.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2016
Grant Recipient: Iowa State University
Region: North Central
State: Iowa
Project Coordinator:
Dr. Mark Gleason
Iowa State University

Annual Reports

Information Products


  • Fruits: melons


  • Crop Production: organic fertilizers, strip tillage
  • Education and Training: extension, on-farm/ranch research, participatory research, workshop
  • Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns, agricultural finance, risk management
  • Pest Management: botanical pesticides, chemical control, cultural control, disease vectors, economic threshold, integrated pest management, mulches - killed, mulches - living, mulching - plastic, row covers (for pests), mulching - vegetative, weather monitoring
  • Production Systems: holistic management, organic agriculture, transitioning to organic
  • Soil Management: organic matter, soil analysis


    This project’s goal was to modify perimeter trap cropping and row covers for managing bacterial wilt and cucumber beetles in conventional and organic muskmelon production, respectively. Field experiments in Iowa and Ohio focused on perimeter trap cropping (PTC) in conventional systems and delayed row-cover removal (DRCR) – that is, delaying the removal of row covers by 10 days after the start of flowering – in organic systems. In replicated PTC experiments in each state during 2014 and 2015, muskmelon (cv. Athena) was the main crop; the experiment compared performance with vs. without a 2-row perimeter of Buttercup squash (cv. Space Station). Results were similar in both states and between years: PTC did not consistently reduce the number of insecticide sprays on muskmelon, nor did it consistently suppress incidence of bacterial wilt or improve marketable yield compared to the non-PTC control treatment. These results suggest that PTC is not a promising option for conventional muskmelon growers in the Midwest. Spunbond polypropylene row covers, deployed over ‘Athena’ muskmelon on wire hoops at 18-inch height in single rows from transplanting until 10 days after female flowers began to bloom, did not result in significantly higher marketable yield or lower incidence of bacterial wilt than non-covered plots, and in some site-years the row cover treatment even had significantly more non-marketable fruit, although it did require fewer insecticide sprays. In on-farm demonstration trials, row covers neither consistently increased marketable yield nor decreased bacterial wilt incidence compared to a non-covered control treatment. Our findings suggest that the row cover strategy used in this project does not offer an advantage for Midwest organic growers of muskmelon. Project activities were shared with growers during field days and winter meetings in each state.


    Bacterial wilt devastates cucurbit crops and threatens profitability of North Central Region vegetable farms. To control the cucumber beetles that spread the bacterium, growers rely mainly on insecticides. Alternative tactics are urgently needed because the widely used neonicotinoid insecticides can harm pollinators and organic insecticides are ineffective. Our two-state project sought to develop practical strategies to minimize insecticide use and boost profits. We based this project on the encouraging results of our previous NCR-SARE project (LNC10—323) by scaling up our alternative management strategies – perimeter trap cropping and delayed removal of spunbond row covers – to NC Region farming systems. In two years of field experiments (2014 and 2015) on muskmelon in Iowa and Ohio, we scaled up perimeter trap cropping in conventional production to realistic farm size, and make delayed removal of row covers more reliable for organic growers by validating strategies to protect the crop after the row covers come off. We also evaluated these modified approaches with collaborating growers during on-farm demonstration trials. We shared our findings with NC Region growers through field days and regional grower-conference talks.

    Project objectives:

    1. In a conventional muskmelon production system, evaluate perimeter trap cropping for bacterial wilt suppression and yield at a spatial scale that is representative of North Central Region vegetable farms, and without neonicotinoid insecticides.
    1. In an organic muskmelon production system using delayed row cover removal, evaluate alternative strategies for managing bacterial wilt and cucumber beetles during the period between row cover removal and harvest.
    1. Estimate costs and profits of the modified alternative IPM strategies in Objectives 1 and 2.
    1. Share project results with cucurbit growers throughout the region by means of on-farm demonstration trials, virtual and on-site field days, extension bulletins, webinars, and regional meeting presentations.


    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.