- 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
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 lack effectiveness. Our two-state project will deliver practical strategies to minimize insecticide use and boost profits. We will build on the encouraging results of our recent NCR-SARE project (LNC10—323) by fitting our alternative management strategies – perimeter trap cropping and delayed removal of spunbond row covers – into NC Region vegetable farming systems. In two years of field experiments on muskmelon in Iowa and Ohio, our multidisciplinary team will scale 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 will also evaluate these modified approaches with collaborating growers during 16 on-farm demonstration trials, and estimate their profitability. We plan to share our findings with NC Region growers through two annual online “virtual field days” and traditional field days, extension bulletins, Year 2 webinars for growers and extension educators, and regional grower-conference talks. Short-term outcomes include that 200 growers will learn how to adapt the new strategies to their farms and 90 will indicate willingness to try one or both strategies. The intermediate-term outcome is that 70 growers will begin trialing one of these strategies within 2 years after the project period. Broad-based outcomes of implementing perimeter trap cropping include a 90% cut in use of conventional insecticides on muskmelon and other cucurbit crops, resulting in higher farm profitability and lower risk of injury to pollinators. In organic production, using delayed row-cover removal will raise marketable yield and cut insecticide use by 30%, thereby enhancing profitability. These outcomes will raise the quality of life for growers, their families, and their communities by safeguarding ecosystem services, minimizing human health hazards from insecticide exposure, and sustaining farm profitability.
Project objectives from proposal:
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.
2. 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.
3. Estimate costs and profits of the modified alternative IPM strategies in Objectives 1 and 2.
4. 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.