The work proposed here, entitled “Improving two-spotted spider mite management in high tunnel cucumber production” is broadly aimed at increasing the economic viability of crop diversification in high tunnel systems. High tunnels (HT) are a popular tool that increase the growing season in temperate climates and offer protection from environmental stressors, such as frost and excessive rain. High tunnels have been increasing in use across the US, in part due to the NRCS-EQIP program that offers financial assistance towards the investment in these structures. Some of the most economically viable crops currently grown in high tunnels include tomatoes, leafy greens and increasingly cucumbers; tomatoes are currently the dominant crop with little or no crop rotation. Furthermore, there are pest and disease challenges associated with high tunnels that need more effective, sustainable management strategies specifically developed for these production systems. Some of the pest and disease challenges also limit crop rotation. For cucumber production, exclusion-screening tactics were developed by Project Coordinator-Ingwell as a strategy to manage one of the most important pests: cucumber beetles and the bacterial pathogen they transmit. Two-spotted spider mites (TSSM) are the other major challenge because they are difficult to detect and monitor and there are few miticides available for high tunnel systems, none of which are permitted in certified organic production. The aim of this project is to develop an integrated pest management plan that minimizes the impacts of TSSM on cucumber, thus increasing the viability of producing cucumbers in HT. We aim to provide cultural and biological strategies including selection of more tolerant cultivars and the application of soil amendments to increase tolerance, develop an effective and easy to adopt scouting protocol, and establish recommendations based on the optimization of commercially available TSSM natural enemies for biological pest suppression. We will also evaluate the efficacy of biopesticides and application methods as an additional management strategy, recognizing that cultural and biological control may not be effective or appropriate in all situations. Relevance will be ensured by engaging with farmers and conducting on-farm research. We will disseminate information to farmers through demonstrations, print, and digital Extension media.
Project objectives from proposal:
Increased 1) understanding of pest susceptibility among cucumber cultivars and in relation to soil amendments; 2) farmer ability to detect and monitor TSSM; and improved 3) knowledge to implement biological control; 4) understanding of the efficacy of biopesticides in HTs.
HT farmers 1) select cucumber varieties less susceptible to TSSM; 2) apply soil amendments to reduce crop susceptibility; 3) scout for TSSM and train employees to do so; 4) implement biological control.
Cucumber production in HTs becomes more economically viable, increases crop diversity and results in greater resiliency and viability of local food systems.