Increasing Grower Adoption of Ecologically-based Pest Management Strategies to Improve Quality and Yield of Brassica Crops

Project Overview

LNE18-365
Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2018: $198,754.00
Projected End Date: 11/30/2021
Grant Recipient: University of Massachusetts
Region: Northeast
State: Massachusetts
Project Leader:
Susan Scheufele
UMass Extension Vegetable Program

Commodities

  • Vegetables: broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbages, cauliflower, greens (leafy), greens (lettuces), radishes (culinary), rutabagas, turnips, brassicas

Practices

  • Crop Production: intercropping, pollinator habitat, varieties and cultivars
  • Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns
  • Pest Management: biological control, biorational pesticides, botanical pesticides, chemical control, cultural control, disease vectors, field monitoring/scouting, genetic resistance, integrated pest management, mulches - general, mulching - vegetative, mulching - plastic, physical control, row covers (for pests), trap crops, insectary plantings, attracting beneficial insects, residue management
  • Production Systems: agroecosystems, organic agriculture

    Proposal abstract:

    Problem and justification: Growers consistently identify management of insect pests of brassicas as a major production challenge and priority for research and education (UMass Extension Stakeholder Meeting Notes 2017, 2016, 2015). Nearly 9,000 vegetable farmers across New England and NY grow approximately 15,000 acres of brassica crops. On most mixed vegetable operations around the Northeast, brassica crops make up a very large percentage of the total crop mix and total acreage, and are now also commonly grown throughout the winter to satisfy unceasing consumer demand for local, leafy greens. This increase in production and season length has intensified pressure from a suite of perennial insect pests including cabbage maggots, cabbage aphids, flea beetles, several caterpillar species, and new emerging pests including Swede midge and cabbage whitefly. Successful brassica pest control necessitates a high level of understanding of pest life cycles and integration of multiple strategies. This can be difficult and time-consuming to achieve and many growers lack confidence in the controls available or their ability to implement them, and struggle to produce quality brassica crops.

    Solution and approach: A regional, collaborative research and education program is necessary to improve management of this suite of insect pests. Our educational efforts will help growers increase their knowledge of brassica pest biology and confidence to implement best management practices through 1) traditional methods of Extension education like newsletters , factsheets and presentations, 2) participating in web and phone based educational opportunities with experts from around the region through a Brassica Pest Collaborative and 3) attending field day demonstrations where key individuals will share their experiences implementing new and alternative control strategies. The proposed research will evaluate the efficacy of tactics like mulches, netting, and conservation biocontrol to combat multiple pests, reduce overall pest damage, and increase yield. Constraints like labor and time will be addressed by using cost to benefit analyses to help growers to identify new ways to increase profits growing brassicas. By coordinating research efforts, we are able to tackle a wide range of topics with a high degree of rigor, as treatments and protocols can be standardized and results can be considered together across site-years.

    Performance targets from proposal:

    Performance target: Fifty brassica growers adopt or improve ecological pest management approaches including scouting, cultural practices, conservation biocontrol, and use of reduced-risk pesticides on 500 acres, reducing crop damage, increasing marketable yield, and increasing annual gross revenue by $500,000.

    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.