Cucurbits, in particular squash, cucumbers, watermelons and pumpkins, are produced as high value crops in Alabama, Florida, and other parts of the southern U.S. To meet the growing market demand, cucurbit production has increased significantly in the South over the past eight years, and Florida leads the nation in squash production. However, outbreaks of viral diseases and insect vectors (aphids and whiteflies) have become chronic and persistent threats to the profitability of cucurbit production in the region.
Current management strategies involve weekly calendar-base insecticide sprays from crop establishment to final harvest. This practice is unsustainable because insecticides are not effective in reducing virus spread. Furthermore, continuous use of insecticides increases the potential for resistance and destroys pollinators and other beneficial organisms. Other available options including resistant cultivars are inadequate or not effective against multiple viruses. The goal of this project is to assist southern cucurbit growers in combating these key pest problems by developing and implementing effective, system-based Integrated Pest Management (IPM) tactics. The ultimate goal is to enhance economic viability of cucurbit production in the South.
Project objectives from proposal:
The goal of this project is to assist southern cucurbit growers in combating these key pest problems by developing and implementing effective, system-based Integrated Pest Management (IPM) tactics, including:
- Protective barriers;
- Plant defense system stimulating soil microbes, habitat manipulation through biologically active ground cover plants, and biocontrol agents;
- On-farm integration and evaluation of economic feasibility of adoption of the tactics to help understand how individual tactics interact and complement each other in a complex agroecosystem;
- A comprehensive outreach plan, which will facilitate the implementation of the program through training, education and technology transfer.