Organic Vegetable Production for Limited Resource Farmers
Small, limited-resource farmers often find it difficult to compete in today’s economy as evidenced by the decline in small farms over the past 50 years. Organic vegetable farming is expanding and may be an ideal enterprise for limited-resource farmers. The goal of this planning project was to develop a research proposal that would potentially improve organic methods of vegetable production. This would stimulate the growth of organic farming, thereby advancing sustainable agriculture by (a) increasing incomes of limited-resource farmers and (b) reducing environmental pollution from pesticides and fertilizers.
(1) Determine research needs of organic vegetable growers.
(2) Assemble a multi-disciplinary team to address needs of organic vegetable growers.
(3) Identify organic farmers for future on-farm research.
(4) Prepare a research proposal addressing needs of organic vegetable growers.
Objective 1: In an initial survey, 123 participants growing or interested in growing organic vegetables ranked 25 listed research topics in order of importance. Insect management and marketing received the highest rankings followed by weed control, disease control, and nutrient management. Respondents described specific problems relating to these five priority topics in a second survey. Management of cucumber beetles and their transmittance of bacterial wilt disease to cucurbits was the most-mentioned insect pest. To complement the second survey, meetings were held at two distant locations in Kentucky at which each of the five priority topics were discussed in detail at workshops. Again, organic management of cucumber beetles received the most attention among insect problems. Based on high ranking of insect management and the particular emphasis on cucumber beetles by farmers in meetings and surveys, organic management of cucumber beetles was selected as a research topic, including their accompanying transmission of bacterial wilt disease.
Objective 2: To address this topic, a multi-disciplinary team was assembled including members from Kentucky State University (KSU), the University of Kentucky (UK), the Kentucky Dept. Agriculture (KDA), and the farmer organization, Pardners for Family Farms (PFF), as follows: Dr. Gary Cline (sustainable vegetable production, KSU), Dr. John Sedlacek (entomologist, KSU), Dr. Robert Barney, (entomologist, KSU), Dr. James Hendrix (plant pathologist, UK), Dr. Marion Simon (Cooperative Extension/State Specialist for Small farms, KSU), Dr. Brent Rowell (vegetable Extension, UK), Robert “Mac” Stone” (KSU farm manager/ president of PFF), and Hope Crain (State Organic Program, KDA).
Objective 3: In the second survey, 38 organic vegetable growers indicated a desire to do on-farm research, including growers interested in cucumber beetle research. Thus, there was considerable farmer support for research resulting from this planning project, as might be expected since farmers identified the research topic. Five farms were selected for on-farm research and demonstrations based on interest in cucumber beetle management and location in different regions of Kentucky.
Objective 4: The multi-disciplinary team prepared a research preproposal entitled “Organic Management of Cucumber Beetles with Cucurbits”, which was submitted to SARE in 2000. The preproposal was selected for development into a full proposal which is underway.
Objectives of the proposal are to:
1. Compare organic methods for managing cucumber beetles in watermelon, including cover crops, reflective mulches, beneficial insects, trap crops, and companion plants.
2. Develop an organic system for managing cucumber beetles with muskmelon including combinations of management methods.
3. Determine direct and systemic toxic effects of paw paw extracts on striped cucumber beetle.
4. Determine insecticidal effects of paw paw extract on cucumber beetles in muskmelon.
Results from the planning project indicated that cucumber beetles are the most important production problem faced by organic vegetable growers in this region. Thus, improved organic management of these beetles would advance sustainable agriculture by providing economic and environmental impacts.