Maximizing natural enemy-provided control in no-till, field crop systems
Our research seeks to evaluate in field crop production the value of discontinuing prophylactic insecticides to gain better control of invertebrate pest populations, particularly slugs, which are increasingly important and frustrating pests of no-till production. Simultaneously, we also explored the management potential of an underseeded crop for bolstering natural enemy populations that could aid in pest control. In collaboration with Lucas Criswell, a farmer in Union County, PA, who helped develop the research proposal, we conducted a factorial experiment in two locations (Mr. Criswell’s Farm and Penn State’s research farm) crossing the factors of insecticide/no insectides with presence or absence of an underseed rye/clover mixture. During the course of the season, we evaluated slug populations, the damage they caused to corn, and trapped natural enemies to characterize the size of their populations and help identify potential slug predators. Our work is still in progress and we have yet to fully analyze the slug populations measured, the damage they caused, or fully characterize the natural enemy populations we trapped. Over the course of the coming months, we will finish our analyses and characterizations and anticipate having some valuable insights to provide on the value of our research. During the course of the field season, we conducted two field days that shared insight on our efforts with the local agricultural community.
Our project has the following short-term objectives:
-Evaluate the pest control value of prophylatic insecticide applications
-Understand the role that within-field plant species diversity can play in fostering natural-enemy populations
-Understand how healthy natural-enemy populations can contribute to improved pest control
We have conducted a field experiment at two locations to address the objectives and are in the midst of the data analysis and sample sorting to fully characterize the natural enemy populations.
We have completed two field experiments. The one on Mr. Criswell’s farm in Union County, PA had sixteen 300 x 75 ft plots, and one at Penn State’s Russell E Larsen Agricultural Research Center , Rock Springs had sixteen 100 x 20 ft plots. Factorial treatments (insecticide/no insecticide, underseeded crop/no underseeded crop) were applied to each plot and then they were planted with corn. We also conducted a field day at each farm, exposing our research to approximately 100 local growers and other agricultural professionals.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
While our work is still in progress, it is clear that the underseeded crop reduced the amount of slug damage to the primary crop. We hypothesized that having an alternative food source (i.e., another crop) in the field would decrease the amount of damage to the crop being grown for harvest and that appears to be the case. It is premature to draw any conclusions about how the insecticide and underseeded treatments influenced natural enemy populations. In extension presentations, I have already begun to discuss our effort and its rationale with the local and regional agricultural community and have received much positive feedback and suggestions for further research. It is clear there is an audience hungry for alternative management strategies and tactics for controlling pests of no-till production.
Col John Kelly Road
Lewisburg, PA 17837
Office Phone: 5704120706