Row Cover Use Methods for Cucurbit Pest and Pollinator Management
Evaluation and comparison of management methods for using row covers to exclude insect pests from cucurbit crops showed that daily cover removal during morning hours resulted in squash yields comparable to those obtained without row covers where insecticides were employed. Yields appeared to be lower with the current practice of using row covers up until the initiation of flowering, at which time covers are removed completely. The original plan was to evaluate these practices as an approach for use with early season plantings. Due to an unusually wet spring field activities and planting were accomplished about one month later than intended. The results obtained for crop yield and insect pest incidence were comparable for two of the three study sites. The third study site had a very low insect pest incidence.
Field trials are being used to evaluate row cover use and management for the exclusion of insect pests in cucurbit vegetable crops. The practices that are being evaluated are designed to address the exclusion of insect pests from the crop as well as the need for pollinator access to the crop.
Project objectives are:
- Evaluate possible row cover management practices to determine their efficacy and practicality of implementation.
- Increase grower awareness of alternative insect pest management practices for cucurbit crops.
- Communicate to growers the concepts being employed in the practices used in this research, including both the insect pest management and pollinator aspects.
Three trials were conducted in 2015 and each was located within an important production region in the state. Of the five treatments that were evaluated, one that employed daily cover removal during morning hours resulted in squash yields comparable to those of a treatment that used only insecticides and no row covers. Yields appeared to be lower with the current practice of using row covers up until initiation of flowering, at which time covers are removed completely.
This research hinges greatly on pollinator biology and behavior. Results were comparable for two trial locations that had similar pest incidence. For these same locations there were differences in pollinator species presence. This is important in that it emphasizes the importance of pollinator diversity in the development of pest management practices that may also influence pollinators which are critically important for cucurbit crops.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
Promising results were obtained in the first year of this two year project. This was so even though the original intention was to address pest management with earlier planting. It will be important to compare results over years to determine responses to the treatments are consistent.
Outreach events were held at two of the trial locations in 2015. At the other location only individual visits with growers and Extension Educators were held.
Results of the first year were presented at a regional grower oriented horticulture conference and at an Oklahoma vegetable grower outreach meeting. HIS Proceedings article
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