- Fruits: berries (strawberries)
- Crop Production: pollination, pollinator habitat
- Education and Training: extension, on-farm/ranch research
- Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity, habitat enhancement
- Pest Management: biological control, trap crops
Our project addresses the issue of poor or lacking habitat for beneficial insects in agriculture. Through intentional management of strawberry field edges, we hope to show that pollinators and natural enemies can be conserved to provide improved pest control and crop pollination. As a result, the need for curative insecticides will be reduced, meaning unsustainable outcomes associated with overreliance on insecticides should be mitigated and costs associated with insecticide application reduced. As well, production of higher quality fruit will improve yields and income.
Flowering plants will provide the necessary habitat to improve beneficial insect communities in Florida strawberry fields. Early establishment of predatory Orius will prevent thrips outbreaks crop and improve yield. Increased abundance and diversity of pollinators will aid improving fruit set and quality. In achieving this, input costs associated with insecticides for control will be reduced and revenue generated by greater harvest will be increased. Therefore, our work will contribute to making the whole of strawberry production in Florida more productive, sustainable, and beneficial to the environment, public health and human communities.
Project objectives from proposal:
- Spanish needles and sweet alyssum produce flowers during the winter growing period in Florida strawberries and in preliminary studies have a high ratio of thrips predators to thrips.
- Flowering plants will contribute limiting resources to thrips predators, increasing their numbers and decreasing thrips numbers.
- Flowering plants will attract pollinators who would then move to adjacent strawberry flowers.
- Fewer thrips and improved pollination will lead to higher marketable yields.