Vegetable production is an important component of various types of farms in Oklahoma and surrounding states and farm sustainability depends on achieving consistent production of a marketable crop to have continuity in the market. The long, warm growing season in the region makes cucurbits a well-adapted enterprise. However, cucurbit crops are not free of production risks, and a general hazard is that posed by insect pests. For some, effective control measure are available and typically involve the use of synthetic insecticide applications. For others, control measure can be either difficult to employ, of limited efficacy, or non-existent.
Recent research (Driever et al., 2016) showed that row covers can be used to exclude pests, and at the same time, provide crop assess to insect pollinators, thereby enabling production without using insecticides. Although effective, the material has several drawbacks, including high temperatures under cover that could interfere with fruit set, insect pest entry through open covers, and a high incidence of disease, such as powdery mildew. Thus, while the development of this pest management technique for cucurbit crops would add to the sustainability of farms in the region by improving the predictability of being able to product marketable cucurbits, we need to find a suitable row cover material that will not only exclude insect pests, but one that will be convenient to use, not be conducive to diseases, and be cost-effective.
We propose to compare several products for use as row cover for the explicit purpose of excluding insect pests from cucurbit crops, specifically squash.
Project objectives from proposal:
We will determine the effectiveness for excluding insect pests, effects of cover materials on the incidence of diseases, and the influence of the row cover materials on crop microenvironment and light transmission.
We will conduct field trials over two years at two locatios using the treatments: no row cover as an untreated control; a frost blanket type material; a woven mesh netting that is used for insect exclusion in the tree fruit industry; and a formed mesh material used for insect exclusion purposes.
Squash plants will be examined weekly for insect pest pressure, fruit set, disease incidence and other possible treatment effects. Squash will be planted three time yearly to enable evaluation of the three cover materials under differing environmental conditions and during different periods of insect pest and disease incidence.