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Archive | Pests

Cover Crops for Pest Management

sunflower.tifTwo small farmers in Florida are partnering with University of Florida Extension to determine how cover crops can be used to manage insect pests. In a newly funded Southern Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education On-Farm Research Grant, “Establishing and Evaluating Selected Cover Crops on Small Farms to Increase the Impact of Beneficial Arthropods on Crop Pests,” strips of sunflower and buckwheat are being incorporated into crop fields to act as trap crops for pests and as attractants for beneficial predatory insects and pollinators.

Bradley Hoover, of Hoover Farms, owns 20 acres of about 50 different types of vegetables, all certified organically grown and sold in the wholesale market. In his field of tomatoes and peppers, Hoover, with the help of University of Florida Extension agents, has planted rows of sunflowers and buckwheat along the field perimeters, as well as additional rows of buckwheat in the center. The study compares the cover crops to the control (no cover crop plantings) to see where they fit into Integrated Pest Management practices.

The sunflowers attract stinkbugs, specifically the leaf-footed bug, which aggressively attacks tomatoes and peppers. The sunflower is acting as a trap crop, keeping the pest away from the farm’s cash crop. In addition, buckwheat attracts a wide array of beneficial insects, including native pollinators.

Scott and Billie Rooney, with Rooney’s Front Porch Farm, are looking at the same two cover crops, but evaluating their effectiveness in fruit production. Stinkbugs easily make a meal of their U-pick blackberry and blueberry plants.

“We are only in our first year of the study, but we are not seeing as many stinkbugs in the berries as we’ve had in the past,” said Billie Rooney.

Billie and her husband have already made some keen observations participating in the project. For example, she said that the sunflowers bordering the woodland contain more leaf-footed bugs than the sunflowers bordering their hair sheep grazing pasture.

The Rooneys are also interested in planting the winter small grain triticale in their grazing pastures. Triticale, it turns out, also acts as a trap crop for stinkbugs and will attract the early flights of stinkbugs before the sunflower crop is planted and ready.

This article appears in the September 2014 issue of Acres U.S.A.

Bugs as Bio-Control

Ascogaster_sp_(Cheloninae)

Image of an unidentified Ascogaster species.

University of Adelaide Ph.D. student Rebecca Kittel has discovered 18 new species of tiny parasitic chelonine wasps which have potential to be used as biological control (bio-control) agents as they specifically target individual varieties of moths.

The adult wasps inject their eggs into the eggs of host moths. The wasp larvae feed and develop inside of the moth caterpillars, emerging from the caterpillar as it dies. The larvae then form a cocoon until environmental conditions are right for the adult to emerge and the bio-control cycle begins again.

“The biology and the fact that each wasp species targets only one specific moth means that they are potentially ideal candidates for development as bio-control agents of agricultural pests,” says Kittel.

The wasps are among 150 new species discovered by Kittel. Specimens from around the country were sent to Kittel to identify, 250 of which were part of the 18 species published in her entry to the journal Insect Systematics & Evolution.

This article appears in the August 2014 issue of Acres U.S.A.

Neonicotinoid Risks Outweigh Benefits

spraying-pesticidesCenter for Food Safety released a scientific literature review which reveals that neonicotinoid insecticide seed treatments offer little benefit, do not increase crop yields and cause widespread environmental and economic damage. In particular, neonicotinods have been implicated in bee population declines and colony collapse. The authors examined 19 peer-reviewed studies of the relationship between neonicotinoid treatments and actual yields of major U.S. crops. Eight studies found that neonicotinoid treatments did not provide any significant yield benefit, while 11 studies showed inconsistent benefits. For more information visit www.centerforfoodsafety. org.

This report appears in the May 2014 issue of Acres U.S.A.

Three-Year Rotations Best For Potatoes

Potatoes being harvested in the San Luis Valley of south-central Colorado. Rotating potatoes with cover crops provides many benefits, including nitrogen management, improved soil and water quality, and bigger potatoes and higher yields.

Potatoes being harvested in the San Luis Valley of south-central Colorado. Rotating potatoes with cover crops provides many benefits, including nitrogen management, improved soil and water quality, and bigger potatoes and higher yields.

Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists have been investigating new cost-efficient options for increasing yields of potatoes and improving production sustainability. The researchers determined that three-year crop rotations generally helped break the host-pathogen cycle more effectively than two-year rotations. The three-year rotations provided better disease control and resulted in higher crop yields. These rotations also supported beneficial soil microbes that improve soil quality by increasing soil organic matter or by inhibiting plant pathogens. After weighing the costs and benefits of different management systems, researchers concluded that using a combination of Brassica and sudangrass green manures, fall cover crops and crop rotations can reduce soilborne diseases by up to 58 percent, and adding compost to the mix increases tuber yields up to 42 percent.

This report appears in the November 2013 issue of Acres U.S.A.

Citrus Growers Use Biocontrols

citrus d2002-1Citrus growers in California are now turning to a natural solution after pesticides have been shown to be ineffective. Teams of invasive species experts have started releasing tamarixia radiate, a tiny parasitic wasp, to control the invasive Asian citrus psyllid population. Asian citrus psyllid can spread a disease which causes greening, devastating citrus production. This use of biological pest control demonstrates that the use of toxic chemicals is unnecessary as safer alternatives have already been proven effective.

This report appears in the October 2013 issue of Acres U.S.A.