Alternative Production Systems for Mid-South Fruit and Vegetable Growers

Grants and Contracts Details


Kentucky has the fifth largest number of farms in the U.S., the vast majority of which are small family farms. There is no question that more than two centuries of tobacco culture has in large part preserved a disproportionate number of these farms relative to other states. Small farmers in Kentucky are increasingly diversifying and looking at alternatives to tobacco. Commercial vegetable crops are one of a very few alternative enterprises offering tobacco growers comparable or higher returns on small acreages. Commercial vegetables have already become the 'front line' crops that tobacco growers have turned to in recent years. Bell peppers have been the most popular and consistently most profitable crop among a wide range of choices for small farmers in Kentucky Bell and specialty pepper production present serious management challenge for the small farmer accustomed to tobacco culture. The primary management constraints to pepper production in Kentucky and several southeastern states are adequate and timely control of two serious pest problems: bacterial spot disease caused by Xanthomonas campestris pv. vesicatoria and damage caused by the European corp borer, Ostrinia nubilalis. Severe bacterial spot epidemics occurred in Kentucky in 1973, 1985, 1991, and 1996, causing crop failures for some growers and substantial losses for many others. Other production regions share the bacterial spot problem and most states bordering Kentucky report it as their most serious infectious disease of pepper (W. Nesmith, unpublished). Recent Kentucky trials conducted under both disease-free and epidemic conditions have demonstrated important differences in resistance and marketable yields among bell pepper cUltivars claiming spot resistance. Only a few cultivars were highly resistant with excellent fruit quality. Most of the hot and specialty cultivars tested were very susceptible to bacterial spot. We propose to conduct new on-station trials in order to identify elite groups of the best new resistant bell and specialty cultivars. We propose also to test these elite cultivars in participatory on-farm trials with conventional growers using IPM and with certified organic growers in conjunction with evaluating biological control of the European Corn Borer The European corn borer (ECB) is the key direct pest of pepper fruit in Kentucky and neighboring states. It is difficult to control because of the short time interval between egg hatch and tunneling into the fruit by the newly-hatched larvae. After larvae enter the fruit they become impossible to control and severe losses of marketable fruit are assured. Although pheromone trap monitoring of ECB adults allows conventional growers to time sprays to achieve maximum control with insecticides, these traps are little known and seldom used in the state. We propose to conduct participatory on-farm trials using pheromone traps and appropriately timed insecticide sprays for conventional growers using new bacterial spot-resistant cultivars within a pepper IPM program. There are currently no ECB control options for growers wanting to produce peppers organically. We propose to determine if seasonal releases of an egg parasite (Trichogramma ostriniae) will be effective in controlling ECB in bell and speciality peppers within organic production systems. T ostriniae has been tested and found useful in management of ECB in sweet corn production in the Northeast but has not been tested for ECB control in peppers. Tests to determine percent parasitism and control efficacy of T ostriniae will first be conducted onstation; if station trial results look promising, the parasites will be evaluated in participatory trials on 3-4 organically certified farms. Novel and organically-approved treatments such as neembased azadirachtin and others will also be tested in on-station and on-farm trials. This project is designed to integrate on-station and participatory research trials, extension programming, and educational efforts. Every on-farm trial will be used as an extension education demonstration and will be the location of one or more public field days during the project period. On-going and final results will be incorporated into extension and other educational programs including in-service ttaining programs for extension agents, special educational programs for organic growers, annual vegetable growers conferences, grower field day training sessions, national meetings (American Society for Horticultural Science, Entomological Society of America, National Pepper Conference), and case studies for entomology courses. In addition, special extension materials will be prepared such as digital pest management aids (digital pest and disease photo databases, etc.) to be posted on a pepper pest management website. Digital imaging equipment will be used for rapid presentation of results and for upgrading of extension presentations for various audiences. The quick development and customization of a pepper IPM course for either conventional or organic grower audiences is just one example of how this technology will be employed. New print media publications (pepper IPM manuals for conventional and organic growers) will be developed during the final year of the project. Recommendations will also be incorporated into existing publications for vegetable growers.
Effective start/end date1/1/028/15/05


  • University of Tennessee: $170,000.00


Explore the research topics touched on by this project. These labels are generated based on the underlying awards/grants. Together they form a unique fingerprint.