Sustainable Systems for Cucurbit Crops on Organic Farms

Grants and Contracts Details


Growers of organic cucurbit crops in the eastern half of the U.S. need more effective ways to manage emerging and intensifying pest problems: the cucumber beetle/bacterial wilt complex, the squash bug/yellow vine disease complex, and squash vine borer. This pest/disease complex our . proposal targets are among the most devastating and costly for organic cucurbit growers. Bacterial wilt can kill more than 80% of muskmelon and cucumber plants before harvest, and is becoming an increasingly serious threat to winter squash as well. Squash bugs vector the bacterium that causes cucurbit yellow vine disease, another fatal disease that is an emerging threat to cucurbit production. Squash vine borer decimates squash and pumpkin crops over an increasing range of the midwestern and eastern U.S. These pest/disease complexes are major and increasing threats to profitable production of organic muskmelon, cucumber, and squash crops. While there are effective strategies for controlling these insects on convention farms, options for sustainable organic management are few. Therefore, the overall objective of this proposal is to develop new, cost-effective strategies to suppress these pest and disease threats for organic growers. Research will be conducted on our university research farm as well as on two local farms. The goal will be to develop optimize management systems for muskmelon, winter squash, and cucumber that combine extended-duration row covers, degree-day models for predicting pest behavior, and compost and plant-activator soil amendments to control the cucumber beetle/bacterial wilt complex, squash bug/cucurbit yellow vine disease complex, and squash vine borer more effectively. An additional aspect of this project will focus on determining how landscape diversity near organic farms influences populations of wild pollinators of cucurbit crops, and examine how floral provisioning can be used to enhance cucurbit crop pollination. Once this system is developed, we will calculate costs and profitability of the project's new strategies vs. current organic production practices to determine the most economically sustainable approach. We will then communicate the new strategies to growers through on-farm demonstration trials, online seminars for growers and educators, pollinator surveys, field days, an online discussion forum, extension fact sheets, meeting presentations, and trade-journal articles.
Effective start/end date8/1/097/31/13


  • Iowa State University: $276,448.00


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