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Improving and Testing Methods of Securing Row Cover for Organic Cucurbit Production

Published by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, St. Joseph, Michigan

Citation:  2018 ASABE Annual International Meeting  1801263.(doi:10.13031/aim.201801263)
Authors:   Jennifer M Widmer, H. Mark Hanna, Brian L. Steward, Kurt A. Rosentrater
Keywords:   Disease, horticulture, insects, perimeter, squash, structure

Abstract. Cucumber beetles feed on leaves of cucurbit crops (i.e. squash and cucumbers) and can transmit bacterial wilt disease, stunt plant growth, and reduce fruit marketability. Several pesticides are available to deter pests, but options are limited for organic growers. As an alternative, row covers can be used to physically block insects contact with the plants. Comparisons between different methods of utilizing row covers to test their effectiveness are limited. Experiments were designed to compare methods of perimeter sealing, material anchoring, and structural support. The success of perimeter sealing was judged by the number of insects found under row covers. The anchoring and structure trials tested the duration of success and damage caused to the covers by each method.

The perimeter experiment indicated that sandbags at 5-ft intervals was the least effective and burying the cover edges was the most effective method with 79% confidence in statistical difference (Pr > F of .21) at flowering and 75% confidence (Pr > F of .25) over 15 weeks of entire trial. While each method provided different levels of protection, most treatments kept beetle populations under integrated pest management thresholds. The anchoring trial showed that both burying and rock bags were very effective and indicated promising results for PVC clips. In the structure trial, conduit hoops did not damage the material or allow it to sag.

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