The effect of early season row cover on pest and natural enemy populations in cucurbit production in central Kentucky

Monday, November 17, 2014: 9:48 AM
C124 (Oregon Convention Center)
Amanda Skidmore , Entomology, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY
Ric Bessin , Department of Entomology, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY
The idea of season extension is a centuries old concept that has been developed and advanced over time. The oldest reports of season extension come from the first century the Romans, who used ‘transparent stone’ to extend the growing season for cucumbers (Wells and Loy, 1993; Jenson and Malter, 1995). Through out the following centuries many cultures have records of the development of season extension methods, some of which are still in use today, one of these methods was the use of “row-covers”. There are many types of “row-covers” that are used for agricultural purposes. For our studies we used a type of “floating” row-cover system or ‘low tunnel’ system (hereafter referred to as just ‘row-cover’). This system involves the use of spunbonded polyethylene, plastic, or polypropylene sheets that are secured on the edge and stretched over the crop (Perring et al, 1989; Wells and Loy, 1993; Jenson and Malter, 1995). The system we will used involved row-cover sheets supported by metal hoops. The hoops allow the material, which is lightweight and semipermeable to ‘float’ above the plants. This creates a microclimate that has been shown to greatly increase plant quality, yield, and development (Loy and Wells, 1975; Soltani et al, 1995; Arancibia and Motsenbocker, 2008; Nair and Ngouajio, 2010). Originally row-covers were intended to be used for frost protection, but many benefits to using row-cover have been reported in the literature. Some additional benefits of using row-cover include: season extension, microclimate control, pest barrier, decreased in plant pathogens, and increased plant yield (Jenson and Malter, 1995; Arancibia and Motsenbocker, 2008; Nair and Ngouajio, 2010). Our study focused on the use of row-cover in cucurbit production in central Kentucky. Two tillage systems were used in this study: conventional tillage with black plastic raised beds and traditional strip tillage. The project was conducted in both conventional and organic growing systems. Natural enemy and pest surveys were conducted weekly, along with bi-weekly pitfall trap samples. Yield data was also collected and analyzed. Our results show significant differences in natural enemy and pest populations, as well as higher yields in row-cover treatments. 

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