Flowering Plants in Organic Strawberry Fields to Enhance Natural Enemies and Pollinators and Improve Pest Control and Fruit Quality

Methods to conserve and augment beneficial insects in modern horticultural production systems are needed given issues with pest resistance to insecticides, pest resurgence due to lack of natural enemies, and replacement of native with invasive species. Production systems also require pollinators and, in recent years, declines in managed and wild species have been well documented. Organic agriculture systems are less disturbed by insecticides and well suited to benefit from practices designed to improve abundance and diversity of beneficial insects. Many predatory insects require plant resources in which to oviposit or feed during immature or adult stages. Pollinators in agricultural systems also benefit from greater floral resources. The objective of this research project is to manage for both predators and pollinators in Florida organic strawberries through intentional use of flowering plants. Organic strawberries are a new venture for some growers in Florida, with production challenges and needs for research unique to the region. We will target conservation of minute pirate bug, Orius spp., an excellent predator of the pest thrips species. We hope to show flowering plants support high levels of Orius spp. and pollinators, resulting in lower thrips populations and crop damage and improved crop pollination and fruit quality. New knowledge will be generated on predatorprey dynamics and pollinator diversity using flowering plants in strawberries. Results will be disseminated to growers and stakeholders, and organic strawberry production in Florida impacted through providing methods for sustaining current acreage and supporting transition of conventional acreage.

A final project report will be available upon completion.