Wireworms, the larval stage of click beetles (Coleoptera: Elateridae), are generalist subterranean herbivores that cause significant damage in a variety of crops. Managing wireworms has been a challenge due to their long-life cycle, subterranean living habitat, and ability to survive wide range of host plants. Although there are a few insecticides available for conventional farming, there is no effective alternative control measure against wireworms in organic production.
Farmers and agricultural professionals have great interest in exploiting beneficial soil organisms, especially in organic systems with their focus on soil health and reliance on natural cycles to manage plant health and pests. Endophytes are microorganisms that form non- pathogenic symbioses with plants and can confer benefits including growth promotion and increased plant tolerance to environmental stresses that are predicted to increase with climate change.
The Lower Rio Grande Valley (LRGV), a four-county area in deep south Texas, is a promising region for organic farming with an estimated 2.1 million acres of arable land. With the sub-tropical climate prevailing in the region, the LRGV boasts a year-round growing season. However, this also poses agronomic challenges to farmers: year-round pest management and maintenance of soil health. For organic farmers, the major weed management technique is intensive tillage during the late summer months, exposing soils to the intense heat and high winds characteristic of this season in the region.
In this project I will continue to assess downy dildew (DM) resistant cucumber seedstocks, with intensified focus on evaluating and advancing the lines I selected in 2018 from Common Wealth Seed Growers’ DMR breeding population. This population performed very well in our 2018 trials, having the highest yield and best foliage ratings in the DM trial, and above average performance in the bacterial wilt (BW) trial. Because I am increasing focus on cucumbers, I am not including melon research in this year’s proposal.
As the negative health and environmental effects of chemical soil fumigation become more apparent, it is critical to devise safe, alternative methods of soil fumigation. Organic growers constantly struggle with weed control and need innovative, chemical‐free weed management techniques.
In this project I will assess resistance to both Bacterial Wilt and Cucurbit Downy Mildew among selected cucumber and muskmelon seedstocks, and move forward with an ongoing project to develop a pickling cucumber that is resistant to both diseases.
The objectives of this project are to attain information about the corn earworm management strategies of organic sweet corn growers. This information will be used to achieve two outcomes: creation of an extension publication about corn earworm management strategies, aimed at organic farmers, and collection of data that will inform longer-term efforts of developing earworm-resistant sweet corn cultivars for organic farmers.
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.
The production of organic peaches is extremely difficult under the humid conditions of the Southeast due to high pest and disease pressures, and the lack of effective, organically approved pesticides. Consequently, only very few growers have taken the risk and transitioned into organic peach farming. This proposal aims to provide growers in the Southeast with a new tool to reduce the risk of transitioning to organic production of peaches. This strategy consists of the use of paper bags to physically protect the fruit from pests and diseases to reduce reliance on spray applications.