Insect Pests, Beneficial Insects, and Cover Crops of Biological Vegetable Farmers

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  • 1 Dept. of Horticulture, Virginia Polytechnic Inst. & State Univ., Blacksburg, VA 24061-0327.

Eighty-two vegetable growers responded to a survey on pests, beneficial insects, and cover crop use sent in Winter 1993–94 to 314 members of the Virginia Assn. for Biological Farming (VABF) and participants at the 1993 Virginia Sustainable Agriculture Conference. Respondents reported 68 occurrences of insect pests on 99 vegetable crops and herbs. Six insects (flea beetle, squash vine borer, stink bug, cucumber beetles, and Mexican bean beetle) comprised 70% of the occurrences. Squash vine borer and cucumber beetles on cucurbits comprised 24% of all pest occurrences. Insect pests attacked summer squash on 57% and cucumber on 49% of the farms. Average severity of squash vine borer damage was 3.8 (range 0–4, where 0 = no damage and 4 = death or destroyed). Average severity of cucumber beetle damage was 3.0 (severe). Squash vine borer was not observed by farmers on non-cucurbit alternate hosts. Cucumber beetles were observed on horse nettle (10%) and wild nightshades (6%), but on no other plants in most cases (61%) when found on cucurbits. The most frequently observed beneficial insects were lady beetles (64% of the farms), preying mantises (42%), wasps (29%), assassin bugs (18%), and spiders (15%). Only 29% of the farms had purchased beneficial insects, with assassin bugs (10%) and lady beetles (7%) the most common types. Vetches, clovers, rye, and buckwheat comprised 69% of the responses on 23 types of cover crops and mulches used.

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