Evaluation of Plastic Reflective and Wheat Straw Mulches for Pest and Disease Control in Cucurbit Production Systems

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  • 1 Univ. of California, Davis, Entomology, Parlier, CA 93648
  • | 2 Univ. of California, Davis, Vegetable Crops and Weed Science, Parlier, CA 93648
  • | 3 Univ. of California, Davis, Integrated Pest Management, Parlier, CA 93648

Trials were conducted in 2002 and 2003 in California's San Joaquin Valley to determine the efficiency of reflective plastic and wheat straw in managing silverleaf whitefly and aphid-borne virus diseases in late planted cantaloupes. In 2002, the incidence of aphid-borne viruses was lowest in plants growing over reflective plastic followed by those growing over wheat straw and then those growing over bare soil. Wheat straw mulch was as effective as reflective plastic during the early part of the growing season in reducing the incidence of virus disease, but by mid-season, the reflective plastic was superior. The incidence of virus diseases in plants growing over wheat straw was significantly (P < 0.05) lower than that in plants growing over bare soil throughout the season. Whitefly numbers (nymphs per cm2) and aphid numbers were significantly reduced on plants growing over both reflective mulch and wheat straw mulch compared to those growing over bare soil. Yields of all sizes of melons were significantly higher in the reflective mulch plots and yield for the straw mulched and bare soil plots were not significantly different. Results in 2003 were similar to those of 2002. Both whitefly numbers and aphid numbers were significantly lower in plants growing over both mulches than in those growing over bare soil. Virus incidence was initially low but following an aphid flight in late August, the number of infected plants increased rapidly. Both the reflective plastic and straw provided equal protection form aphid-borne viruses throughout the growing season. Yields were highest in the reflective plastic plots, followed by the straw mulch and finally the bare soil. Differences were significant (P < 0.05) among all three treatments.

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