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  • Author or Editor: Karen Goodell x
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Zucchini squash (Cucurbita pepo) has a high pollination demand, and the native, ground-nesting squash bee (Peponapis pruinosa) provides the majority of the crop’s pollination requirement in some environments. Squash bees nest directly in crop fields, and nests can be disturbed by tillage and other management operations. Mulches that use municipal waste materials may provide a weed control strategy for squash plantings that is more benign to squash bees than cultivation. Field and greenhouse studies were conducted in 2011 and 2012 to compare the effects of nontillage weed control methods including polyethylene black plastic, woodchips, shredded newspaper, a combination of shredded newspaper plus grass clippings (NP + grass), and bare soil (control) on soil characteristics, squash pollination and fruit production, and squash bee nesting. Woodchips, shredded newspaper, and NP + grass mulch decreased soil temperature, while soils beneath newspaper mulch retained more moisture. Unmarketable, misshapen fruit occurred more frequently in plastic than in the other mulch treatments. No measurable differences in floral resource production or crop pollination were found among treatments, suggesting that misshapen fruit resulted from high soil temperatures in black plastic plots rather than poor pollinator attraction. Squash bee nests were located within bare soil, newspaper, and NP + grass plots, indicating that these mulches did not prevent nesting. NP + grass mulch had a positive effect on plant growth and fruit production, possibly from an addition of plant-available nitrogen or the presence of preferable nesting ground. Shredded newspaper when combined with grass clippings performed as an effective mulch material that improved crop performance with no apparent negative impacts on squash bee nesting or on squash floral resources and pollination.

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