Wisconsin has a history in the production of fresh market and processing fruits and vegetables including cucurbit crops such as melons, cucumber, squash, and pumpkins. While acreages and crops have changed over the years, growers have adapted and remained leaders in several crops. Additionally, small-acreage fresh market production, particularly organic, continues to expand in Wisconsin. The demographics of these growers are also in transition in the state. Increasingly, a growing proportion of Amish growers are resettling in Wisconsin from Eastern states. These growers are contributing to an expanding fresh market produce industry through establishment of regional produce markets, multi-farm cooperatives and produce auctions. The geographic and social isolation of Amish communities creates a unique extension challenge in providing integrated pest management training for key pests. A key limiting factor for all cucurbit farmers includes cucumber beetles (e.g., cucumber beetles, Acalymma vittatum) and subsequent transmission of the bacterial wilt pathogen, Erwinia tracheiphila. This project focuses on the development of enhanced IPM practices for cucurbit production employing a combination of novel cultural and pest management practices. A special focus has been to emphasize practices that limit impacts on domestic and native pollinators. To date, we have documented significant reductions in both populations of cucumber beetles and the bacterial pathogen they transmit in susceptible vine crops using these tactics. Specifically, mean incidence of bacterial wilt was 2-3 X less prevalent among grower cooperators who implemented a combination of IPM-based practices when compared to both commercial and organic farm operators. The seasonal abundance and species composition of insect pollinators did vary among farms locations with Apis and Bombus spp occurring most frequently. We have demonstrated the ability to significantly reduce the reliance on broad spectrum insecticides by incorporating IPBbased, cultural practices that prevent damaging beetle feeding.
Soil Science Extension
University of Wisconsin Madison