Summary of Awards to Date

Ecology and management of insect pests affecting vegetable production in North Carolina.

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Date

Oct. 1, 2007 - Sep. 30, 2012

Award Number

NC02238

Funding Agency

Center for Produce Safety

Investigator

Mark Abney, Ph.D.
North Carolina State University

Co-Investigator(s)

Kennedy, G., Walgenbach, J., Holmes, G., Gunter, C.

Summary

The vegetable industry in North Carolina is extremely diverse with more than 30 different crops and 2000 commercial growers (USDA, 2002). Insect pest management in vegetables presents many unique challenges including very low tolerances for insect damage and or contamination, limited availability of registered insecticides, and the public's demand for safe food and environmentally responsible pest management. Insecticides have been the corner stone of insect pest management in vegetables for many years. Because of the market demand for produce free of insect damage and the associated economic risk to growers, chemical insecticides will continue to be an important tool in conventionally grown vegetables into the foreseeable future. It is imperative that biologically based, environmentally sustainable integrated pest management strategies be developed for vegetable crops in North Carolina if the industry is to continue to grow and thrive. Insect management plans founded on the principles of IPM will result in decreased rates of insecticide resistance development, reduced environmental impact, increased efficiency of pest management practices, and improved economic return for producers. Consumers in the U.S. and around the world are becoming increasingly concerned about pesticides from the standpoint of food safety and environmental stewardship. Growers are facing restrictions on pesticide use not only from state and federal agencies but also from domestic and foreign consumers. Insecticide resistance has had a major impact on vegetable production in the U.S. The proper implementation of integrated pest management including the use of scouting to determine pest population levels, economic thresholds to make insecticide application decisions, and non-chemical tactics for managing pests results in reduced pesticide use and decreases the chances of resistance development. Unfortunately, scouting procedures and economic thresholds do not exist for all of the major pests of vegetables in North Carolina. Likewise, the development and use of effective biological and cultural control tactics requires a level of understanding of the pest and its environment that is often not available.Growers often have few choices when selecting an insecticide for use in a vegetable crop. Laws regulating pesticide registration enacted as part of the Food Quality and Protection Act of 1996 have resulted in the cancellation of many insecticide uses. Limited choices can lead to over reliance on a single insecticide chemistry hastening the development of resistance and increasing the risk of environmental impact. This research project is primarily focused on addressing applied insect pest management problems and is directed at providing science-based information to enhance the effectiveness of the North Carolina State University vegetable extension program. Research will be directed towards improving our understanding of the biology and ecology of insect pests of vegetables and improving insect management approaches in vegetable crops.