Summary of Awards to Date

Management of arthropod pests of vegetables and fruit.

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Oct. 1, 2009 - Sep. 30, 2014

Award Number


Funding Agency

Purdue University


Franklin Jackson, Ph.D.
Alcorn State


Although there has been an increased interest among American consumers in organic produce, there has been an even greater interest in locally produced produce. Much of this interest is because of food safety concerns, enhanced food quality, local economic development, and issues related to shipping produce long distances. One of the problems growers face in the Midwest is that the growing season is cut short by harsh winter weather that precludes crop production. One way of overcoming this problem is to grow fruits and vegetables within unheated high tunnels. High tunnels provide a practical way to extend the growing season across much of the North Central region. Research and demonstration projects in other states and the experience of those growers who have used high tunnels for vegetable production in Indiana and surrounding states have shown that the growing season can be extended, sometimes dramatically, for many vegetable crops. Interest in this technology is high, in Indiana as well as throughout the region. One aspect of high tunnel production that has not been systematically investigated is pest management. Experience and limited research tell us that some problems may be reduced (i.e. early blight on tomatoes) and some increased (i.e. aphids in peppers), but we do not have comprehensive information about the pest complex in high tunnel vegetables. Effective management systems are available for most field-grown vegetables, but no systems have been designed for use within high tunnels. This is a serious constraint to the profitability and sustainability of high tunnel production. The corn earworm, has been identified as one of the most important insect pests of sweet corn, requiring multiple sprays of insecticide to achieve desired levels of control. Corn earworms damage sweet corn by feeding on the kernels. This feeding damage results in yield reductions in sweet corn grown for processing, as well as in field corn, seed corn, and popcorn. Damaged kernels and/or the presence of an earworm larva in an ear of fresh market sweet corn usually make that ear unmarketable. Average losses from corn earworms are estimated to be 3.6% in sweet corn for processing and 12% in fresh market sweet corn. The most common sampling method for earworms is to use sex pheromone lures to determine the need for insecticide treatments. A widely used decision rule is to apply insecticides when the sweet corn crop is in a vulnerable stage (green silks present) and ten or more males per night are being caught in the pheromone trap. The threshold of 10 moths per trap per night is considered a nominal threshold because it was developed based on the experience of pest managers rather than empirical data. Even though this nominal threshold has been widely adopted and has resulted in considerable reduction in pesticide use when employed, there are a number of knowledge gaps between the capture of male moths in pheromone traps and ear damage that, if better understood, could result in refinement of the action threshold.

OBJECTIVES: The overall objective of the project is to develop systems that will allow fruit and vegetable producers to improve their management of arthropod pests. The goal is for growers to manage their arthropod pests economically, minimize negative effects on the environment, and provide a safe food supply. Specific Objectives:1) Study the impact of growing vegetables and fruit crops under high tunnels on arthropod pests such as aphids and spider mites and their natural enemies. 2) Improve the ability of pest managers to predict potential damage from corn earworm on sweet corn.3) Develop strategies for growing high value vegetable crops such as fresh market tomatoes, peppers, and cucurbits, and rotational crops (corn, soybean, alfalfa) organically in Indiana. 4) Evaluate the efficacy of reduced risk insecticides on vegetables and fruit crops, such as rynaxypyr on apples, sweet corn, and cucurbits and neonicotinoid insecticides on apples