Utilization of buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum Moench) to Suppress Cucurbit Pests

     Cucurbits are a major vegetable crop grown in Florida, with total US field production valued at approximately $1.4 billion. Zucchini squash, Cucurbita pepo L., is a particularly high value vegetable crop in Florida. Approximately $51.5 million dollars worth of squash was harvested from 8,800 acres in the state of Florida during the 2008-2009 growing season. Florida primarily produces summer squashes, which include crookneck, straightneck, scallop, yellow, and zucchini squash. Some winter squashes such as acorn, butternut, and spaghetti squash are also produced in Florida. Most of the squash produced in Florida is grown for the fresh market.
     Aphids and whiteflies are key pests of squash in Florida. Both aphids and whiteflies injure squash plants directly when they feed on the plants and vector a number of damaging viruses. Aphid transmitted viruses include Papaya ringspot virus type W (PRSV-W), Watermelon mosaic virus (WMV), Zucchini yellow mosaic virus (ZYMV) and Cucumber mosaic virus (CMV) and they are vectored in a stylet-borne non-persistent manner. The Cucurbit leaf crumple virus (CuLCrV), recently reported from Florida, is a geminivirus transmitted by whiteflies. Aphid and whitefly transmitted viruses can cause extensive yield reduction and monetary losses. As much as 80% of the crop can be lost if squash plants are left untreated. Infected plants are stunted and yield fewer fruits compared with healthy plants. In addition, fruits harvested from infected plants are frequently deformed and mottled, rendering them unmarketable.
     A more sustainable approach is necessary to address the limitations of the current management strategy used to manage aphids and whiteflies and the diseases that they transmit to squash. The use of buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum Moench) as a living mulch intercropped with squash has been shown to reduce pest and disease pressure while increasing the abundance of beneficial insects. Attraction of beneficial insects to aphids and whiteflies so that they can play an important role in pest reduction. Our primary concern with the use of living mulch is that yields are reduced, most likely due to early season competition for shared resources. We proposed to evaluate several methods of intercropping buckwheat and squash to find a strategy that reduces pest and disease pressure while increasing marketable yield.

The specific objectives are to:

  1. Assess the effect of various designs of incorporating buckwheat living mulch into zucchini squash on insect pest populations, viruses, and marketable yields.
  2. Assess the effect of buckwheat on diversity of beneficial insects.

Cucurbit Publications

  • Frank, D. L. and O. E. Liburd. 2005. Effects of living and synthetic mulch on the population dynamics of whiteflies and aphids, their associated natural enemies, and insect-transmitted plant diseases in zucchini. Environ. Entomol. 34: 857-865.

  • Hanspetersen, H. N., R. McSorley, and O. E. Liburd. 2010. The impact of intercropping squash with non-crop vegetation borders on the above-ground arthropod community. Florida Entomologist. 93: 590-608.

  • Nyoike, T. W. and O. E. Liburd. 2010. Effect of living (buckwheat) and UV reflective mulches with and without imidacloprid on whiteflies, aphids, and marketable yields of zucchini. Int. J. of Pest Manage. 56: 31-39.

  • Liburd, O. E., and T. W. Nyoike. 2008. Biology and management of whiteflies in sustainable field production of cucurbits. EDIS ENY-848/IN762. UF/IFAS Extension, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL. http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/IN/IN76200.pdf

  • Liburd, O.E., and T.W. Nyoike. 2008. Biology and management of aphids in sustainable field production of cucurbits. EDIS ENY-847/IN761. UF/IFAS Extension, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL. http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/in761

  • Nyoike, T. W., O. E. Liburd and S. E. Webb. 2008. Suppression of whiteflies, Bemisia tabaci (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae) and incidence of Cucurbit leaf crumble virus, a whitefly-transmitted virus of zucchini squash new to Florida, with mulches and imidacloprid. Fla. Entomol. 91. 460-465.

  • Liburd, O. E., T. W. Nyoike, C. A. Scott. 2008. Cover, border and trap crops for pests and disease management. Pp. 1095-1100 in J.L Capinera (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Entomology, 2nd Ed. Vol. 1 A-C. Springer, The Netherlands.

  • Liburd, O. E., and D. L. Frank. 2007. A review of synthetic and living mulches for control of homopteran pests (aphids and silverleaf whiteflies) and diseases in vegetables. Pp 67-86 in G. Saxena and K.G. Mukerji (Eds.), Management of Nematode and Insect-borne Diseases. The Haworth Press Inc., New York, NY.

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