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IPM 25th2005 Annual Report

UC Statewide IPM Program

UC IPM Makes It Happen

Adult spotted cucumber beetleSearching for organic ways to control cucumber beetles

UC IPM Advisor Phil Phillips is field testing a new product to control western striped cucumber beetles in cucurbits, a pest many regard as the number one insect problem for organic growers.

Cucumber beetles are serious pests of smooth-skinned cucurbits, especially melon varieties such as honeydew, crenshaw, and casaba. The beetles chew holes in leaves and scar young fruits.

"No effective cultural controls exist for these pests, and natural enemies are rarely effective enough to reduce populations below economically damaging levels," says Phil. "You have to spray it directly, and its larvae feed on cucurbit roots where they can't be reached for control."

Cucumber beetles have a greenish-yellow body with black spots or alternating black and yellow stripes. They migrate into cultivated areas from alfalfa and other crops and from uncultivated lands. Cucumber beetles like moisture and dislike heat; consequently, melon fields are especially attractive in hot weather during and after an irrigation.

Phil is experimenting with incorporating an organic insecticide with an attractant and feeding stimulant to control cucumber beetle adults.

"Initial tests around the state this season look encouraging," says Phil. "The product is dribbled onto the vegetation row, drawing in the adults to feed. We have more field tests planned to find the most efficient combination of attractant and toxicant. In the past, this beetle has been difficult to kill and has required broad-spectrum products that aren't certified for use by organic growers to obtain reasonable control."

Madera farmer praises the benefits of soil solarization

Soil solarization setup Photo by Stephanie Klunk

Local farmers attended a soil solarization field day presented by the UCCE at Tom Willey's organic farm in Madera this summer.

Tom Willey is spreading the word about solarization and how this inexpensive, chemical-free approach killed the weeds plaguing his 75-acre organic farm in the Central Valley.

In July 2005, Willey spoke to nearly 30 people at a workshop on solarization sponsored by UCCE at his farm in Madera. Jim Stapleton, plant pathologist and IPM advisor for the UC Statewide IPM Program, and Richard Molinar, UC Small Farm Program advisor for Fresno County, joined him for the presentation.

Soil solarization works like a greenhouse to trap the sun's heat to raise temperatures that kill insects, plant diseases, weed seeds, nematodes, and soil pathogens. The process has become a widespread and growing practice for organic growers, home gardeners, and other users. Jim has published several technical articles describing the science behind the technique and also guides for end users (1.5MB, PDF) who would like to use solarization in their own gardens or farms.
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Statewide IPM Program, Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of California
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