1890 Extension Funding | Environmental Stewardship
Missouri | Lincoln University Cooperative Extension | 1890 Institutions Region
Managing pests is one of the biggest challenges faced by vegetable growers in Missouri, as evidenced by the numerous surveys that the Lincoln University Cooperative Extension (LUCE) Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program has conducted. Many of the farmers surveyed are socially disadvantaged, based on the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) definition.
In response to the problem posed by pests, the LUCE IPM program conducted applied research using extramural funds and ran at least 10 workshops and field days in 2021-2013 promoting the new IPM tools that had been developed. One of the IPM tools that was developed is termed "trap cropping." Trap crops are plants that are grown next to a higher value crop to attract pests as either a food source or oviposition (egg-laying) site. This prevents or makes less likely the arrival of the pest to the main/cash crop. Insects congregated in trap crops can more easily be attacked by natural enemies and/or killed by insecticides or by other physical means. In other words, trap cropping functions by concentrating and/or killing the pest in the border area, while reducing pest numbers on the unsprayed cash crop.
At least 20 farmers in Missouri have implemented trap cropping as a simple, effective and affordable way of managing insect pests in cucurbit crops. Two clear examples of midterm outcomes follow. First, Gary Wenig (http://www.rockycreekvalley.com), one of the farmers from the Kansas City area who took an IPM workshop, got a grant from the Farmer Rancher Grant Program of the North Central Region (NCR) – Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE), with a central element of the proposal being about IPM. This grant submission and the farmer’s successful implementation of IPM based on what he learned at the LUCE workshop constitutes a change in behavior. Second, Jose Fonseca, a Hispanic vegetable farmer from St. Peters, Missouri, met with Dr. Jaime Piñero, LUCE State Extension Specialist – IPM, in the summer of 2010. Fonseca is a conventional farmer who expressed high interest in using IPM to reduce pesticide use for various reasons: (1) he grows produce in an urban environment near a hospital and daycare center; (2) his customers have been asking him what types of pesticides he sprays and how often, and; (3) he is a conscientious farmer who cares about the environment but had not been able to improve his farming operation due to a lack of knowledge. As a result of numerous one-on-one interactions with Piñero and other LU IPM staff over a nearly three-year period, and after attending various IPM workshops and growers conferences, Fonseca was able to reduce pesticide use in zucchini production by 95 percent in 2011 compared to previous years; remarkably, he totally eliminated insecticide sprays to his cash crops in 2012 and 2013. By continuing to use trap cropping as an effective way of reducing pesticide use, Fonseca is becoming more effective at managing insect pests while using less spray. Fonseca estimated savings of around $4,000 for 10 acres (entire growing season) in terms of the value of the insecticide not sprayed and the time and fuel saved. He indicated that he will continue to implement the trap cropping approach in 2014 and beyond, leading to a more permanent change in behavior and improved economic, environmental and human health benefits.
By improving cost benefit analyses through the adoption of IPM practices farmers can grow crops in more sustainable ways. Both farmers and consumers benefit from IPM implementation by (a) improving crop yield and quality with less pesticide residues, (b) reducing potential human health risks from pests and related pest management practices, and (c) minimizing adverse environmental effects from pests and related IPM practices. An important priority will be the development and implementation of economical and effective IPM systems in small fruits and vegetables to help maintain high quality produce while protecting agricultural workers, and keeping dietary pesticide exposure within acceptable safety standards.