Alabama cucurbit producers need to be mindful of looming insect pests they are likely to encounter this growing season.
It starts with cucumber beetles, usually the first pest farmers will see this year, according to Ayanava Majumdar, Extension Professor in Entomology and Plant Pathology at Auburn University.
“They’ll jump onto the plants right when they’re young. They will start feeding on the leaves. There are multiple species; the spotted cucumber beetle and then the striped cucumber beetle. They will feed together. They both transmit bacteria wilt. They will fly as you try to approach them. You have to approach cautiously,” Majumdar said. “They’re easy to spot, and they shatter the leaves. There are multiple generations, and they all spread the bacteria manually by chewing.”
Majumdar reminds growers about Insect Pest Management recommendations, which include trap crops, cover crops and weed control for preventative measures.
“Cover crops confuse the beetles. Weed control is very important. Sanitation and weed control are very important in cucurbit production,” Majumdar said. “If you have too much weeds, you can have more whiteflies, aphids and beetles on those weeds and they will move on to your crop.”
Bioinsecticides, including Pyrethrin and Spinosad, are also available.
Farmers need to ensure their plants stay healthy throughout the season. Otherwise, it is a recipe for increased pest pressure if growers are not careful.
“It’s very critical to have healthy plants. If you have a sick plant, it’s a calling card for insects,” Majumdar said.