What is in this article?:
- Trap crops can be valuable tool in vegetable production
- Completely different species
- Caterpillar pests of vegetables have long been the major issue for vegetable producers.
- An alternative method to combat insect pests is by the use of trap crops.
Completely different species
“The main crop and trap crop are entirely different species. Research has shown that hot cherry peppers trap crop can protect bell peppers by reducing damage from many insects, including pepper maggots. Early planted tomatoes can serve as trap crops for the multiple pests to protect a patch of desirable tomatoes,” he says.
Blue hubbard squash or other susceptible varieties can be used as a trap crop to attract and retain cucumber beetles, squash vine borers and squash bugs, says Majumdar.
“Some trap crops for stink bug management include buckwheat, okra, green bean, sunflower and sorghum. These trap crop seeds are inexpensive and readily available at local feed-and-seed stores. Sunflower appears to be attractive to leaf-footed bugs as well, but it has to be planted very early in order to be blooming by the time the bugs begin to migrate in high numbers.”
Trap cropping is management intensive because insects must be removed manually (e.g., by hand-collection and drowning) or killed with insecticides (synthetic or biological formulations) as soon as the bugs appear in low numbers, says Majumdar.
Scout the trap crop continuously, he advises, and do not wait for the populations to increase over time. If the bugs are not controlled early, then this strategy will backfire and cause more problems because the traps crop will then serve as a “nursery crop.”
Past research on caterpillars suggests that no more than 20 percent of the total production area in a field may be dedicated to trap cropping in order to be economically justified. Trap crops should always be planted on good ground so they remain healthy and attractive to the target pests.
“Trap crops can be arranged in various spatial patterns and the choice of design will depend on target pest, pest pressures and farm size. Extremely mobile insects such as cucumber beetles are more difficult to manage with trap cropping than the slow moving insects like the Colorado potato beetle.”
Some of the spatial arrangements include perimeter trap cropping (PTC), row trap cropping (RTC) and strip trap cropping (STC), he says. By far, PTC is the most popular trap cropping arrangement used by farmers. Perimeter trap crops can be planted on four sides of the main crop in sufficient density in order to provide a physical barrier to mobile insects.
For example, sorghum and sunflower can be effective as PTC when planted in two to three wide rows. The developing heads of those trap crops may get covered with stink bugs.
RTC is a type of inter-cropping where rows of trap crops alternate with several rows of the main crop. Buckwheat can be planted as a row trap crop for stink bug control. Buckwheat (densely planted) is also suitable for sheltering natural enemies and pollinators.