Assessing the potential of Zucchini (Cucurbita pepo) and Blue Hubbard Squash (Cucurbita maxima) as trap crops managing squash bug (Anasa tristis DeGeer) in Florida commercial watermelon (Citrullus lanatus)
Dr. Gideon Alake, Dr. Amanda Hodges, Bob Hochmuth, Mark Warren, and Tyler Pittman, University of Florida, IFAS Extension.
The project objective was to assess trap crops (zucchini, Cucurbita pepo, and Blue Hubbard squash, Cucurbita maxima) as tools to manage squash bug populations in watermelons. This project aims to help watermelon growers minimize reliance on insecticides and get the best values for their crop by choosing the most economically viable defense against squash bugs while conserving the beneficial arthropod in the fields. In Florida's watermelon production systems, there is no earlier documentation of the practice of using trap crops.
Trap cropping or perimeter trap cropping (PTC) is a management technique that manipulates an agricultural ecosystem for pest management goals. It requires using a less desirable crop (to a grower, for that season) but attractive to the pest to lure, aggregate, and retain the pest coming into the field from the perimeter of a high-value crop. The traps are eventually removed and destroyed, or the plants are sprayed to kill the pest.
Prior work in Spring 2020 suggested that squash bugs strongly prefer zucchini (Cucurbita pepo) and Blue Hubbard squash (Cucurbita maxima) over watermelon. The study was conducted in two watermelon fields in Levy County, Florida. Compared to watermelon, squash bugs were five times (even higher) more likely to feed and lay eggs on zucchini and Blue Hubbard squash. These crops retained most of the early season squash bug populations. The assessment was done on five (5) weeks old plants. This study's outcome is interesting because it demonstrated the potential for deploying zucchini and Blue Hubbard for early-season trap crop monitoring by planting these trap crops around the field perimeters.