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Student Research Spotlight - Maggie Lewis

Posted: August 7, 2014

This is the 6th of twelve short news articles written by students, during the professional development class, about each other's research.

New methods to save summer cucumbers and Halloween pumpkins from devastating beetles.
By Dana Roberts

Pennsylvanian organic farmers may finally have new pest control methods for their pumpkin and cucumber crops.

Maggie Lewis, a graduate student at Pennsylvania State University, will be testing new pest management methods to cut down on damage to cucumbers, melon, squash and pumpkins crops from striped cucumber beetles in 2014. Striped cucumber beetles transmit bacterial wilt and feed on the crops causing over $13 million in annual loss to eastern U.S. growers. 

“Sustainable farming is important for resistance issues in pest management and I think organic farmers need a new arsenal of techniques to combat this issue.” Lewis said. She hopes to impact pest management with her research.

Strip tilling is a minimal tillage method that only disturbs soil where plants will be grown which helps to preserve the environment. The natural enemies, such as other large beetles and spiders, benefit from the stability and an increase in natural enemies helps to control the striped cucumber beetles.  In addition, the undisturbed habitat creates a great location for a specialist wasp and fly that use adult striped cucumber beetles as hosts for their offspring.

Row cover is another method used to decrease pest damage to newly planted crops.  Metal hoops are placed over the row of plants. A special cloth that transmits light is placed on the hoops and secured to the ground.  This system protects young plants from pests, sun and weather damage allowing for more growth and sturdier plants. Pesticides do not need to be applied due to an actual barrier that is created by the fabric. Once flowering begins, the cover is removed to promote pollination. 

As organic produce increases in demand, there is a need for new techniques, like these, to make organic farming more sustainable and safer for the environment.