Researchers urge growers to increase insect trap use

Staff Reporter

PAINTER, Va. — Virginia researchers are urging vegetable growers to make better use of pest traps that could help them cut back on pesticide sprays and save money.
Just 12 percent of those growers use pest traps to monitor what’s buzzing around their crops, according to a recent Virginia Tech survey.
Traps alert farmers when a pest arrives, allowing them to spray accordingly, said John Aigner, a doctoral student in Virginia Tech’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences’ entomology department. Many farms, he said, operate on a simple, unwavering spray schedule regardless of whether the pest they’re spraying for is foraging there.
Using traps could lead to farmers using less pesticide while saving money and introducing less spray into the ground and nearby waters. It could also keep farmers from killing non-target insects such as honeybees.
“It’s a win-win,” he said.
Aigner and his colleagues discussed the issue at the college’s annual field day at the university’s Eastern Shore Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Painter, Va., earlier this month.
The college surveyed growers about the most common pests they encounter and what they do to ward them off.
In conventional vegetable production, more than half of those surveyed – about 59 percent – said lep larvae was a troublesome pest and a primary concern. Cucumber beetles were No. 2 at about 42 percent and stink bugs were No. 3 at about 38 percent.
In organic vegetable production, stink bugs were the No. 1 issue at about 46 percent, tied with lep larvae (cole crops). Lep larvae (other) was No. 3 at about 44 percent.
More than half of the survey’s 60 respondents are in the state’s coastal area.
To deal with pest issues, growers used a series of strategies including crop rotation (85 percent), scouting (75 percent), selection of pest-resistant varieties (55 percent) and tillage (52 percent). Others used biological insecticides, mechanical methods and maintaining a favorable habitat for a pest’s natural enemies.
Stink bugs have become a particular nasty pest throughout the Mid-Atlantic region, including Virginia, when they destroyed a significant portion of its apple crop in 2010, Aigner said. The insect, which first appeared in Allentown, Pa., in 1996 following an apparent ride on a shipping liner from China, has gradually worked its way across the region, pestering orchards and vegetable crops, he said. It’s also appeared on the Eastern Shore over the last several years. They move from region to region by attaching themselves to trucks, trailers and cars.
“They are in hot spots now on the Eastern Shore,” Aigner said. “As time goes on, they will spread from these hotspots.”
Aigner and others are working to potentially develop a stink bug threshold for farmers. Using a trap, he said he’d like to figure out the number of stink bugs that would cue a farmer when it’s time to spray for the bugs.
If you don’t have traps, get old school.
“Putting boots on the ground is the next best thing and doing some scouting,” Aigner said.