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Commercial Horticulture > Comm Hort Blog > Posts > Hubbard trap crop protects yellow squash from insect pests!

This is going to be good news for conventional and organic squash producers! We initiated studies on evaluating two varieties of Hubbard trap crop in 2013 with the intention of developing some alternative pest management recommendations. Here is a summary of what we have seen/understood so far. Our data is consistent with studies in other states but we do have our own unique production issues as noted below.

·      Hubbard trap crops included the Baby Blue and the New England types bought from commercial sources (Johnny Seeds and High Mowing). I highly recommend buying fresh seed every year in order to have a good plant stand. Give Hubbard squash plenty of space to grow and irrigate for vigorous growth.

·      If you don’t know the source of migratory insects, plant the trap crops along the perimeter (see picture below) and then evaluate the effectiveness to attract pests. Weed control is very important within the field.

Layout of Hubbard trap crop on the perimeter

·      Plant trap crops early! It turns out that planting the Hubbard trap crop at least two weeks ahead of the main crop is a good idea. Hubbard needed to establish early to start attracting the pest species. Hubbard squash is susceptible to many diseases and getting a good stand can be tough in some years (like 2015).

·      Cucumber beetles (spotted and striped) absolutely love the Hubbard squash! There was plenty of leaf feeding from adult beetles on Hubbard squash but protected the main crop (see picture below). There were 16 times more spotted cucumber beetles on New England Hubbard compared to the yellow squash. Striped cucumber beetles had a slightly more liking for the Baby Blue Hubbard with nearly 26 adults per plant. In this way, the small plants of Hubbard squash deterred damage to the yellow squash. Conventional and organic producers can manage the beetles on the Hubbard trap crop using mechanical, chemical or biological insecticides before insects move to the main crop.

Cucumber beetles prefer to feed on Hubbard squash 
 

·      Hubbard squash also attracted squash bug adults that preferred to mate and lay eggs on the trap crop resulting in an extremely high population pressure (photos below). Hubbard squash had nearly 23 eggs per plant compared to 1 or less egg per plant on the yellow squash. Alternative (organic) insecticides may be used on trap crop during the nymph stage when the insect is most vulnerable.

Squash bugs feed and lay eggs on Hubbard squash

·      This year we were able to evaluate the effectiveness of Hubbard squash for deterring squash vine borers. We found about 27% New England and 18% Baby Blue vines to be infested with vine borers compared to less than 2% infestation in the main crop. For commercial producers and home gardeners, it will be very important to remove Hubbard trap crops with signs of active vine borer larva before the season ends to prevent buildup in soil.   

 

Overall, we have seen consistent results with Hubbard trap crop and tests are likely to continue in the 2016 production season. Be on the lookout for a training video summarizing the results that will be available soon on the Alabama Vegetable IPM website. For any further clarification, please call Dr. A at 251-331-8416 or email bugdoctor@auburn.edu.

 

Complete insecticide recommendations can be found in the SE Vegetable Crop Handbook. Organic pest management recommendations can be found in the Alternative Vegetable IPM Slide Chart which is a handy tool for small producers and backyard gardeners. Also, visit the insect pest and natural enemy photo album on our Facebook page.

 

 Ayanava Majumdar, Ext. Entomologist


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