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This article is based on research observations with a new product; mention of names should not be considered as product endorsement.
Vegetable crops are affected by many insect pests during the production season. Caterpillars can cause severe crop failure and contamination in high value crops grown in open field or closed environments. Pest monitoring and identification are critical early steps to implement integrated pest management (IPM) on the farm. Various pest monitoring systems are currently available in the market. Note that producers must check the crop directly for caterpillar feeding since pheromone traps only capture the migratory adult moths.
Pest monitoring for moths is usually a labor-intensive process with daily or weekly checks required to record data. Now that may change with the availability of Z-traps developed by Spensa Technologies, IN. Z-traps are perhaps the first widely available automatic traps that include cellular communication, a long battery life for field use, and bioimpedance sensor rods to accurately detect pests. Z-traps have to be fitted with pheromone lures for particular pest species and the metal zapper rods inside the plastic hut shock the moths killing them in the process. Moths fall into the collection jar at the bottom. The sensor detects the change in electric current and records it in the memory. In 2017, the Alabama Vegetable IPM program procured two Z-Traps for research and demonstration. Our collaboration with Spensa Technologies started when the IPM program started using 'MyTraps' in early 2000 and then the 'OpenScout' software for statewide monitoring of eight major moth species. OpenScout is a useful decision-making tool for recording insect pest monitoring/scouting information. In other words, OpenScout is cloud-based software that integrates very well with Z-traps.
Despite weather-related challenges this year, we have tested Z-traps for seven weeks to monitor beet armyworm (BAW) and fall armyworm (FAW) moth activity. This is the first phase of our research and data presented here is preliminary. We compared Z-trap catches with sticky wing pheromone traps (a conventional trapping method) that were located several hundred feet away. Plants in the vicinity included row and horticultural crops grown for research and demonstration. Overall results indicated Z-traps with 2.5 times more moths that the conventional wing traps (see graph below); moth counts were accurate as long as we kept them free of debris blown in by storms. The daily (mid-night) update of trap data via OpenScout phone app was very useful with no issues downloading detailed records from the Cloud to a computer. The OpenScout software also shows additional information about Z-traps such as battery life, communication strength, and other data (basically the health of your trap!). Based on several months of trap data, there is evidence that the excessive rainfall in June (11+ inches in three weeks) caused a sharp decline in BAW/FAW moth activity; that low armyworm activity is now changing as rains have reduced. We are continuing research on the Z-traps to measure their durability and accuracy for detecting other major insect pests in Alabama, so stay tuned for more updates!
For further details about pest monitoring, please read previous blog article or visit the Alabama Vegetable IPM website (www.aces.edu/vegetableipm). If you are beginning farmer, then contact your commercial horticulture regional extension agent for developing an IPM plan suitable for your farm.
Extension Entomologist, Alabama Extension
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