Rodale Institute staff attended this year’s Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture Farming for the Future Conference! During this annual event, Rodale Institute staff attended full and half day programming, over 100 80-minute workshops on a variety of topics, and got to network with over 2,000 farmers, processors, consumers, students, environmentalists and business and community leaders.
Among the speakers were Rodale Institute’s researchers, Drs. Gladis Zinati and Andrew Smith - who presented their - preliminary research results in a workshop titled “Rotational No-Till & Insectary Strips for Organic Cucumber Production” on Friday, February 3, 2017. The workshop was attended by 65 people including growers, educators, and representatives from seed companies and Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture.
Dr. Zinati, the lead scientist on this research and demonstration project, along with Dr. Smith, discussed the goals and objectives of the project and presented their first-year research results. The main goal of this research is to improve the competitiveness of organic specialty crop growers. The objectives are to evaluate the impact of rolled mulch of cover crop compared to plastic mulch with and without the inclusion of flowering insectary strips on organic cucumber yield and population densities of beneficial insects and striped cucumber beetle pests. This pest, causes scars on cucumber fruits impacting their salability and is a vector for transmitting a bacterium pathogen that causes plant wilting disease that may eliminate an entire crop a within few days.
In a nutshell, results showed that the inclusion of insectary strips increased premium organic cucumber yields when grown in plastic mulch and ground beetle populations. Significantly lower densities of the cucumber beetle pest were found in rolled mulch compared to plastic. More importantly, the cucumber plants did not show any symptoms of wilting.
Through the surveys collected from this workshop, audience respondents indicated that they will use/adopt the revolutionary tactics of using insectary strips as a natural system to increase populations of beneficial insects and reduce tillage by using rolled crimped cover crops.
This project funded by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture’sSpecialty Crop Block Program is currently beginning its second year.