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A tunnel exclusion system over a vegetable garden

The southeastern United States is a hotbed for insect and disease issues in vegetable crops. For those planning to shift to fall or winter crops after the summer, the following are some general integrated pest management (IPM) reminders that may apply to both farmers and backyard gardeners.

Sanitation

Vegetable crops in a high tunnelSanitation is an IPM level one pest prevention tactic. Sanitation is a small word with deep meaning and long-term consequences for agriculture. Sanitation includes the removal of plant or crop debris immediately after production is over. Don’t let the vines or plant debris rot at the location while you are busy with other things. Sanitation also includes weed control in and around vegetable beds. If you are a high tunnel producer, control weeds inside and outside the tunnel before shifting to the new crop. Weed control becomes tough and labor-intensive once a crop is in the ground. Having regular sanitation practices in place can slow pressures from some insects like squash vine borers, squash bugs, armyworms, and cutworms.

Mulch

If you mulched regularly during the summer, transitioning into fall is a good time to check the status of the mulch. Take a look under the mulch material to note any pest buildup or excessive moisture to prevent insect or disease carry over. Proper aeration near the root zone is important. Excessive mulching can hide pests like armyworms and even snails or slugs that live off of the organic matter.

Soil

Make sure to reapply fertilizer and rejuvenate the soil as you shift to other crops. Routine soil sampling and knowledge of nutrient levels can help you cut costs with less guesswork. Keep good records manually or by using an app or computer software to automate your record-keeping efforts.

Also, if you need to apply any soil insecticide for insect pest control, this transitioning time is best for granular insecticide applications. If you have a history of snails and/or slugs in your vegetables, limited soil disturbance and application of granular baits can help reduce infestations. As you apply these soil-based insecticides, make sure you are not clogging the irrigation in the field.

Plan Ahead

Carefully plan your crop rotation to avoid pest buildup. Consult your county Extension office for the latest recommendations.

Also, specialty crop producers should plan to scout for disease and insect pressures weekly at the least.

Producers should also plan to keep low-cost pest exclusion fabric on hand for installing over brassica crops, especially over small plants to protect them from moths and yellowmargined leaf beetles. There are several pest exclusion resources available at www.aces.edu that provide details on how to implement a temporary system that reduces the use of expensive organic insecticides and reduces labor.

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