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Farm Center to Research Organic Pest Control

Friday, May 6, 2005

Grant-funded Study on Hampshire Farm Center Using Organic Methods to Control Pesky Insect

For winter squash, the cucumber beetle is a major pest. A study that will be conducted on the Hampshire College Farm Center may determine an effective organic method to control the pesky insect.

Nancy Hanson, manager of the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program at Hampshire, has been awarded a Northeast Sustainable Agriculture and Research Farmer/Grower grant for the study. The grants fund projects designed to develop, refine, and demonstrate new sustainable techniques. Grant information

The project will combine and compare several approaches to controlling cucumber beetles: Surrounding the main crop with border rows of a crop that attracts them even more will slow their progress into the main crop. An organic clay spray will make the main crop less attractive to the insects. And, a vacuum system that works like a leaf blower in reverse will be used to remove them from the border plants.

Hanson is working with professors Brian Schultz, an entymologist and ecologist at Hampshire, and Ruth Hazzard of the department of plant and insect science at the nearby University of Massachusetts. Hampshire College students working on the farm will be research assistants for the project.

Hazzard has conducted previous field trials that found success growing Blue Hubbard squash as a trap crop around fields of Butternut squash, using conventional pesticide sprays only on the perimeter crop rather than the entire field. Schultz brings to the project a background that involves researching organic sprays for pest control for potatoes.

The squash will be planted in mid-June, with harvesting to begin in September. If the combined pest-control measures prove successful, the study could result in a bumper crop of Butternut squash on the Hampshire Farm Center while reducing expenses.

The insect control measures and data collection will begin as soon as the crop is planted.

Hanson, Schultz, and Hazzard plan to present their findings at the 2006 NOFA (Northeast Organic Farming Association) summer meeting, held each year on the Hampshire campus. They will also publish summaries of their findings in organic farming periodicals, so that the study may encourage other farmers to use the organic approach, reducing environmental and human health risks of conventional pesticides.

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