Trap cropping is an organic method to combat pests. Ayanava Majumdar, an Extension entomologist for the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, has been researching the best trap-crop methods to manage leaffooted bugs.
Leaffooted bugs can usually be seen in groups on produce. According to Majumdar, these pests can do some serious quality and quantity damage to produce. Trap cropping is an effective method to control these pests. Majumdar has found that sorghum and sunflower are successful in providing relief from leaffooted bugs.
Majumdar has been researching trap-cropping methods for the past four years. In that time, he has found that the most effective variety of sorghum is NK-300, and the most effective variety of sunflower is Peredovik.
Majumdar gave several tips for growers considering implementation of trap crops in their production. He says the trick to success is planning. “You have to give time and plan properly,” Majumdar says. It is very important to plant the trap crops two to three weeks ahead of the main crop. By planting them early, they have time to grow and attract pests before the main crop catches their attention.
Moreover, Majumdar advises growers to plant the trap crops between the main crops, creating wall-like structures between the main crops. “It’s visually attractive to these insects, so they land and explore. Then they stay there,” he explains.
If a grower is in a drought situation, Majumdar has found that stagger planting the trap crops is the best thing to do, as that will continue to provide food for the insects.
Majumdar says growers can kill the insects on the sorghum trap crop if they choose to. However, it is important to avoid spraying the sunflower trap crop because that may negatively impact the pollinators. So, Majumdar advises waiting until the insects move to the sorghum before killing them. He has also found that targeting leaffooted bugs on the head of the sorghum can kill approximately 80 to 90 percent of the population on that crop.
As for killing the pests, Majumdar says commercial growers have it easier than organic growers. It’s easier for commercial producers to kill the nymphs and the adults, because commercial insecticides work quickly as nymph poison. On the other hand, organic producers must actively scout the nymphs and use organic sprays on them, which is a lot more work.
Majumdar recommends trap cropping for organic and commercial growers. Although most of his research was targeted toward combating leaffooted bugs, trap crops can also be effective against several other pests, such as stink bugs. Majumdar says that if done right, trap cropping can lead to a big difference in the quality of produce in a production system.
For more information on trap-cropping, click here.
Listen to Majumdar’s interview:
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