FAMU’s Programs Help Tomato and Pepper Growers in Florida

Jaci Schreckengost Tomatoes, Top Posts, Vegetables

Researchers at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU) are working to give growers hands-on help for pest and disease management.

The Center for Biological Control in the College of Agriculture and Food Sciences at FAMU provides effective integrated pest management (IPM), said Muhammad Haseeb, assistant professor at the center. The center’s program gives solutions to help growers tackle issues they may face with disease and pest management for vegetable crops. The center’s main goal of implementation of IPM is to provide necessary knowledge and skills to increase vegetable growers’ success at their farms.

Haseeb said his team currently is focusing on western flower thrips, silverleaf whiteflies and pepper weevils. The program includes effective IPM practices to help growers successfully protect their crops against these serious pests.

According to Haseeb, cultural practices such as UV reflective mulches and resistant or tolerant cultivars, for example, of tomato are being recommended for western flower thrips and whitefly management. These practices reduce the incidence of viral diseases that these two pests vector in Florida.

In the case of pepper weevils, movement of infested nursery plants to the growers’ fields can cause problems for pepper growers. Removal of pepper crop residues and application of crop rotation practices can prevent population build-up of this serious pest. These are part of the IPM strategies that can be adopted to sustain food crop production.

Haseeb and his team regularly organize seasonal field days and workshops for growers and other interested parties. He said these events usually focus on pest identification and diagnosis, monitoring and effective management strategies.

Haseeb’s team is also part of the national program known as Integrated Pest Information Platform for Extension and Education (iPiPE). The specific goal of this initiative in Florida is to train vegetable growers and FAMU undergraduates to accurately identify, monitor and manage tomato and pepper pest insects and diseases. Haseeb is the coordinator of this project in Florida.

“The major goals of [the] iPiPE program nationwide are to contribute to our nation’s infrastructure for food security, build local and regional capacity to respond to food security problems involving crop pests, reduce adverse environmental effects from pest management practices and enhance farm profitability,” Haseeb said.

The lead institution for this grant program is Pennsylvania State University. FAMU has a sub-grant of the main grant, according to Haseeb. The grant is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative through the National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

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