Janine Spies, a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Florida (UF), recently spoke at the Southeast Regional Fruit and Vegetable Conference about the benefits of intercropping buckwheat and organic crops to reduce pests and disease.
Spies believes that organic production is at a disadvantage because of the limitations on tools to resist pests. Farmers are forced to come up with ways to fend off insects without disrupting their organic production.
In her presentation, Spies introduced the strategy of intercropping buckwheat with organic crops. The buckwheat acts as a barrier to prevent pests like aphids and whiteflies from entering the crop. Buckwheat also flowers profusely, which attracts natural enemies and pollinators.
Spies’ UF research has focused mostly on this strategy, using buckwheat and organic squash. Some of the major pests she was trying to resist were silverleaf whitefly, melon aphid and green peach aphid. These insects can easily transmit damaging viruses to the crop.
Spies found that the buckwheat provided good resistance with aphids, but was not as effective with whiteflies. “These pests get to really high densities, so buckwheat on its own may not be as effective,” she said.
In addition, Spies found that using buckwheat to resist pests in organic crops could affect yields due to competition for resources between the buckwheat and the crop. However, she also found a decrease in virus transmission to squash.
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