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Organic Management Tactics for Cucurbit Crops
For the past 3 years, researchers, extension specialists, and growers in Iowa, New York, and Kentucky, funded by NIFA's OREI program, have been exploring new options for the organic management of cucurbit crops using mesotunnels.

Mesotunnels are larger than low tunnels but smaller than high tunnels. They are 3 ½ feet tall and are covered with a nylon-mesh fabric that keeps out pest insects and the pathogens they carry.

Field experiments and on-farm trials with muskmelon and winter squash have had varied results: some encouraging, some not. But we've learned valuable lessons about how to use these protective structures effectively.

The October 12th webinar will cover two main topics related to organic cucurbit production under mesotunnels: weed management and pollination.

Pollination is essential for cucurbit crops. Three options have been tested with mesotunnels: on-off-on (removing the covers during bloom), open ends (only the ends were opened during bloom), and full-season mesotunnels supplied with bumblebee hives. This session will be covered by Dr. Ajay Nair and Dr. Mark Williams.

For weed management, several options have been used, including landscape fabric as well as mowed and non-mowed living mulches. This session will be covered by Dr. David Gonthier and Dr. Ric Bessin.

Join us and see what we have learned in our trials across Iowa, Kentucky, and New York!

Oct 12, 2022 01:30 PM in Eastern Time (US and Canada)

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Speakers

Dr. Ajay Nair
Associate Professor @Iowa State University
Dr. Nair is an associate professor working in the area of Sustainable Vegetable Production in the Department of Horticulture at Iowa State University. The focus of his research, extension, and education program is on cover cropping, conservation tillage, nutrient management, soil amendments and health, and season extension strategies in vegetable production. He works closely with commercial vegetable growers, extension staff, industry representatives and stakeholders to meet the rising demand of locally grown produce and enhance the profitability and sustainability of vegetable production systems.
Dr. Mark Williams
Professor, Department Chair @University of Kentucky
Dr. Williams has been a faculty member in the Department of Horticulture at the University of Kentucky since 2001 and is currently the Chair of the department. His research interests are in sustainable agriculture, with a particular focus on evaluating and developing sustainable organic horticulture production systems. Dr. Williams has conducted a range of experiments in organic farming, from optimizing the production of direct-marketed vegetables to developing control options for specific pest problems in cucurbits, peppers, tomatoes and apples. In addition to research, Dr. Williams is committed to student learning and led the development of the UK Sustainable Agriculture undergraduate program. As part of these efforts, he established the 30-acre UK Organic Farming Unit, which houses a community supported agriculture (CSA) program and associated student apprenticeship.
Dr. Ric Bessin
Extension Professor and Extension Specialist @University of Kentucky
Dr. Bessin is an Extension Professor and Extension Specialist at the University of Kentucky. His responsibilities include developing and evaluating IPM decision guidelines and management strategies for specialty and field-crop insect pests. He is currently addressing management of polyphagous stink bugs in multiple cropping systems, evaluating and implementing alternative management strategies for oriental fruit moth and codling moth in commercial apple orchards, developing of reduced-risk and organic controls for cucumber beetle, bacterial wilt, squash bug, and yellow vine decline control in melons and squash, manipulation of wild pollinators in cucurbit production systems, and management of the invasive sugarcane aphid on sweet sorghum. He provides educational programs and pest management recommendations to extension educators, agribusiness personnel, commercial producers, and Master Gardeners to better manage pests of field corn, fruits, vegetables, forages, and greenhouses.
Dr. David Gonthier
Assistant Professor @University of Kentucky
Dr. Gonthier is an assistant professor in the Department of Entomology at the University of Kentucky. His research seeks to evaluate the viability of agricultural management systems to curtail environmental problems, promote sustainable pest control and biodiversity conservation while maintaining productivity and profitability. He deploys the use of ecological theory to better identify and design agroecological practices that promote improved farm multi-functionality. Through collaboration with interdisciplinary teams, he seeks to describe the intersection between ecology and socio-economic forces that form incentives and barriers to the adoption of sustainable practices. His research focuses on fruit and vegetable production in Kentucky and coffee in Honduras. He teaches a number of classes at the University of Kentucky that are related to sustainable agriculture, including: Agroecology, Field Crop Entomology, and Wake Up and Smell the Coffee! (a course all about coffee).