IPM On-Farm Trials in 1994: Bigger and Better

News Article

If you've attended meetings or field days sponsored by the IFVGA over the last two years, you probably know that Iowa State University and the IFVGA are cooperating in on-farm trials of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) methods with Iowa fruit and vegetable growers during 1993-1995. The funding for these demonstrations comes from the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture and from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The purpose of these trials is to give growers a chance to try out the most promising and reliable IPM techniques in their own farm operations. It's all well and good to see IPM methods working on University farms, but it's more convincing to see them working in the "real world," on real farms. The guiding principles in the on-farm trials project are 1) to keep the IPM methods as simple, inexpensive, and user-friendly as possible, and 2) to use only methods that offer good potential to save pesticide sprays in controlling the most important pest and disease problems in Iowa.

Many practices that fit under the umbrella of IPM used to be called simply "good farming." Basic practices like crop rotation, use of disease-resistant varieties, and weed control are critical to help keep the risk of a disease or pest outbreak as low as possible. The IPM methods we're testing in the on-farm trials are the next logical step beyond these familiar basics. Practices like monitoring the weather to predict disease risk and keeping track of pest populations haven't been common practice on Iowa farms before now. We hope that the on-farm trials will give growers a chance to try out these newer methods first-hand and to decide which ones can fit into their farming operations.

In 1993, the first year of the project, we worked with about 20 apple and strawberry growers around the state on IPM programs for control of fire blight, codling moth, gray mold, and tarnished plant bug. The results were encouraging, and we "University types" learned some valuable lessons about what works and what doesn't. Where necessary, we've improved our IPM procedures for 1994, in some cases by making the methods more conservative.

The 1994 program will encompass more cooperators (32 at last count), more crops (tomatoes and muskmelons are added this year), and more pests (apple scab will be added to the list for apples in addition to fungal diseases (early blight, Septoria leaf spot, and anthracnose) on tomatoes and Alternaria blight on muskmelons). We are in the process of hiring two full-time IPM scouts for the entire growing season. These scouts will help growers monitor insect pests, facilitate weather monitoring for disease-warning systems (such as TOM-CAST for tomato disease), and evaluate quality of harvested produce in test plots. Some of the IPM methods (such as the MARYBLYT model for fire blight control on apples) don't involve regular scouting, but do require frequent phone contact between the cooperators and ISU. The scouts' activities, and all of the on-farm trials, will be coordinated again in 1994 by Mark Vitosh, the research associate on the project; Mark's phone number is 515-294-1613. The Extension specialists overseeing the project are pathologist Mark Gleason (515-294-0579) and entomologist Donald Lewis (515-294-1101). Call any of us if you have questions or comments about the on-farm trials. We plan to talk about the findings at the IFVGA summer field days in early July and at the 1995 IFVGA meeting.

This article originally appeared in the March 23, 1994 issue, pp. , 1994 issue, pp. 30-31.