Vegetable entomologist Zsofia Szendrei is leading a team of researchers to develop new tools to help organic cucurbit growers address their most pressing needs with a nearly $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
October 13, 2016 - Author: Mallory Fournier
Vegetable entomologist Zsofia Szendrei is leading a team of researchers to develop new tools to help organic cucurbit growers address their most pressing needs with a nearly $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute for Food and Agriculture. Szendrei and her team of research and extension experts from MSU, Purdue and the University of Wisconsin, which will be advised by a panel of growers, will develop an integrated production system that enhances farm profitably while reducing environmental risks.
Cucurbits (cucumbers, watermelons, pumpkins, zucchini and gourd), rank among the top five organically produced vegetable crops in the country. Controlling pests, diseases and weeds, and managing crop nutrients are among the most important concerns of organic cucurbit growers.
“Organic agriculture has expanded at a phenomenal rate in the past five to 10 years,” Szendrei said. “There’s been a major boom in the number of acres and the economic value of organic crops, but our knowledge base of organic agriculture practices has not kept pace with that expansion. We are trying to improve our understanding and provide growers with the best science-based tools and strategies.”
The team will investigate a variety of aspects of cucurbit production identified as priorities by growers in a 2016 survey. These include better weed, disease and pest management, particularly related to cucumber beetle, downy mildew and Phytophthora; and reduced tillage practices, cover crops, nitrogen management and pollination.
For more on this new project, read the MSU AgBioResearch story: “MSU scientists will lead new effort to help organic cucurbit growers.”