Approximately 180,000 acres of vegetables are grown in Georgia annually with a farm-gate value in 2003 of over $900 million. The estimated control costs and crop damage associated with vegetable insect and other arthropod pests averages about 3-9% of the farm-gate value over all vegetables, so insect management is critical to profitable vegetable production in the State. Insect management in vegetables is very dynamic in Georgia because of the diversity of crops, the 10°F average temperature difference between the north and south, and the multiple, overlapping growing seasons. The use of integrated pest management (IPM) is recommended, but this requires considerable information about the pests. The following information on insect biology and the type of damage by vegetable insects should assist vegetable pest managers in their efforts to economically reduce insect problems using a biologically based approach.
IPM in vegetables relies on multiple tactics, which vary greatly among crops. Plasticulture plays a major role in weed and disease suppression in some of the more valuable crops (i.e. tomato, pepper, eggplant); host plant resistance is a critical component in virus suppression (i.e tomato spotted wilt, mosaic viruses of squash); and avoidance (spring production) plays a key role in caterpillar management in sweet corn. However, pesticides are essential for pest management in commercial vegetable production.
The necessity for efficacious pesticides provides two challenges for IPM in Georgia vegetables: 1) integration of new, more environmentally friendly, chemistries into current management programs and 2) management of pesticide resistance. New pesticides are continually developed and introduced. Most of these chemistries are more environmentally friendly, but they are more selective and more expensive. Often, unique application methodology or timing is required for new pesticides to be effective. Proper integration of these products into IPM programs requires a thorough understanding of the production system, the pest potential, and product performance.
For more information on the Vegetable IPM program, please visit the UGA Extension Fruits and Vegetables website.