Journal of NACAA

Net House Vegetable Production: Pest Management Successes and Challenges

ISSN 2158-9429

Volume 4, Issue 1 - June 2011

Editor: Linda Chalker-Scott


Vegetable producers are consistently challenged by insect pest outbreaks. Physical barriers, e.g., row covers, are commonly used by producers for excluding insects from host plants. However, exclusion efficiency of a large net house for vegetable production has not been scientifically evaluated before in the United States. To fill this gap in information, a net house was constructed in Alabama for producing tomatoes and bell peppers. This net house was 150 feet (L), 48 feet (W), and 17 feet (H) constructed entirely of 50-mesh insect netting. Only double-doors provided access inside the net house for transplanting crops and routine maintenance. Insect pest activity was monitored in the net house as well as outside (untreated check plots) using pheromone traps. Plants were scouted directly to determine pest pressures. The net house significantly excluded moths of tomato fruitworm (Helicoverpa zea) and beet armyworm (Spodoptera exigua) compared to the open field; exclusion efficiency was 82-100%. Direct scouting revealed armyworms (three species) and the tomato hornworm (Manduca quinquemaculata) caterpillar numbers reduced 98-100% under the net house. Leaffooted bugs (Leptoglossus sp.) were also undetectable on plants grown inside whereas open-field tomatoes were severely damaged by the insect. The net house also reduced number of pesticide applications by 90%. Major challenges of the net house crop production system included high humidity and temperature inside the unit which facilitated disease and aphid outbreak. Further studies are needed to resolve those issues and develop the net house technology for season extension. Implications of these finding for organic vegetable production are discussed.

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