IPM program helps vegetable growers maximize efficiency

OSU entomologist Jessica Green

Pest monitoring is considered the first step in integrated pest management (IPM), because it helps people know if they have a pest problem, and what species may be contributing to it. Agricultural professionals in the Willamette Valley have come to depend on VegNet as a leading and reliable tool.

The VegNet program operates as an email subscription platform, and it has a strong and loyal user network. The subscriber base has grown by 30% in the last three years. Each week, from May to September, OSU entomologist Jessica Green issues a report highlighting activity trends of 10 common insect pests of broccoli, cauliflower, sweet corn, and snap beans.

The report includes raw data Green collects from monitoring stations throughout the region. Trap counts from the field sites help participating growers know if there is concern at their individual farm.

“The real strength of the program is realized when data are compared to regional and historical patterns to determine if pest outbreaks are localized, or if they are a larger problem, affecting fields at the landscape scale,” Green said.

Area growers and crop consultants use VegNet as an IPM alert system. Depending on pest levels, they intensify field scouting efforts to make informed spray decisions. Local processing plants read reports to maintain awareness of pest issues. Other groups benefit from the information as well. A recent demographic analysis revealed that home gardeners, retail supply stores, and state agency employees use and appreciate VegNet.

A companion blog, which has been viewed nearly 2,400 times since March 2017, is available to provide readers with deeper knowledge about each pest, as well as relevant topics such as scouting recommendations and vegetable production.

Ongoing improvements to the program include GPS mapping and deeper investigation into the population dynamics of certain species. Combined, these strategies could better inform about why changes in regional pest trends are occurring, and if they could be better predicted for next season.

VegNet is funded by the Oregon Processed Vegetable Commission and the OSU Extension Service.