Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Agriculture, Food and Environment



First Advisor

Dr. Ricardo T. Bessin

Second Advisor

Dr. Mark A. Williams


Cucurbits (i.e. squash, melons, pumpkins, gourds) are high value crops of global importance. Insect pests in these systems are often controlled by chemical insecticides, which are not always effective and can be damaging to the environment. Many integrated pest management (IPM) techniques have been developed for the control of pests in these systems, with a goal of improving system stability and reducing chemical inputs. The overarching goal of my research was to investigate the impact of select IPM techniques on arthropod populations and yield in organic and conventional cucurbit systems.

This dissertation can be divided into three major projects which were conducted between 2013 and 2017. First, an investigation was conducted to understand the impact of two commonly used IPM practices (tillage regime and the use of row covers) on pest insect populations, beneficial arthropod populations, and plant yield. By developing studies in both organic and conventionally managed squash and melon production, four independent studies were conducted and analyzed to provide a broad understanding of these IPM strategies. In all systems, plant yields and pests were greatest in the plasticulture systems, but reduced tillage had a positive impact on the natural enemy arthropods within these crops. Row cover use resulted in larger plants and increased yields, but had an inconsistent influence on arthropods in the systems studied.

From these initial studies, an additional investigation was developed to better understand the impacts of cultivation on the specialist pollinator Peponapis pruinosa [Hymenoptera: Apidae]. Nesting site selection was examined in two independent experiments. By conducting choice studies to allow P. pruinosa to select preferred nesting sites, we determined that P. pruinosa prefer to build nests in loose soils and show reduced nest making in compact soils. This poses interesting management challenges since less-compact soils are within high tillage zones. This research supports the need for the development of cultivation management plans that consider of pollinator habitat and reproduction needs.

A multi-year, multi-farm study was developed for the comparison of parasitism in cucumber beetles (Acalymma vittatum and Diabrotica undecimpunctata) in organic and conventional growing systems. Parasitoids were reared from beetles collected from working organic and conventional cucurbit farms in central Kentucky. Our results show that there is some seasonal variation in parasitism, but that there is no significant difference between organic and conventional production.

We conclude that IPM techniques can be effective in contributing to the control cucurbit pests in agroecosystems and the improvement of crop yields. These studies show that natural enemies and pollinators react differently to IPM practices, which should be considered when developing IPM plans in cucurbit production. By researching these management techniques we are able to develop production systems that have increased stability.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)