A UF study showed that diversified crops are a viable way to reduce pests as part of a pest management strategy.

A UF/IFAS blog shared the details of a UF study that looked at 44 field studies on intercropping from across the world and analyzed the results to conclude that diversified crops, or intercropping, “can be an effective pest management tool…” According to the blog, the study looked at four crop “types – cabbage, squash, cotton and onion – planted on their own and mixed with a companion plant species. In these studies, scientists recorded 272 total occurrences of 35 different species of plant-eating insects on crops, representing one of the most comprehensive evaluations of intercropping effectiveness across the globe.” See the details below.

Diversified Crops and Pest Management

Philip Hahn, an assistant professor in the UF/IFAS entomology and nematology department, and the lead on the study said in the blog, “Overall, intercropping proved to be very effective against pests, but it did vary based on the pest and their feed preferences. It also depended on crop type, with cabbage and squashes showing the strongest resistance, while resistance was less strong for onions and cotton.”

According to the blog there are a number of methods of intercropping. They include:

  • “Non-cash crops are arranged in borders surrounding the field to repel or intercept pests before they damage the cash crop.”
  • “Companion plants can be planted within the field to disrupt pests from locating the main crops. A common combination is known as the Three Sisters: corn, squash and beans.

The blog shared that “Another of this study’s findings was that interspersed planting schemes, like the Three Sisters, make it more difficult for the pests to locate their preferred host plant and were more effective than border plantings.”

See the study here: doi.org/10.1111/1365-2664.14382.

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