Improving and Testing Methods of Securing Row Cover for Organic Cucurbit Production

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Rosentrater, Kurt
Hanna, H. Mark
Extension Agricultural Engineer
Steward, Brian
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Center for Crops Utilization Research
In the 1980s a crisis existed in American farming—a crisis of overproduction, underutilization, and decreasing international market share for raw commodities. Also, the United States’ growing dependence on imported oil and long-term forecasts for increasing oil prices put America at risk. To address this crisis, Center for Crops Utilization Research (CCUR) was established in 1984 through a special appropriation from the Iowa legislature. The center was tasked to respond to the urgent need to improve America’s agricultural competitiveness. Four decades later, there are new opportunities to increase demand for Iowa’s crops. Consumer demand is increasing for new healthful food ingredients, biobased alternatives to petroleum-based products, and sustainable and environmentally friendly industrial processes. The rapid advancement of new food processing technologies and industrial biotechnology enable those demands to be met in an economically viable way. While CCUR’s core mission of increasing demand for Iowa crops remains relevant, the center is also taking these opportunities to grow our connection with companies and entrepreneurs to help them to test, troubleshoot, and optimize their ideas in an industrial-friendly setting.
Organizational Unit
Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering

Since 1905, the Department of Agricultural Engineering, now the Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering (ABE), has been a leader in providing engineering solutions to agricultural problems in the United States and the world. The department’s original mission was to mechanize agriculture. That mission has evolved to encompass a global view of the entire food production system–the wise management of natural resources in the production, processing, storage, handling, and use of food fiber and other biological products.

In 1905 Agricultural Engineering was recognized as a subdivision of the Department of Agronomy, and in 1907 it was recognized as a unique department. It was renamed the Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering in 1990. The department merged with the Department of Industrial Education and Technology in 2004.

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  • Department of Agricultural Engineering (1907–1990)

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Center for Bioplastics and Biocomposites
Human Computer Interaction

Cucumber beetles feed on leaves of cucurbit crops (i.e. squash and cucumbers) and can transmit bacterial wilt disease, stunt plant growth, and reduce fruit marketability. Several pesticides are available to deter pests, but options are limited for organic growers. As an alternative, row covers can be used to physically block insects contact with the plants. Comparisons between different methods of utilizing row covers to test their effectiveness are limited. Experiments were designed to compare methods of perimeter sealing, material anchoring, and structural support. The success of perimeter sealing was judged by the number of insects found under row covers. The anchoring and structure trials tested the duration of success and damage caused to the covers by each method. The perimeter experiment indicated that sandbags at 5-ft intervals was the least effective and burying the cover edges was the most effective method with 79% confidence in statistical difference (Pr > F of .21) at flowering and 75% confidence (Pr > F of .25) over 15 weeks of entire trial. While each method provided different levels of protection, most treatments kept beetle populations under integrated pest management thresholds. The anchoring trial showed that both burying and rock bags were very effective and indicated promising results for PVC clips. In the structure trial, conduit hoops did not damage the material or allow it to sag.


This proceeding is published as Widmer, Jennifer M., H. Mark Hanna, Brian L. Steward, and Kurt A. Rosentrater. "Improving and Testing Methods of Securing Row Cover for Organic Cucurbit Production." 2018 ASABE Annual International Meeting, Detroit, MI, July 29-August 1, 2018. Paper No. 1801263. DOI: 10.13031/aim.201801263. Posted with permission.

Mon Jan 01 00:00:00 UTC 2018