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Major Pests of Pumpkin in Jamaica & their Control
Did you know that almost all tropical pumpkins sold in the United States are imported from Jamaica and Central America? In the US there is a growing Latin and Caribbean population hence a good market for edible pumpkin (Cucurbita moschata). Bearing this in mind researchers at Bodles Research Station have over the past seven years worked assiduously to develop new technologies for improved pumpkin production. One component of this work involves pest management. Pumpkin is considered to be naturally pest resistant but if conditions are favourable there are a few key pests that can become of economic importance.
Melon worm Diaphania hyalinata is a key pest of pumpkin in Jamaica. This species is distinguished from closely related species by the presence of a white stripe extending the length of both sides of the body at the 5th larval stage. Melon worm larvae prefer foliage but with severe infestations they may feed on pumpkin flowers and fruits. Infestation levels are higher after a period of rainfall.
Natural enemies play a key role in suppressing melon worm populations. At the Bodles Agricultural Research Station, the paper wasp (Polistes sp.) was very active in pumpkin plots and was effective in keeping the melon worm population below a given threshold provided conditions were favourable to the wasp.
Adults of the banded cucumber beetle (Diabrotica balteata) are foliage feeders. Eggs are laid on the soil surface in crevices and larvae will feed on pumpkin roots and roots of other crops (e.g. corn and pepper). Banded cucumber beetles belong to a group of beetles that are vectors of squash mosaic virus that causes extensive reduction in pumpkin production.
Aphids can cause direct feeding damage in high numbers. Sooty mold and ant activity may indicate their presence. They are also vectors of important cucurbit viruses. The melon aphid (Aphis gossypii) and green peach aphid (Myzus persicae) are vectors of cucumber mosaic virus and watermelon mosaic virus 2.
Downy Mildew caused by the fungus Pseudoperonospora cubensis is favoured by cool (night temperatures) wet conditions with prolonged leaf wetness. This disease is common during the mid to late season of the crop. Crop rotation is not an effective control measure for this disease since infected plantings on neighbouring farms can still be a source of inoculum, or means of spreading the fungi.
Powdery mildew caused by the fungus Erisiphe cichoracearum prevails under cool (night temperatures) dry conditions. This disease is also prevalent during the mid to late season of the crop.
Phytophthora fruit rot caused by the fungus Phytophthora cactorum develops when fruit come in contact with soil containing high moisture levels. Symptoms include soft, water soaked spots on fruit with signs of white yeast-like growth. The disease is favoured by warm wet conditions.
The root knot nematode Meloidogyne incognita can be a limiting factor to pumpkin production. If pumpkin is planted in nematode infested soil, crop roots will become damaged, and plants will develop and yield poorly.
Chemical Control (Please follow the pesticide label)