Commercial cucurbit production typically involves agriculturally intensive practices, with fields prepared using conventional tillage, plasticulture, and chemically based pest management. Conservation-based management options are limited. In this study, we consider two alternative strategies, strip tillage and the use of row covers. We compare their impact on the beneficial carabid beetle (Coleoptera: Carabidae) community in melons and squash, following conventional or organic systems, over two years. Multivariate analysis demonstrated that soil management system (strip tillage versus plasticulture) was the primary variable influencing carabid distribution; row cover was a less important factor. The response to soil management was species dependent. Some dominant species, such as Harpalus pensylvanicus DeGeer, demonstrated no preference for a particular soil treatment. For others, including the tiger beetle, Cicindela punctulata Olivier, and a slug predator, Chlaenius tricolor Dejean, activity-density was higher in strip-tillage production systems. Our analysis suggested that strip-tillage production systems support a richer, more diverse carabid community. These results demonstrate that even within intensive annual horticultural systems, production practices can play a critical role in shaping the beneficial arthropod community, potentially encouraging or limiting ecosystem services.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Insect Science