Sweet alyssum is intercropped with leaf lettuce to help control insect pests.
Sweet alyssum is intercropped with leaf lettuce to help control insect pests.

A group of small-scale farmers in northern Florida have enlisted the buddy system to help manage insects in their fields.

The work into companion plants and trap crops is being guided by Agricultural Research Service and Florida A&M University scientists, according to a news release.

Companion plants, such as sweet alyssum—a low-stature flowering landscape plant—attract beneficial insects that prey on crop pests.

Trap crops, on the other hand, attract pests away from the main crop. These include giant red mustard.

ARS entomologist Susie Legaspi and colleagues have been demonstrating these and other integrated pest management techniques to growers since 2008.

One such group is the Red Hills Small Farm Alliance. Members have begun using flowering plants, such as sweet alyssum and buckwheat, to attract hoverflies following their release to control whiteflies and apids.

Companion plants are especially attractive to hoverflies, which feed on the nectar.

Similar projects involving spined solder bug releases have begun at Turkey Hill Farm in Tallahassee and Crescent Moon Farm in Sopchoppy.

Data collected from these trials will be used to determine cost-effectiveness and effect on pest populations.