Cover crops may enhance populations of non-pest thrips, deterring Western flower thrips and the viral disease they carry.
After one year of trials in Florida and Georgia, the results are intriguing, according to a news release.
It appears that the cover crop, a mix of lupin, bidens and sunn hemp, attracts non-pest thrips.
They outcompete Western flower thrips, which can carry tomato spotted wilt virus, a devastating disease of tomatoes, peppers and even peanuts.
Stuart Reitz, a research entomologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Tifton, Ga., is leading the work.
He is joined by University of Florida Extension specialist Steve Olson and University of Georgia entomologist Rajagopalbabu Srinivasan.
Cover crops may actually do double duty.
In addition to providing insect habitat, they also help build soil fertility, limit erosion and suppress weeds.
In addition to the UGA-Tifton campus, trials also are being conducted at the University of Florida's North Florida Research and Education Center in Quincy.
After next year, the researchers will expand to conduct demonstration trials on farms in Georgia and Florida to assess the technique's commercial application.