Insect pests are one of the major limiting factors in vegetable production.

Continuous warm weather and high humidity in the Deep South favor multiple generations of insect pests resulting in high pest pressure during late summer.

Vegetables are affected by many species of chewing insect pests like caterpillars and sucking insect pests in mid- to late-season.

In recent years, sucking insect pests like the leaf-footed bugs and stink bugs have become major pests of tomatoes produced in open field and in high tunnels.

Sucking insect pests have needle-like mouthparts that penetrate the skin of fruits and inject toxic saliva resulting in off-colored and off-flavored fruits.

Although a number of insecticides are available for chewing insect pest control, there are major challenges to controlling sucking insect pests using an insecticide-only strategy.

Over-dependence on insecticides can result in insecticide resistance in the long-run. In other words, controlling leaf-footed bugs and stink bugs on a large scale will require ‘thinking out of the box’ and growers have to truly follow an ‘integrated pest management’ (IPM) approach.

One IPM tactic that has been researched in Alabama and other states is called trap cropping.

Trap cropping is based on the principle of host preference, that is, insect pests prefer an alternative plant than the one harvested as produce.

Trap crops is a new area of research and their use for leaf-footed bug control for tomato production has not been widely studied or utilized. Therefore, during the last three years, Alabama Cooperative Extension System has been evaluating trap crops in small and large plot research and demonstration projects scattered across the state.