Thursday, June 23, 2016

Unique Insect Feeding Damage on Peppers

Kristine Neu and Ajay Nair,
Department of Horticulture,
Iowa State University

The growing season is never without challenges, and this summer is no exception- especially for our high tunnel bell pepper research! On June 13 we noticed some unique feeding damage on the stems of our pepper plants. This damage was isolated to the stem area beneath the mulch layer.
The stems appear to be completely girdled, but the vascular system of the pepper seems to still be functioning at some level. A week and a half later and many of the damaged plants are beginning to fall over. Some have snapped off completely at the weakened point, but many are still trying to press on and flower. Unfortunately, these plants will likely not be viable much longer either. 
We are working with ISU Professor and Extension Entomologist, Dr. Donald Lewis, to narrow down the source of the damage. Dr. Lewis agrees that this doesn't look like the normal feeding damage for the typical cutworm that plagues vegetable production in Iowa. 

Have you ever seen damage like this in your production system? We would love to hear from you!


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  2. I'm a hobby gardener and I've noticed this on a few of my bell peppers. One site said it had something to do with resting the drip system hose too close to the base of the plant...? But it really looks like something is eating it. If you have any revelations, please let me know!

  3. Hi Erica
    We picked up few cutworms that were close to the plant but they do not damage the plant this way. We are installing pheromone traps to see if this was caused by Eropean pepper moth.

  4. Interesting. I'd love to hear the results of the pheromone traps. So far, I haven't noticed any more damage to the plants and, like yours, they seems to be flowering and trying to produce fruit. Hopefully the effected plants will survive!