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Bug Vac Sucks Bugs Off Growing Crops
A front-mounted "vacuum cleaner" that sucks bugs out of fields and kills them is helping one of the country's leading straw-berry producers control major insect pests without chemicals.
The "BugVac", developed by Driscoll Strawberry Associates, Inc. (DSA), an association of strawberry growers headquartered in Watsonville, Calif., has worked so well that it's already being used on other fruit and vegetable crops.
"Interest has been tremendous by every-one who's seen it work," says company entomologist Ed Show who came up with the ideafor the machine. "It may not totally eliminate chemicals but it has alot of potential when used with an integrated pest management approach. Most of the 52 machines that have been built are being used by strawberry growers. However, lettuce, celery, spinach, broccoli and grape growers have also shown an interest in it and, in some cases, have purchased ma-chines."
The "BugVac" sucks bugs mainly from the top one third of the plant, where Lygus, the major insect pest in strawberries, does most of its damage. Beneficial insects that live on the lower parts of the plant are out of suction range. "Some beneficial insects are sucked up, but tests last year demonstrated levels of beneficial insects were 50 to 70% higher than those in a chemically controlled plot," notes Show.
The "BugVac" is available as a one, two, three, four or 8-row machine mounted on a framework that surrounds the tractor. It's equipped with one to four pto-driven fans which provide the sucking power, drawing air through ducts attached to suction hoods positioned over the plants and spanning the width of the strawberry bed. Bugs are sucked through the ducts and right into the fan blades which pulverize the bugs and then blow them back out onto the field. A four-row model requires a minimum 45 hp tractor. Traveling speed is only 21/2 to 3 mph. Show got the idea for the "BugVac" three years ago after observing a hand-held back-pack vacuum cleaner used as an insect sampling device. He tried it and could see how effectively it removed Lygus insects from strawberry plants. In October 1986 he askedMcCluney Machinery Mfg.,La Selva Beach, Calif., to build a tractor-mounted field machine. Since then McCluney has built and sold 51 other machines. "Each machine is customized, taking into consideration the configuration of plants and the particular insect species," says Michael McCluney, owner. "Spinach growers are considering using it as a pre-cleaning de-vice prior to harvest."
The machines sell for $5,000 to $20,000 depending on size.
For more information, contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Michael McCluney Mfg., 28 Morehouse Dr., La Selva Beach, Calif. 95076 (ph 408 722-2194) or Driscoll S trawberry Associates, Inc., 1750 San Juan Road, P.O. Box 111, Watsonville, Calif. 95077 (ph 408 726-3531).

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1989 - Volume #13, Issue #3