Reflective mulch guards pumpkins

Every October, thousands of delighted children on school field trips or family outings carefully select pumpkins at the Satterstrom Pumpkin Patch near Reedley, Calif. After a hayride and a mug of hot cider, they'll go home to carve their jack-o-lanterns never knowing a groundbreaking technique developed by University of California scientists was behind their fun.

The pumpkins they picked were grown using reflective mulch, a polyethylene sheet covered with a thin layer of aluminum that is spread out on the growing bed at planting time. The reflection of sunlight repels aphids, which then fly over the field and land someplace else, sparing the pumpkins the plant diseases aphids spread. The growing technique was developed by entomologist Charles Summers and plant pathologist James Stapleton, both based at the UC Kearney Research and Extension Center near Parlier.

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