California Central Coast Vegetable IPM Project
The purpose of this project is to implement, document and evaluate an industry-wide insect pest management system for head lettuce, leaf lettuce and celery in the Central Coast of California that will lead to significant economic and environmental benefits. Insect pest management has become increasingly difficult in the Salinas and Pajaro valleys due to problems with a recently introduced pest, the pea leafminer (Liriomyza huidobrensis), a persistent complex of leafminers, Lygus bugs, loopers and armyworms, an increase in insect resistance and a resulting decrease in beneficials due to the frequency of pesticide applications. It's a regional production system that no longer works. In addition to these problems, the Food Quality Protection Act is likely to alter the availability of pesticides upon which the current system relies. This project brings together the University of California Cooperative Extension Service, The Center for Agricultural Partnerships, the Iceberg Lettuce Advisory Board, Bruce Church, Inc., Tanimura and Antle, Inc., D'Arrigo Brothers Company, Dole, Western Farm Service, Soilserv and Wilbur-Ellis along with several growers and consultants. The project seeks to increase the adoption of IPM practices on 30 percent of head lettuce, leaf lettuce and celery acreage by the end of the third year. It will include 11 commercial-size implementation plots throughout the Central Valley (220 acres), a farmer and pest control advisor education program and a comprehensive evaluation and documentation effort.
Although the original intent of the project was to develop and evaluate a better pest management approach to the pea leafminer, the new Lettuce Aphid, Nasonovia ribis-nigri, arrived in the Valley a year after the project started, forcing the collaborators to shift strategies in response to the changing pest complex. Attempts to control the new aphid pest immediately resulted in an increase in the number of pesticide applications, the number of chemicals used and the cost of pest management. The project cooperators are currently completing their evaluation of pest management for the Lettuce Aphid, as well as leafminer and other insect pests. The project has demonstrated that growers can maintain their current yields and quality by using IPM and minimizing the use of the most toxic classes of pesticides with only slight increases to the cost of production.