Reducing Insecticide Use on Celery Through Low Input Pest Management Strategies

Project Overview

SW97-021
Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 1997: $100,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/1999
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $64,084.00
Region: Western
State: California
Principal Investigator:
John T. Trumble
University of California, Department of Entomology

Annual Reports

Commodities

  • Vegetables: celery

Practices

  • Crop Production: application rate management
  • Education and Training: demonstration, extension, farmer to farmer, on-farm/ranch research, participatory research
  • Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns, agricultural finance, risk management
  • Pest Management: biological control, biorational pesticides, chemical control, economic threshold, field monitoring/scouting, integrated pest management, prevention
  • Production Systems: agroecosystems
  • Sustainable Communities: public participation, sustainability measures

    Abstract:

    We proposed to implement a low pesticide input integrated pest management (low input IPM) system for celery, and compare its performance with conventional high pesticide input management systems. This project directly relates to the SARE program’s goals of making agriculture economically viable, environmentally sound, and socially viable. Because of low damage thresholds, celery is among the most intensively managed vegetable crops and therefore is a model system for development of low input IPM programs. Successful development of low input IPM programs in such an intensively managed crop should facilitate the acceptance of similar programs for other vegetable crops.

    The two years of this project were conducted on a commercial scale in collaboration with a celery producer, in Ventura County, CA. In the first year, the low input IPM program used significantly fewer insecticides than the grower standard program. The success of the low input program encouraged the grower to use a similar approach in the second year. Still, in the second year the low input IPM used significantly fewer insecticides than did the grower standard without sacrificing yield or net profits. Therefore, over both years we have demonstrated that further reductions in pesticide use can be made by the vegetable industry, thereby reducing costs and improving economic returns for growers. The results of the first year of the study have been accepted for publication in Agriculture, Environment and Ecosystems. A copy of the article is included with this final report. This report will therefore focus on the second year of the study.

    The low input IPM program relied on biological control agents, and environmentally safe biorational insecticides applied only “as needed” in a rotational strategy to delay pesticide resistance. In the second year of this cooperative research project, the grower adopted many aspects of the low input program. The insecticides selected for use by the grower were the same as those proposed for use in the low input IPM program. The need for insecticide applications in the low input IPM program was determined from weekly insect samples. Hence, the low input insect management program used 27% fewer insecticides than the grower standard did. Although the low input program used significantly fewer insecticides than the grower standard, there was no significant difference in yield or net profit between the treatments. The grower standard practice had an average yield of 2,731 marketable cartons per hectare (1,112 cartons per acre). The low input IPM program yielded an average of 2,751 marketable cartons per hectare (1,105 cartons per acre). Based on Free on Board (F.O.B.) market prices at the time of harvest. The net loss for the grower standard was $-3,415 per hectare ($-1,382 per acre), and the net loss for the low input IPM program was $-2,472 per hectare ($-1,000 per acre). The net loss is attributable to the grower harvesting the field to meet a preexisting contract. Had the harvest been timed to when market prices were more favorable, the grower could have realized a net profit, with the low input IPM generating a greater net profit.

    In addition to the more favorable economic results (i.e., lower net loss), the low input IPM program has benefits for the environment. In the second year of this cooperative research project, the grower has adopted many aspects of the low input program. The insecticides selected for use by the grower were the same as those proposed for use in the low input IPM program. All are formulated without volatile solvents. Therefore this lowinput approach would not contribute substantially to air pollution from volatile emissions.

    In both years of this project we have demonstrated that further reductions in pesticide use can be made in the production of high value, low damage threshold vegetable crops such as celery. Ibis reduction in pesticide use can be made without sacrificing yield, quality or net profit. The progressive pest management policy of the grower made this validation test of the low input IPM program conservative. Therefore, many growers could show greater economic benefits from adoption of such low input programs.

    Project objectives:

    Objective 1: To generate a partial budget economic analysis comparing the monetary returns (gross costs, net gain/profit) accruing from the use of current conventional insecticide practices and the low input program on a standard commercial variety of celery.

    Objective 2: To estimate the potential for air pollution from solvent emissions from insecticide applications.

    Objective 3: To determine the impact of different spray adjutants on the efficacy of spinosad, a new, widely used insecticide.

    Objective 4: To communicate information to the celery industry and the local communities via field days at the research sites, and via the California Celery Research Advisory Board and presentations sponsored by the University of California Extension Service.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.