Reducing Insecticide Use on Celery Through Low Input Pest Management Strategies
We proposed to implement a low-pesticide-input integrated pest management (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, California. 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. 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 percent 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 low-input 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. This 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.
In the first year of this project we demonstrated that such a low-input IPM program is economically viable. This point has been borne out by the commercial collaborator adopting a similar program for the second year of the study. Our results for the second year indicate that through adequate sampling to determine the appropriate need for pesticide applications, further significant reductions in pesticide use can be made by the vegetable industry as a whole. Additional progress in successfully reducing pesticide use could be made by developing similar low-input programs for the control of fungal pathogens. We would encourage the development of monitoring programs similar to the one for Septoria late blight for other fungal pathogens. Refinement of such low-input programs for insect and fungal pests will produce successful, comprehensive intelligent plant management programs.
Based on the first year’s results, the grower has relied on the same materials used in the low-input IPM program for production. This strategy reflects a significant change that we expect will be adopted by other growers. By collaborating with growers, the benefits of low-input IPM practices can be effectively demonstrated.
This study was conducted on large-scale farm plots in collaboration with a commercial celery producer in Ventura County. We selected celery as a model agroecosystem for the development of a low input IPM program for the vegetable industry. Because of low damage thresholds, celery is one of the most intensively managed vegetable crops in California. Successful development of low input IPM in such an intensively managed, high value crop system will facilitate the acceptance of similar low input IPM programs for other vegetable crops in California and nationally. The grower participated in the project by adapting the pest management programs to the constraints of large-scale production agriculture. Therefore, we are able to present other growers with a program that has been tested under real world conditions.
The demonstration of clear economic benefits of such low-input IPM strategies to producers is the most effective means to accelerate the adoption of such programs and create a demand for development of additional low-input IPM for other agroecosystems. Therefore, accurate economic information on the benefits of proposed IPM strategies is needed by producers. Creation of partial budgets using accurate economic information provided by growers can generate persuasive data on net profits resulting from specific control strategies. Thus, implementation can occur rapidly once the barrier of perceived risks is eliminated.
This summary was prepared by the project coordinator for the 2000 reporting cycle.