Biological Agriculture Systems in Cotton
(BASIC) Pilot Project in Kern County
Why Try Basic?
Features of Ecologically Based Pest Management
Types of Beneficial Refuges
To reduce pesticide input in cotton, alfalfa and other
rotation and adjacent crops while maintaining yields.
- Using on-farm demonstrations, to teach farmers about
the practical use of beneficial insect enhancement habitat plantings that
foster biological control of cotton pestsIPM by Ecologically Based Pest
- Weekly monitoring and reporting of management
- Advice from pest management consultants.
- Two field day demonstrations about management
- A customized EBPM field plan for your farm.
- Documentation of results including yield and pesticide
use reduction analyses.
Why try BASIC?
California cotton growers are the single
largest users of EPA category 1 and category 2 pesticides. Kern County accounts
for 27% of the states pesticide use in cotton. The high cost of conventional
chemical control and the low price for ginned cotton point toward a new way of
thinking about pest managementan areawide agroecology approach. BASIC uses
techniques such as plant mapping, fertility measurements, and scouting methods
that recognize the importance of assessing population numbers of both potential
pest and natural enemy populations to predict future population trends. Scouting
for natural enemies as well as pests makes it possible to determine pest control
actions appropriate to their actual need. Natural enemy conservation and
enhancement in a proactive program is the goal of EBPM. Treatments are made with
selective or soft chemicals only when necessary and when the action will help
restore EBPM. Habitat enhancement and augmentation colonizations of beneficial
insects are at the forefront of development of EBPM programs, whereas IPM fails
where too few natural enemy populations enter the crop too late to prevent
In the Chowchilla area of San Joaquin
Valley BASIC growers reduced pesticide use by 83% while maintaining or improving
yields and profitability. This one-year pilot project is underway to help
farmers in Kern County use the BASIC principles in cotton as well as alfalfa and
other crops rotated with or planted adjacent to cotton.
The Dietrick Institute for Applied Insect
Ecology in cooperation with the Sustainable Cotton Project (both non-profit
organizations) has grant funding from the US-EPA to provide participant growers,
and pest management consultants, an opportunity to apply BASIC methods in Kern
County. Senior entomologist, Everett "Deke" Dietrick, has spent his
professional career researching applied techniques to eliminate pesticide sprays
in cotton-growing regions. Most cotton spray programs were found to be
unnecessary in the 1960s before the appearance of pink bollworm. His
consultations in the 1970s with cotton producers in Mexico and Central
America led to development of their IPM programs.
Combining the BASIC model from northern
San Joaquin Valley and the unique experience of the Dietrick Institute staff
with EBPM in cotton throughout the cotton production world, participant growers
will benefit from similar reductions in pesticide use and a more sustainable
future for cotton farming.
Features of Ecologically Based Pest Management (EBPM)
Avoidance of disruptive pesticides -- Spray only if there
is a pest problem! Repeated use of all classes of chemical pesticides results
in resistant pests. The natural enemies of pests generally do not reproduce as
quickly as their hosts so when they are killed, they do not have an equal
chance to develop resistance, as do the pests. Restoring biological control
through EBPM allows beneficial populations to grow back into balance.
Development of beneficial refuges -- Strip or trap cover
crops attract natural enemies that offer a field insectary and winter refuge
for beneficial insects. These refuges provide the most economic way to
establish biological control on your farm. Parasites live several times longer
and destroy more pests when there are plants that provide pollen, nectar and
refuge. Think of reserving 1% of your field for pest control by natural
enemies. Much of the 1% can come from roadsides, borders, box ends and row
ends. For example, interplantings of a few hills of corn will act as a trap
crop for corn earworm (=cotton bollworm) which serve as food for a complex of
25 or more natural enemies.
Monitoring of insect ecology -- Effective pest management
decisions can only be made if beneficial as well as pest populations are
monitored regularly. Sampling with an insect vacuum net (D-Vac) provides a
more complete sample of all life stages of pests and beneficials than
conventional sweep net sampling. One can follow the progress of biological
control interactions by observing the size and density distribution of pest
populations. For example, samples of only eggs and adults without the larval
stages suggest that when the adults die the pests will no longer be a problem.
Rating the ratio of pests to beneficials makes it possible to predict damage
thresholds more accurately and farther into the future in time to prevent
Development of cultural practices -- Crop rotation, hedge
rows and refuge enhancement management exploits the biology of both pests and
beneficials to optimize the efficacy of the beneficials. For example, many
more beneficials migrate into adjacent row crops sooner from strip cut alfalfa
than from uniformly cut alfalfa.
Release of beneficial organisms -- Early releases of
beneficials when the pest is first detected is the most cost effective way to
establish beneficial populations that provide season long control.
Types of Beneficial Insect Refuges
The development of beneficial insect
refuges is basic to the success of ecologically based pest management. Where
habitat for natural enemies is too sparse or absent as in Kern County,
participants will be assisted in choosing among three general insect habitat
strategies for growing predators mainly of aphids, mites, lygus, whitefly and
bollworm on the farm. Training will include how to plant, irrigate, cut, monitor
and adjust the size and variety of these types of insect refuges.
Perennial hedgerows to attract whitefly parasites in
cooperation Dr. Charles Pickett, California Department of Food and
Alfalfa borders to trap lygus including strip cutting to
force beneficials to migrate into market crops. Roads or road borders may
include limited amounts of other annuals, such as early radish, kale or fava
beans, depending on the situation of each farm.
Small scattered stands of corn (combining 60, 90 and 120
day harvest) to attract bollworm adults and their concentrations of egg and
larval parasites and to attract general predators of corn aphids, mites, and
Contact: Stefan Long, Project Leader
Dietrick Institute for Applied Insect Ecology
PO Box 2506, Ventura, CA 93002
Tel. (805) 643-3169 Fax (805) 643-6267 e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org