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(BASIC) Request for Cont. Funding
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Request for Continuation Funding in 2002

Dietrick Institute for Applied Insect Ecology

Kern County BASIC Pilot Project

 

In our progress report sent September 12 we described our achievements and immediate plans fulfilling the four objectives in proposal to EPA. We here share our most recent successes and our perception of the importance of finding continued funding to maintain the trust of the cooperators, expand their acreage under biological management, continue to develop two new mentors demonstrating biological farming practices and we want to recruit two more cooperators. To maintain we need $30,000 for calendar year 2002. To serve two more growers, we need $45,000.

No insecticide applications were made to any of the fields enrolled in the project. In comparison, one grower spent over $110/acre on unnecessary pesticide applications following the advice of his PCA on other fields. This was a common occurrence based on Stefan Long’s talk with a local PCA whose company advises on 28,000 acres of cotton. Typical programs around our fields use sprays early to try to prevent outbreaks: Spider Mites: Zephyr [Class 2 abamectin toxic to fish, mammals and aquatic wildlife] 4oz/Ac by April 15 when the plants are 3–6” tall ( $25/Ac)

Lygus:

Capture [Class 2 bifenthrin, a pyrethroid with persistent, damaging effect on biological control, fish] 1 or 2 sprays (may alternate with Monitor), OR Monitor [Class 1 methamidophos, a highly toxic organophosphate cholinesteral inhibitor] 1 or 2 sprays for Lygus (may alternate with Capture) ( $40/AC)

Whitefly

Knack [ Class IV pyriproxyfen insect growth regulator that may have long–term non–target effects on beneficial insects as exemplified by resurgence of cottony cushion scale in citrus] ( $30/Ac),

Aphids:

Dimethoate [Class 2 organophospate, hard on fish and bees] 1 spray for aphids kills everything in the field and opens the field up to whitefly with no natural enemies ($40/Ac), OR Furadan [Class 1 carbamate] ($10–15/Ac).

 

Total cost for standard program is at least $105/acre. Should we continue to succeed with transition of our cooperators, we could save them an estimated total $600,000 on pesticides on their combined 5900 acres. Besides reducing high risk pesticide load and getting the attention of growers and local pest control advisors, the savings combined with good yields could make cotton production still profitable despite record low prices.

Toxic sprays were avoided because the biological control was continuously monitored and reported in ways that gave growers the confidence to give the good bugs a chance to win. One of the growers was tempted to spray for loopers, but decided to wait a week based on reports of many beneficials in the field. By the following week the worms were well under control. Two other growers were concerned with their increasing late season aphid/whitefly problem, but they too decided to wait after seeing the number and diversity of beneficial arthropods present in their fields. Eventually the beneficials did reduce the pest populations to tolerable levels without apparent damage to the cotton.

The commitment of the growers is not just in their willingness to hold off spraying. Three encouraged Spanish–speaking staff to attend training to learn to identify natural enemies and pests. Also, at least three of the four cooperators plan to establish habitat to support the natural enemies. They are counting on our help to monitor the insect ecology using habitat strategies. Since these habitats will require additional irrigation in an area with high water costs, this represents a significant commitment to a radical change in farming practice. We have strengthened the project by beginning cooperation with Farm Advisor Mario Viveros to evaluate ant baits under his experimental use permit as we suspect this could be key to better biological control.

We hope funding sources will recognize the value of what these growers have learned and will support our efforts to continue educating them and their PCA’s, foremen and laborers about how to grow cotton in a more profitable and environmentally responsible manner.

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