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(BASIC) Guide for Planting Selected Annuals


Sustainable Cotton Project and Dietrick Institute for Applied Insect Ecology

Guidelines for Planting Selected Annuals, Grasses, and Alfalfa for Beneficial Insect Habitat

DECIDING WHAT, WHERE AND HOW MUCH TO PLANT for habitat enhancement for beneficial insects starts with knowledge of the key pests and their natural enemies and where they come from in the particular field. Every locality presents different considerations, especially with regard to surrounding vegetation, neighboring crops, sowing and irrigation methods and equipment. All team members bring different knowledge, understanding and insight that should ideally be brought together in face to face group consultation in the field to come up with a good plan for that field.


Sudan Grass provides dust protection and habitat for spider mite predators, which reduces the risk of mite infestation on the crop.

Bell Beans supports bean aphids (& associated predators and parasites) and spider mite predators. The bean aphid is not a pest of cotton but the associated predators and parasites will attack cotton and melon aphids.

Beneficial Blend provides pollen and nectar resources for general predator and parasites.

Radish, Vetch & Clover provide additional resources for generalist predators.

Corn is a preferred host for corn earworm (= cotton bollworm) and a constant source of pollen for generalist predators and parasites. These plants will become in–field insectaries for beneficials. Corn acts as a ‘light trap’ for moth pests concentrating them so that populations of predators (like Green Lacewing and Orius) and parasites (like Trichogramma) can increase relative to worms.


Sudan grass – 2 oz/100 ft

Bell beans – 2 oz/100 ft

Beneficial blend – 1 oz/100 sq. ft

Radish, vetch and clover–depends on what grower wants to try to manage

Corn – plant few seeds of each variety at 50–75 yd intervals on field edges; in planting skips, use 1–2 handsful/10 row ft with a maximum of 5 sites/field.


Cover field edges where you plan to put annual habitat to protect edge from herbicide application. AVOID CHEMIGATION–using pesticides in irrigation systems


Plant sudan grass as close to the edge of the road as possible and the beans in another row just inside the grass. Plant the beneficial blend, radish, vetch and clover on the bank sloping down to edge furrow. Plant corn on furrow bank in clumps not rows. Plant at least 2 weeks before planting cotton.


Plant after bed prep and 1st irrigation. Keep irrigated 1X/wk until irrigation starts for cotton.

Planting is based on 38” wide beds:

After every 156 rows (496 ft), knock down the next six rows to make a 20 ft bed for alfalfa. Sow in late February (Bakersfield) by broadcasting from the back of a truck. Each alfalfa strip is cultivated and irrigated. At a minimum a 20 ft bed should be planted on the edge of the field most likely to be invaded by migrating Lygus. Take into account prevailing winds, adjacent crops, history, etc.

Manage by cutting 10–12 ft strip of each alfalfa strip to harvest or mulch. Two or three weeks later cut the other half. Irrigate strips on same schedule as cotton. Short rows or beds can be alternately cut with a weed–eater.

Benefits from alternate cutting these strips is the provision of a constant preferred food source for Lygus and it’s associated natural enemies. Strip cutting also concentrates Lygus making them easier to predator and parasites to find which, in turn increases the relative populations of the predators and parasites. Alfalfa is a habitat for all of the natural enemies for biological control of cotton pests in the California Central Valley.

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