Desert growers prepare for whitefly battle

With a host of new issues on the plate for winter vegetable production, the industry is preparing for battle on multiple fronts that range from pest and disease management to addressing faltering consumer confidence. Whiteflies, in particular, are a hot topic going into the winter desert vegetable growing season. So far the news is mixed.

“Whitefly levels are about normal for this time of year,” says Eric Natwick, Imperial County Cooperative Extension director. “One of the several neonicotinoid insecticides is usually used by lettuce, cole crops and melon growers at planting for whitefly control.”

If growers have opted for a wait-and-see strategy, there are still options available, but researchers are urging growers and PCAs to be extra vigilant in looking for the pest.

“If at-planting treatments are not used for whitefly control and whitefly levels build up, several foliar sprays are available,” Natwick says.

The real whitefly in the ointment this year could be fall melons and the incidence of Cucurbit Yellow Stunt Disorder Virus (CYSDV) which has already been confirmed.

“Melon crops are now infected with CYSDV transmitted by whiteflies, but it is too early to tell what the extent of damage will be,” Natwick says.

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