Mid-season insect pest a non-issue, but PCAs casting a wary eye

While growers hard hit with water shortages, labor issues, and skyrocketing fuel and fertilizer prices, pests have had mercy on California agriculture so far.

Essentially there has been no lygus migrating out of the foothills this year, according to Pete Goodell, UC IPM specialist and acting statewide IPM director.

The dry winter produced very little vegetation in the foothills to support any substantial lygus population. The primary concern will be any resident populations that move out of alfalfa or safflower as those crops are cut or harvested. Goodell is urging growers to strip-cut alfalfa to minimize the problem in adjacent crops.

Mites have shown up sporadically, but infestations are beginning to build as temperatures hit triple digits throughout the San Joaquin Valley.

“I’m starting to pick up mites in cantaloupes,” says Gary Robertson, PCA with Helena at Merced. “We’re treating with Agri-Mek. I’m guessing we’ll start seeing more mites and loopers as temperatures stay warmer at night. I suspect the next week or two will be quite different in terms of egg lay with the worms, and we’ll start seeing increased pressure from mites and other pests.”

Mites are also starting to show up in young almonds, according to Robertson. “We’re beginning to find them in blocks that weren’t treated early.”

In Kern County, potato harvest is almost done, but it’s been a tough year. “Growers who planted early got hit hard by the January freeze,” says Vern Crawford, PCA with Wilbur-Ellis at Shafter. “They lost about 30 percent of their yield.”

Even growers who planted later and produced normal yields couldn’t avoid market forces. “It’s been a miserable market in terms of price,” Crawford says. “What money they made last year is up in smoke this year.”

The winter carrot harvest in Kern County is also concluding, with summer plantings beginning. Watermelon harvest is substantially ahead of schedule due to mild, favorable weather conditions earlier in the season.

“They’re almost through with watermelons in the Wheeler Ridge area,” Crawford says. “It’s been pretty quiet in terms of pest and disease pressure. Some growers are running into late blight on processing tomatoes.”

But it’s water, or the lack thereof, that is making headlines and creating headaches for growers.

“We’re only going to get about 35 percent to 40 percent of our allotment from the Friant canal,” Crawford says. “A lot of growers are supplementing with well water, but that’s not a good situation either. I’ve heard reports of water levels dropping a foot a week in some cases. Additionally, the cost of fuel to run the pumps is a substantial economic burden.”

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