Cotton Ecoinformatics: Using Data from California Cotton Growers to Evaluate the Effect of Lygus hesperus on Cotton Lint Quality

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Principal Investigator: Jay Rosenheim, University of California, Davis, Department of Entomology and Nematology

Timespan: January 1, 2012 - March 31, 2013

Amount: $26,000

DPR Contract Manager: Kimberly Steinmann

This project served as the capstone completion of a successful "ecoinformatics" approach to solving a long-standing controversy in cotton pest management. Ecoinformatics is a data-mining approach to research which probes important hypotheses using large pre-existing data sets (in contrast to traditional experimental field studies). The proper management of Lygus hesperus (lygus bug or western tarnished plant bug) on California cotton has been a topic of great controversy among cotton researchers and producers in California for the past 60 years. Lygus bugs feed directly on flower buds and developing fruits ("bolls"), potentially depressing yields as well as decreasing the quality of cotton fiber. Despite dozens of experimental studies, there has been no agreement about when (or if) cotton needs to be protected from lygus damage. Lygus is still a major source of insecticide use in cotton, and is a prime initiator of the "pesticide treadmill" in this crop.

Using this ecoinformatics approach, an extensive database (>1400 field-years of data, derived from private pest control advisors, farmers, and CDPR) was generated, providing unusual abilities to resolve the key questions. In particular, analysis of the database revealed a striking result: the results have identified periods of time during the middle of the growing season (July) when farmers can reduce their use of insecticides dramatically without incurring any loss of yield, quality, or associated production costs. There does appear, therefore, to be a real opportunity to decrease insecticide use in cotton.

For content questions, contact:
Leslie Talpasanu
Environmental Program Manager I
Agricultural Pest Management Program
California Department of Pesticide Regulation
Integrated Pest Management Branch
1001 I Street
Sacramento, CA 95814