(BASIC) Pilot Project in Kern County
Biological Agriculture Systems in Cotton (BASIC) Pilot Project in Kern County
- To reduce pesticide input in cotton, alfalfa and other rotation and adjacent crops while maintaining yields.
- Using on–farm demonstrations, to teach farmers about the practical use of beneficial insect enhancement habitat plantings that foster biological control of cotton pests–IPM by Ecologically Based Pest Management (EBPM).
- Weekly monitoring and reporting of management recommendations.
- Advice from pest management consultants.
- Two field day demonstrations about management practices.
- A customized EBPM field plan for your farm.
- Documentation of results including yield and pesticide use reduction analyses.
Why try BASIC?
California cotton growers are the single largest users of EPA category 1 and category 2 pesticides. Kern County accounts for 27% of the state’s pesticide use in cotton. The high cost of conventional chemical control and the low price for ginned cotton point toward a new way of thinking about pest management—an areawide agroecology approach. BASIC uses techniques such as plant mapping, fertility measurements, and scouting methods that recognize the importance of assessing population numbers of both potential pest and natural enemy populations to predict future population trends. Scouting for natural enemies as well as pests makes it possible to determine pest control actions appropriate to their actual need. Natural enemy conservation and enhancement in a proactive program is the goal of EBPM. Treatments are made with selective or soft chemicals only when necessary and when the action will help restore EBPM. Habitat enhancement and augmentation colonizations of beneficial insects are at the forefront of development of EBPM programs, whereas IPM fails where too few natural enemy populations enter the crop too late to prevent economic damage.
In the Chowchilla area of San Joaquin Valley BASIC growers reduced pesticide use by 83% while maintaining or improving yields and profitability. This one-year pilot project is underway to help farmers in Kern County use the BASIC principles in cotton as well as alfalfa and other crops rotated with or planted adjacent to cotton.
The Dietrick Institute for Applied Insect Ecology in cooperation with the Sustainable Cotton Project (both non-profit organizations) has grant funding from the US-EPA to provide participant growers, and pest management consultants, an opportunity to apply BASIC methods in Kern County. Senior entomologist, Everett “Deke” Dietrick, has spent his professional career researching applied techniques to eliminate pesticide sprays in cotton-growing regions. Most cotton spray programs were found to be unnecessary in the 1960’s before the appearance of pink bollworm. His consultations in the 1970’s with cotton producers in Mexico and Central America led to development of their IPM programs.
Combining the BASIC model from northern San Joaquin Valley and the unique experience of the Dietrick Institute staff with EBPM in cotton throughout the cotton production world, participant growers will benefit from similar reductions in pesticide use and a more sustainable future for cotton farming.