How much spray is too much?

July is here and now things start to get interesting. This year seems like it may be a relatively quiet year, pest-wise. We had a very cool spring and early summer. This puts many of the crop woefully behind schedule but it also makes for lower “bug” pest populations. For example, in the grapes I have not seen or sprayed for many of the pests I usually do. I have sprayed in the table grapes and in the stone fruit for pest but we usually do in “fresh” market crops. The trigger for when you spray in these crops is lower because the amount of damage you can have is lower. People do not like worm hole, insect scars, etc on the fruit they buy. I think if people were a bit more tolerant on how their fruit looked and allow for some superficial bug damage, I could spray even less. I finally saw some mites in the big walnut trees I watch. These are big trees and hard to spray and usually the mites get so bad by the end of the summer the trees are losing leaves. But I hardly see any mites at all. This is a good time to spray as I can use less pesticide to knock down a very small population. Usually in the summer when it gets hot the good bugs can’t control the rapidly climbing pest populations so when July comes I usually start to clean things up so I can use small amounts of pesticides instead of waiting for pest levels to explode and having to bomb them. I have some cotton I look at. The cotton crop is very far behind schedule. I can usually leave a small about of Lygus bugs in the field but this year I had to spray early. Why? These bug damage the flower buds and they fall off. Because the crop is late we cannot afford to lose the early crop that is now forming as we will not have time in the fall to get any later flowers to develop into cotton bolls. Every year is different.

When you look at news articles that groups like the Pesticide Action Network puts out about “Pesticide Use was up” is such and such year, do not just think farmers were irresponsible for some reason. Weather conditions dictate a lot of what goes on in a natural system and how farmers must respond. I bet pesticide use will be way down this year in California but you won’t see the Pesticide Action Network or other anti-pesticide group tell you that.

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