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Management Tips for Insects in Desert Vegetables (Dec. 1, 2010)

The NOAA's Climate Prediction Center predicts that a moderate to strong La Niņa will be the dominant climate factor influencing weather in Arizona and California this winter. This suggests that our local weather should be warmer and drier than average from December through February. So what impact will this have on insect pests normally found on leafy vegetables and melons this winter? Not real certain since predicting insect abundance is like predicting the weather. However, like the NOAA, we have collected data over the years that suggests that aphid pressure on lettuce is historically lighter during growing seasons when rainfall amounts are low (<0.25 inches). Similarly, seed corn maggot infestations are generally less severe under warm and dry growing conditions during the winter. In contrast, western flower thrips abundance has historically been higher under warm and dry weather conditions. Last winter (Jan-Mar) we received over 4 inches of rain in the Yuma Valley and thrips numbers were very low in our research trials, and seed corn maggots were quite damaging in a number of crops last spring. Thus, if one chooses to rely on the La Nina predictions, one might predict that aphid and seed corn maggot pressure will be lighter, and thrips numbers much heavier this winter and spring. But keep in mind there are a number of other abiotic and biotic factors that also influence insect abundance. Historical trends in insect abundance on desert crops and guidelines for their management were presented at the 21st Annual Desert Crops Workshop in El Centro last week. A copy of that presentation can be found at this link.

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For questions or comments on any of the topics please contact Marco Pena at the Yuma Agricultural Center.
College of Agriculture, The University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ.

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