Farming Year Round Requires Effective, Timely Pest Control

Live red leaf and green leaf lettuce growing

Steve Alameda is a smart, forward-thinking farmer who grows crops year round in the low desert sandy soils in Bard, CA – a short distance from the U.S.-Mexico border. With crops planted and harvested almost 365 days a year, Alameda always wears his “game-on” face to produce and deliver more than 20-plus crops annually to market.

Alameda owns Topflavor Farms, a 3,000-acre, family-owned and operated, irrigated crop operation in Bard just a few miles across the Colorado River in Yuma, AZ. Farming in this arid region includes sweltering summer temperatures of 115 degrees or higher during the summer months, plus about three inches of rainfall annually. The farm’s irrigation water source is the Colorado River.

Alameda grows durum wheat, Pima and upland cotton, alfalfa, sudangrass and watermelons. Yet his largest crop is high-value, winter vegetables, including iceberg and romaine lettuces, broccoli, cauliflower, mixed lettuces, cilantro, fennel, baby spinach, bok choy – the list goes on. Vegetables grown by producers in the region account for about 90 percent of the nation’s vegetable supply during the winter months.

“This is the big leagues in vegetable production,” Alameda says. “It’s very intense work.”

Most vegetables are planted from late August through January and harvested from mid-November through March.

Farming year round generates many pest concerns and hours of scouting for pests for every crop. In vegetables, the most common pest threats are whitefly, aphid complex (foxglove, green peach and lettuce aphids) and lepidopteran complex (beet armyworm, cabbage budworm and bollworm). Thrips usually appear in high numbers in spring plantings as temperatures increase.

“Insecticides available today are very effective on pests in vegetables in this farming region,” Alameda says. “They are targeted sprays and conducive to integrated pest management strategies.”

The Alameda team includes 30-year pest control adviser veteran Bill Fox of Seven Ag Consulting in Yuma. Fox provides Alameda with experience, input, advice and recommendations for controlling pests to grow healthy crops successfully and generate high yields.

“Insecticides work well here on pests in vegetables,” Fox says. “The products are safer, target specific pests, and are easier to use.” 

In this warmer environment, insects grow extremely fast and staying on top of pests is essential.

Alameda explains, “Due to the intense summer heat, pest outbreaks can be extreme.”

Fox agrees. “In this area, we plant preferred crops when insects are at their peak. It’s the nature of the business. You must control insects early or they will make a mess out of the stand.”

“Boots on the ground” (scouting) is the most accurate way to ascertain true pest numbers in the field, Fox adds. He and Alameda talk up to three times a day on pest and disease challenges.

“Decisions on cultural practices truly impact the outcome of the crop,” Alameda says.

He and Fox use a variety of crop protection products to keep pests in check on vegetables, including Movento® insecticide from Crop Science. Movento is a two-way systemic foliar insecticide, providing broad-spectrum control of a range of sucking pests, including whiteflies, psyllids and aphids. Movento moves throughout the plant to provide protection even deep inside the leaves where pests can hide.

“Movento is a pretty good aphicide for use in winter vegetables to gain aphid control,” says Alameda.

Bayer has also recently introduced Sivanto™ insecticide, a new tool to complement the arsenal of solutions lettuce growers can use to combat pests on their crops. Sivanto precisely targets key damaging pests, such as aphids and whiteflies, allowing for a cleaner, more marketable crop.

As a PCA, Fox enjoys the “action and intensity” of the winter vegetable season.

“I take it very seriously. I like guarding ‘Fort Knox’ for these guys.”

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