Gaming technology has expanded beyond the entertainment realm into U.S. production agriculture to provide cotton growers with a new tool in the war against the lygus insect.

A just completed multi-user, computer-based gaming simulation will help cotton growers more effectively manage lygus in cotton and other crops.

The software was conceived and commissioned by the University of Arizona (UA) and built by Red Hill Studios.

The gaming simulation is one outcome of a five-year project involving cotton scientists, growers, and industry leaders through a $2.5 million grant from the USDA Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service’s Risk Avoidance and Mitigation Program (RAMP).

The RAMP study examined lygus populations in upland and Pima cotton, romaine lettuce, dry beans, chile, cauliflower and broccoli grown for seed, alfalfa seed, safflower, tomatoes, onions, garlic, alfalfa hay, guayule, and lesquerella.

The gaming simulation was developed for three cotton-growing regions including California’s San Joaquin Valley, Arizona and West Texas. The concept could be eventually deployed throughout the Cotton Belt.

The simulation will be rolled out first in Arizona late this summer or early fall at training workshops. A California rollout is expected this fall or winter.

Targeted pest species include Lygus hesperus found from California to Texas and Lygus lineolaris found east of Texas.

“We need to better understand lygus movement so cotton growers can more strategically arrange their landscape in an overall farming community to minimize pest damage,” said Peter Ellsworth, the project leader.

Ellsworth is a UA Integrated Pest Management (IPM) specialist. Ellsworth and team leaders from California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas have worked to reduce the risks of lygus infestations in cotton at three levels: the individual field, local landscape and the wider ecosystem.