A critical component of the project and the crux of the lygus gaming simulation is community involvement. An individual grower’s crop decisions and those of neighbors across a local farming community impact lygus numbers and potential crop loss risks.

In mid-May, cotton farmers in Marana, Ariz., (Pima County) and UA Extension staff tested an advanced copy of the lygus gaming simulation under Ellsworth’s direction. On a laptop, each 'farmer' was given a 640-acre land section to strategically plant crops with the overall goal of reducing lygus numbers and damage in cotton.

Crop choices included cotton and wheat — commonly grown in Marana — plus seed alfalfa, grain sorghum, melons, alfalfa for hay, guayule, plus a fallowed ground option.

The farmers selected crops they believed would least harbor lygus. The choices were tabulated into cotton statistics categories based on: the actual percent of lygus infestation; the yield loss to lygus per acre; the percent yield loss to lygus; and the profit-loss per acre.

The farmers were surprised by the impact their crop choices had on lygus damage in cotton across the community. Based on the lessons learned, the simulation then allowed the farmers to start over and replant. Lygus numbers and financial losses fell.

The simulation exercise underscored the importance of farmers knowing about these relationships and talking with each other when planning crop placement to lower the risks.

“The simulation was very informative,” said Tommy Glover, Jr., Marana cotton grower. “I didn’t realize the different interactions between crops could so significantly impact lygus movement.”

In the future, Glover plans to talk with his neighbor to better strategize crop placement to reduce lygus issues.

Marana cotton grower Pat Pacheco said crop placement can strategically reduce insect damage and increase grower productivity.

The UA is the lead institution on the overall RAMP project. Collaborating institutions include USDA, University of California, Texas A&M University, New Mexico State University, and McGill University.