Cotton survey data from last year reveals other important findings. In 2010, Arizona growers produced the highest upland cotton yields in the nation - 1,497 pounds/acre - almost double the U.S. average of 779 pounds/acre. The Arizona yield bested California and Australia yields; traditionally the world yield leaders.

The Arizona yield-loss-to-insects average was 3.32 percent, compared to 3.91 percent across the Cotton Belt. Arizona yield loss from all factors was 16.52 percent (26.20 percent Beltwide). Financial losses due to insects in Arizona totaled $39.96/acre versus $35.33/acre Beltwide.

Data collection on pests and insecticides is nothing new in agriculture. Many states rely on pesticide sales records, market research, and state government data from surveys and inspections to measure pesticide use. Arizona and California perform a stellar job of pest fact finding, Fournier says, due to agricultural pesticide use reporting requirements of the states.

As the agricultural community is well aware, insecticide chemistries are under increasing scrutiny by bureaucrats. Collected grassroots survey data has helped extend some chemistry use. On several occasions, the USDA and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requested data from the APMC for insecticides on the chopping block.

“The insecticide Endosulfan is currently under EPA phase out,” Fournier said. “We provided Endosulfan data to the agency on several occasions. Frankly I don’t think the industry would have had Endosulfan for as long as it did if not for the survey data,” Fournier said.

In combination with Arizona pesticide use reporting data, survey results were also integral in gaining a Section 18 emergency use exemption for the insecticide growth regulators Knack and Applaud (now known as Courier) in cotton. The data was also crucial for the APMC’s defense of the one-pound-per-acre application rate of acephate for lygus control in cotton.

John Palumbo utilized survey data to gain a three-year, $178,000 Pest Management Alternative Program grant from the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture to study aphid management in vegetables.

The survey process also adds flexibility to deal with a sudden influx of a new pest. Desert PCAs and growers were stunned two years ago with the sudden arrival of the Bagrada bug in desert vegetable fields. Palumbo gleaned first-hand Bagrada bug information at the survey meetings. The information was critical since insecticide control information was not yet available on the insect.

Yet the future of crop pest loss survey meetings is questionable. Attendance continues to decline due to busy schedules tied in part to double cropping demands. Over the last three years, the number of participants and the acreage represented has mostly declined, especially for the cotton survey in the Yuma area. Fournier has turned to phone calls, e-mail, and mailed surveys to obtain information.

Ben Hoyler, a 32-year PCA, says the crop pest loss meetings are valuable; a place where PCAs learn and benefit from each other’s experiences.

“I always learn something new from PCAs in other areas on what they are up against,” Hoyler said. “All PCAs should be involved in the meetings to help each other out.”   

For more information, visit the APMC crop pest losses web page at http://cals.arizona.edu/apmc/croplosswg.html. Historical cotton pest loss survey data for Arizona is available on the Arizona Crop Information (ACIS) website at http://cals.arizona.edu/crops/cotton/insects/cil/cil.html.

For national cotton pest loss data, visit www.entomology.msstate.edu/resources/tips/cotton-losses/data/.

cblake@farmpress.com