After holding the title of No. 1 pest in Arizona cotton for the past 10 years, the lygus bug is now the focus of a four-state effort to suppress its reach and reduce its potential damage across multiple crops.

In cotton alone, yield losses to this serious pest have averaged over $6.9 million annually in Arizona for the past 10 years. Across the Cotton Belt, lygus infested more than five million acres in 2007. Nearly $100 million was spent on sprays, but despite these control efforts, over $50 million was lost in yield to lygus.

In addition to cotton, lygus attacks a wide array of vegetable, field and fruit crops, and will migrate to susceptible new crops introduced to an area.

Although Arizona cotton growers have kept lygus at bay since 1999 through an effective integrated pest management (IPM) program, the insect has expanded its feeding range across the Southwest calling for a more comprehensive approach.

Thanks to a $2.5 million grant from the USDA-Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service's Risk Avoidance & Mitigation Program (RAMP), scientists, growers, and agricultural industry representatives in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas are working together to reduce the risk of lygus infestation at three levels: the individual grower's field, the local landscape, and the wider ecosystem.

The program includes co-principal investigators from USDA, University of California, New Mexico State University, Texas A&M, and the University of Arizona.