“California crops, such as artichokes, asparagus, avocados, dates, nectarines, olives, peaches, pears, pistachios, and walnuts, benefit from the application of insecticides which protect crop yields,” says Leonard Gianessi, director of CropLife Foundation’s Crop Protection Research Institute (CPRI). “Without the use of insecticides, many California crops would suffer large losses from insect pests.”

Previewing the results of a new national insecticide benefit study for California crops at the American Society of Agronomy’s (ASA) Plant and Soil Conference this week in Fresno, Calif., Gianessi cites the $300 million California farmers spend annually on insecticides, accounting for 20 percent of the US total, to prevent damage from crop-feeding insects. The resulting increase in crop production, a total of 28 billion pounds, means an advantage to food consumers of 474 million pounds of almonds, 569 million pounds of peaches, 163 million pounds of onions and 42 million pounds of asparagus — a direct benefit of insecticide use on California farms.

Gianessi reports that 60 percent to 99 percent of most fruit, nut and vegetable crops in California are sprayed with insecticides annually, a regular practice for nearly 100 years. Gianessi notes that the historical record is clear: “Before the widespread use of insecticides, yield losses were significant, often rendering 50 percent of the crop unmarketable.”

In summarizing the study, Gianessi pointed out that, “Insects are a relentless foe. Insecticides protect plants from insects that feed on them preventing the huge losses in yield that were common before insecticides were developed.”