PROBLEM: Widespread use of pesticides continues because growers lack information about ecologically based alternatives.
SIGNIFICANCE: Although growers are typically aware of insectary reared beneficials, they lack knowledge of habitat manipulation required for full effectiveness of released and native beneficials. There are few trainers able to impart this information to growers and few demonstration farms where they may see the effects of habitat enhancement. More experience is needed about how farmers choose and manage appropriate habitat enhancements.
STRATEGY: Recruit interested farmers in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties. Work with them to choose and manage hedgerows and cover crops that support predators and parasites to realize the full potential of ecologically based pest management. These farmers will become trainers by successful example and their farms serve as demonstrations for other farmers, pest control advisors, etc.
OUTCOME: The California Energy Commission and the Environmental Protection agency funded the project, running from 1997 through early 2000. During the course of the project six cooperating farmers who are leaders in their localities planted cover crops, strips of flowering plants in row crops, and perennial hedgerows along farm roads to attract beneficial insects. Significant pesticide reduction was realized at all participating farms. Through farm tours, lectures and printed material, approximately 1700 agriculture professionals were exposed to ecologically based pest management. The book "Helping the Good Bugs Win" soon to be published is a legacy of the project and an attempt to extend these concepts in wider and wider circles.