California Cotton Loses Millions Due to Lygus Infestation in 2023

As if economic conditions in agriculture are not challenging enough, losses by cotton growers in 2023 will be repeated in 2024 unless California’s Department of Pesticide Regulation uses its emergency authority to allow the use of a highly effective pesticide used in all other cotton growing states.  Recently published USDA NASS data showed a devastating loss statewide of more than 217 pounds to the acre of pima cotton as compared to the average pima yield for the last five years.  That yield reduction cost California cotton growers more than $31 million. In the counties where lygus seemed to be the worst (Kern and Merced), the average yield was down more than 500 pounds per acre.  It should also be noted that 3,000 acres were completely abandoned due to lygus that overwhelmed the fields. Based on those numbers the cotton industry lost more than $7 million on the acres that were abandoned for an overall total of more than $38 million.  And that does not include the cost of the pesticides that were applied or the cost to apply them.  Some growers spent more than $300 per acre and sprayed as much as 10 to 13 times just to control lygus compared to one or two applications if we’re able to use sulfoxaflor (Transform).

Over $38 million lost in 2023 and 2024 is shaping up to be as bad if not worse. Last year, our cotton growers tried to fight off lygus by spraying the only pesticide tools approved by DPR as much as thirteen times. The negative results speak for themselves as does the need for DPR to do much better in 2024. At stake are our farms, jobs and communities.