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Protecting organic celery production

The Issue

A study conducted in 2009 estimated that California organic farms account for 97% of organic celery sales in the United States. A common challenge for organic growers is how to manage pests while continuing to follow organic practices, and many growers turn to UC Cooperative Extension (CE) for solutions.

What Has ANR Done?

A large-scale vegetable grower contacted UC Cooperative Extension (CE) about a root aphid infestation and requested practical solutions to protect his production of organic celery. The pest problem had the potential to seriously affect organic celery production in the region and drive the grower out of business. CE advisor Surendra Dara responded and conducted a field study with a carefully compiled list of organic aphid management treatments. From his field trials, Dara was able to determine that the infestations could be controlled with a combination of two organic pesticides: Mycotrol-O, based on the entomopathogenic fungus Beauveria bassiana, and AzaGuard, which is based on azadirachtin, a botanical insect growth regulator, insecticide and feeding deterrent. The combination treatment provided about 62% control of the aphids. The two species responsible for the problem were honeysuckle aphid, which had only one previous report of infestation on celery, and rice root aphid, which had never been reported as infesting celery.

The Payoff

Organic celery production continues after pesticide recommendation

During the infestation, tens of thousands of pounds of organic celery failed to reach market and the grower was losing as much as $24,000 per acre on his farm, which plants 135 acres to organic celery throughout the year. The grower, who has now been applying the recommended combination of botanical and microbial pesticides for six months, has been able to resume normal levels of organic celery production. Dara intends to share this information at future meetings to increase awareness of the aphid infestations and organic management options.

Clientele Testimonial

“It’s nice to have somebody there that is not connected with the chemical companies and doesn’t have any ulterior motive to make money off of it. It’s unique for California to have a [CE]/farm advisor to go to with a problem… That’s why our industries support it: We don’t have anybody else to go to and it’s a great resource.” – Large vegetable grower


Supporting Unit: Santa Barbara County

Surendra Dara, Strawberry and Vegetable Crops Advisor and Affiliated IPM Advisor, (805) 781-5940, skdara@ucanr.edu