Alfalfa growers should be vigilant in scouting for yield- and quality-robbing insects and may need to consider spraying at lower thresholds than those currently recommended.

That’s because alfalfa is worth more than it used to be – and current economic thresholds aren’t taking that into account, says Peter Ellsworth, IPM coordinator for the University of Arizona and Arizona Pest Management Center.

“Economic conditions have changed so drastically for alfalfa, going from more of a rotational option of varying economic value to now being quite a high-value crop,” he says.

“Certainly the buyers, the dairies, are very demanding on the quality end. It’s changed the economic picture enough that, I think our thresholds and other action plans for pest management in alfalfa need to be re-examined,” he says.

“Our biggest issue is that we don’t have well-defined thresholds for many of these pests. Thresholds have been established for our main pests, but that work is anywhere from 20 to 30 years old,” Ellsworth says.

He doesn’t think new information will be on the near horizon because of budget cuts and short staffs within university systems. “That’s not saying people are running around not knowing what to do. But I don’t think we have a good handle on where we should be in the current economic climate.”