Consumer Expectations for High Quality Lettuce Require Insecticide Use

Fresh market lettuce production in the desert growing areas of Southern California and Arizona is a billion dollar industry and the region annually produces >95% of the leafy vegetables consumed in the U.S. in the fall and winter months. Consumers desire lettuce without any blemishes or insect damage. Consumer standards result in the annual use of insecticides on the lettuce crop as described by Arizona entomologists John Palumbo and Steve Castle…

“In desert vegetable production systems, growers have been delivering high-quality safe produce to the fresh market for decades, and this has been accomplished almost exclusively through the use of insecticides.”

“…western lettuce growers and consultants have reported that chemical control is the only effective IPM tactic available for the control of most major insect pests. Naturally occurring biotic control agents are simply not capable of providing the level of crop protection necessary for meeting the marketing demands for fresh produce. … Because of the short time these crops are in the field, minor feeding activity may render the product unmarketable because of high consumer standards.”

“More recently, the fresh produce industry has experienced significant growth in the value-added market, where lettuce and other leafy greens are prepared and sold as fresh-cut lettuce packs and ready-to-eat, bagged salad mixes. The growth of this industry has also resulted in higher cosmetic standards for leafy vegetable crops, often to the point where virtually no insect contaminants or feeding blemishes are tolerated.”

Authors: John C. Palumbo and Steve J. Castle
Affiliation: University of Arizona Department of Entomology
Title: IPM for fresh-market lettuce production in the desert southwest: the produce paradox
Publication: Pest Management Science (2009) 65:1311-1320.

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