Asparagus

Year-Round IPM Program

(Reviewed 9/11, updated 9/11)

These practices are recommended for a monitoring-based IPM program that enhances pest control and reduces environmental quality problems related to pesticide use.

Water quality becomes impaired when pesticides and sediments move off-site and into water. Air quality becomes impaired when volatile organic compounds (VOCs) move into the atmosphere. Each time a pesticide application is considered, review the Pesticide Application Checklist at the bottom of this page for information on how to minimize water and air quality problems.

This year-round IPM program covers the major pests of fresh asparagus and nursery production of crowns in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, Central Coast, southern San Joaquin Valley, and southern desert valleys. Details on carrying out each practice, example monitoring forms, and information on additional pests can be found in the Pest Management Guidelines. Track your progress through the year with the annual checklist form.

Preplant

Special issues of concern related to environmental quality: volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

Mitigate pesticide usage to minimize air and water contamination.

What should you be doing during this period?
Select the field:
  • Consider soil type, cropping and pest history, and plant back restrictions from previous crop.
  • Select fields with no perennial weeds present.
  • Take a soil sample for nutrient, salinity, and pH analysis to determine field suitability and soil nutrient management.
  • Select a field that has been rotated out of asparagus for a minimum of 7 years (preferably longer) to reduce Fusarium, weed problems, and salt buildup.
Monitor for garden symphylans according to the Asparagus Pest Management Guidelines. If symphylans are present, consider preplant fumigation or planting the field to a different crop.
Survey and manage weeds.
  • Keep records (PDF), noting the presence, location, and extent of problematic weeds.
  • Preirrigate weeds and cultivate to reduce the weed seedbank.
Clean equipment and tractors between fields to prevent the spread of soilborne diseases and weed seeds.
Select an appropriate variety with good yield potential and disease resistance.
Prepare the field:
  • Consider drip irrigation for ease of pesticide application, water conservation, and to prevent offsite water and pesticide movement.
  • Disc to incorporate crop residues.
  • Apply fertilizer based on soil test results.
  • Prepare beds with good drainage.

Planting through first year

Special issues of concern related to environmental quality: air quality.

Mitigate pesticide usage to minimize air and water contamination.

What should you be doing during this period?
Acquire transplants from a nursery that fumigates or has clean stock.
Examine ferns twice weekly for:
  • Beet armyworm—treat according to the Asparagus Pest Management Guidelines when larvae are present in the ferns.
  • Rust lesions—treat according to the Asparagus Pest Management Guidelines when rust first appears.
  • European asparagus aphid—shake or beat ferns to detect presence, and consider burning where permitted or discing old ferns according to the Asparagus Pest Management Guidelines
Manage weeds:
  • Choose appropriate preemergence herbicides based on planting method (seedlings versus crowns).
  • Cultivate if needed until ferns become too tall.
  • Spot spray herbicides to eliminate perennial weeds that may be invading the site.
  • Prevent the introduction of perennial weed propagules by cleaning equipment before entering the field.
If thrips damage is observed (needle drop), treat according to the Asparagus Pest Management Guidelines.
Other pests you may see:
  • Asparagus beetle
  • Asparagus miner
  • Western yellowstriped armyworm

First year through dormancy

Mitigate pesticide usage to minimize air and water contamination.

What should you be doing during this period?
Chop and incorporate, or burn where allowed, any fern growth.
Destroy volunteer asparagus outside the field.
Manage weeds according to the Asparagus Pest Management Guidelines.

Spear emergence through harvest

Special issues of concern related to environmental quality: runoff.

Mitigate pesticide usage to minimize air and water contamination.

What should you be doing during this period?
On spears, look for:

Treat as needed according to the Asparagus Pest Management Guidelines.

Manage weeds:
  • Cultivate weeds when shaping beds for the harvest season.
  • Apply appropriate preemergence herbicides for the weed spectrum at the site.
  • Apply herbicides during the harvest period to control weeds that were not controlled by preemergence herbicides.
  • Monitor for new invasions of perennial weeds and control by hand or spot spraying as appropriate.
If crown and spear rot is observed during harvest, treat according to the Asparagus Pest Management Guidelines.
End harvest when production declines to 70% of the season's highest yield to maintain crown vigor.

Postharvest (fern stage: end of harvest to beginning of dormancy)

Special issues of concern related to environmental quality: air quality, runoff/leaching, drift and tailwater runoff.

Mitigate pesticide usage to minimize air and water contamination.

What should you be doing during this period?
Monitor for European asparagus aphids and their damage:
  • Shake or beat samples to look for aphids and their natural enemies.
  • Look for bonsai growth.
  • Treat according to the Asparagus Pest Management Guidelines.
Examine ferns twice weekly for:
  • Beet armyworm—treat according to Asparagus Pest Management Guidelines when larvae are visibly present in the ferns.
  • Rust lesions—treat according to the Asparagus Pest Management Guidelines when rust first appears.
If thrips damage is detected (needle drop), treat according to the Asparagus Pest Management Guidelines.
Manage weeds:
  • Till beds after final harvest.
  • Apply herbicides to control perennial weeds such as bermudagrass.
  • Cultivate weeds if necessary just before ferns grow too tall for tractors to enter the field.
Other pests you may see:
  • Asparagus beetle
  • Asparagus miner
  • Western yellowstriped armyworms

Dormancy

Mitigate pesticide usage to minimize air and water contamination.

What should you be doing during this period?
Clean field of crop debris by thoroughly discing (or burning where permitted) to reduce European asparagus aphid, asparagus miner, cutworm, purple spot, and rust.
After ferns are chopped, apply an herbicide according to the Asparagus Pest Management Guidelines to control weeds during the fern stage.
Destroy volunteer asparagus outside the field.

Pesticide application checklist

When planning for possible pesticide applications in an IPM program, review and complete this checklist to consider practices that minimize environmental and efficacy problems.
  • Choose a pesticide from the UC IPM Pest Management Guidelines for the target pest considering:
  • Before an application:
    • Choose sprayers and application procedures that keep pesticides on target.
    • Identify and take special care to protect sensitive areas (for example, waterways or riparian areas) surrounding your application site.
    • Review and follow pesticide labeling for handling, storage, and disposal guidelines.
    • Check and follow restricted entry intervals (REI) and preharvest intervals (PHI).
  • After an application:
    • Record application date, product used, rate, and location of application.
    • Follow up to confirm that treatment was effective.
  • Consider water management practices that reduce pesticide movement off-site:
    • Install an irrigation recirculation or storage and reuse system.
    • Use drip rather than furrow irrigation.
    • Limit irrigation to amount required using soil moisture monitoring.
    • Consider vegetative filter strips or ditches.
    • Install sediment traps.
    • Use polyacrylamide (PAM) tablets in furrows to prevent offsite movement of sediments.
    • Redesign inlets and outlets into tailwater ditches to reduce erosion.
  • Consider management practices that reduce air quality problems.
    • When possible, choose pesticides that are not emulsifiable concentrate (EC) formulations, which release volatile organic compounds (VOCs). VOCs react with sunlight to form ozone, a major air pollutant.
    • Use the Department of Pesticide Regulation calculators to determine VOC emission rates from fumigant and nonfumigant pesticides.

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Statewide IPM Program, Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of California
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