New pest is growing problem for organic growers on the Central Coast

May 7, 2015

Bagrada bug adults and nymphs feeding on a green bean.
Credit Surendra Dara - University of California

The ongoing drought is causing headaches for local farmers, but according to numbers released Thursday by Santa Barbara County, it hasn't yet hurt the local agriculture industry enough to reverse overall production values.

2014 was another record year for the county's growers, who grossed nearly $1.49 billion. This number is the total of all ag sales in the county and should not be confused with profits.

Strawberries remain the county's top crop, with wine grapes coming in second. Broccoli placed third.

Agriculture Commissioner Cathy Fisher says, while the numbers are good, the drought clearly hurt the local livestock industry. She also says farmers had a hard time hiring enough field workers for some crops.

BAGRADA BUGS

Another concern for Fisher is a relatively new pest causing called the bagrada bug.

"This bug causes tremendous damage to a lot of the vegetables, like broccoli and cauliflower—you name it," said Fisher. "Conventional growers have pest management tools available to them to help control it, but it's the organic growers that do not.

Fisher said because the bagrada bugs came on so quickly, the organic farmers haven't had time to develop the tools they need.

According to UC Riverside, bagrada bugs were first found in June, 2008 in Los Angeles.