Threats to Our Food Supply

Insect pests cause billions of dollars' worth of damage and threaten our food supply, our property, our health, and the livelihood of growers. Insects have a remarkable ability to adapt to environmental pressures, to changes in cropping systems, cultural practices and climate, and to tolerate or resist management strategies, including insecticides. To protect our food supply and satisfy the needs of a growing population, growers need full access to a broad range of effective and sustainable insect management tools to combat insect infestations, such as those in the following table.

For more detail about target pests and chlorpyrifos use, see Use and Benefits of Chlorpyrifos in Agriculture (2016).

Crop Target Pests
Alfalfa Alfalfa weevil, armyworms, aphids, potato leafhoppers.
Brassica Vegetables (Cole Crops)
(Broccoli, Cauliflower, Cabbage, Kale, Rutabaga, Turnips, etc.)
Cabbage maggot, aphids
Citrus Scale insects, mealybug, Asian citrus psyllid, rust mite, citrus leaf miner, katydids.
Corn, Field Corn rootworm, cutworm, white grub, European corn borer
Corn, Sweet corn earworm, armyworms, corn rootworm (larvae and adult), cutworms, seed corn maggot, wireworms
Cotton Cotton aphid, Lygus bug, armyworms, pnk bollworm
Grapes Mealybugs, cutworms, ants
Mint mint root borer
Onions Onion maggot
Peanuts Lesser cornstalk borer, corn rootworms, white mold
Pome Fruits
(Apples, Pears)
San Jose scale, rosy apple aphid, pandemis leafroller, oblique-banded leafroller, climbing cutworms, American plum borer
Soybeans Soybean aphid, bean leaf beetle, grasshoppers, spider mites
Stone Fruits
(Peaches, Nectarines, Cherries, Plums)
San Jose scale, peach twig borer, peaach twig borer, peach tree borer, lesser peach tree borer, American plum borer
Sugar Beets cutworm, wireworm, sugarbeet root maggot, armyworms, grasshoppers
Sweet Potatoes Wireworms, southern corn rootworm, flea beetles
Tree nuts
(Almonds, Pecans, Walnuts, etc.)
San Jose scale, peach twig borer, navel orangeworm, codling moth, walnut husk fly, walnut aphid, pecan nut casebearer, black pecan aphid
Wheat Aphids, grasshoppers, orange wheatblossom midge

Chlorpyrifos and Beneficial Insects

Not only is chlorpyrifos important for controlling target pests, but it’s also important because it does less harm to beneficial insects than a number of other commonly used pesticide active ingredients.

In fact, Integrated Pest Management (IPM) programs sometimes involve designating portions of the crop as a “refuge” area where beneficial insects thrive because more harmful insecticides are not used. Because chlorpyrifos is less harmful to beneficial insects than some other products, it may be used on both the target crop and its refuge zones. The resulting increase in beneficial insects, some of which control harmful crop pests, may help reduce the overall need for pesticide use in the crop.

Grower Perspective

“Alfalfa fields are managed as IPM [Integrated Pest Management] tools because they host extremely high numbers of beneficial insects that migrate to adjacent crops… [C]hlorpyrifos has a moderate effect on beneficial insects. It is well documented that pyrethroids, the chemical class used most often as a substitute, is much more disruptive to beneficial insects. Therefore banning chlorpyrifos would harm IPM programs and increase the need for insecticide use.”

– California Alfalfa and Forage Association