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Dr. Jay Brunner (right) and the Pest Management Transition Project team have reached out to growers, consultants, and farmworkers.

Dr. Jay Brunner (right) and the Pest Management Transition Project team have reached out to growers, consultants, and farmworkers.

by Keith R. Granger, Jay F. Brunner, and Nadine Lehrer, WSU Tree Fruit Research and Extension Center, Wenatchee, Washington

The Pest Management Transition Project, spearheaded by Dr. Jay Brunner at Washington State University, is helping the state’s apple growers transform their integrated pest management programs by incorporating new farming practices and technologies.

Many reduced-risk insecticides have been registered as alternatives to the organophosphate Guthion (azinphos-methyl) for control of codling moth, the key apple pest. However, proper use of these new products is more complicated than using Guthion. Research with organophosphate-alternative insecticides coupled with other IPM practices has shown that codling moth can be effectively controlled without Guthion. However, this is not as simple as replacing Guthion with a new product. Instead, effective control entails building a multifaceted and sustainable IPM program.

Problem

Guthion remains an effective control for codling moth, and has been relatively cheap and simple for most growers to use. In 2006, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced the phaseout of azinphos-methyl in tree fruits, with final use in the year 2012. Growers have been given time, through the gradual phaseout, to learn how to use replacement tactics. In 2010, growers will be limited to four pounds of formulated azinphos-methyl, which translates to two applications per year. Those with pressure from codling moth will have to use other tactics to protect fruit. Learning how to use reduced-risk, organophosphate-alternative insecticides effectively will make the implementation of sound IPM programs more successful.

Solution

The Washington State legislature funded the Pest Management Transition Project for two years, starting in 2007, to accomplish three objectives:

• to enhance understanding of new IPM technologies through educational programs and communication of research-based knowledge

• to increase adoption of new IPM technologies through sharing information on successes and failures and communicating with all stakeholders on the project’s progress and

• to document changes in practices, attitudes, and perceptions of growers, farmworkers, and other stakeholders

Primary educational efforts of the project have been carried out through small, regional meetings with growers and crop consultants. These meetings have created an opportunity to bring people with varying backgrounds in IPM together to share experiences while receiving updates about current research that is being conducted by WSU. Communicating and sharing information in small groups of growers, consultants, and researchers is the approach that the project hopes will speed the successful adoption of new technologies.

The influence of those who participated in the regional meetings exceeded 40,000 acres in 2008 and 95,000 acres in 2009, which reflects a direct impact of PMTP on more than half of Washington’s apple acres.

Assessment

Two comprehensive surveys were conducted in the first two years of the project—one of professional IPM consultants and the other of apple growers. Results from the consultant survey indicated that consultants considered codling moth the pest of highest concern and this concern corresponded with extensive recommendations for use of Guthion. Consultants were aware that Guthion was being phased out, but about half were unclear of the phaseout details, such as the last year of use and amounts allowed.

In addition, consultants felt confident in recommending many alternative methods of pest control—both new, reduced-risk insecticides and also IPM practices such as monitoring, use of pheromone traps, and degree-day models. They reported relying on other consultants, the WSU Decision Aid System, WSU researchers, and conferences or workshops as their best sources of information on pest control. Seventy-five percent wanted more training on how to use or recommend alternatives for Guthion to manage pests. While consultants were concerned that both the costs and control of codling moth would become more difficult and riskier after the Guthion phaseout, they agreed that WSU research had developed good information on alternatives and that they had been able to effectively use these alternatives in their codling moth control programs.

Preliminary results of the grower survey indicate that most growers are aware of the Guthion phaseout and are transitioning to alternative technologies, but still have a ways to go in adopting them before the phaseout is completed.  More complete grower survey results will be available this fall.

These first consultant and grower surveys will be used as baseline data for future comparisons with upcoming surveys of practices and perceptions during the 2009 (for consultants) and 2010 (for growers) growing seasons.

Additional efforts

In addition to the outreach efforts aimed at growers and consultants, the project also organized and participated in several farmworker events that provided information and educational materials on the risks and benefits of new insecticides. These events focused on direct outreach to workers and on helping service providers and orchard supervisors better communicate with workers on pesticide safety issues. The Pest Management Transition Project also met with organizations working in the areas of environmental conservation and sustainable/bioagriculture to explain the project and exchange ideas on the impacts and implications of the pesticide transition for environmental and agricultural goals.

Future

The outlook for transitioning IPM practices in apple production seems promising. Growers, consultants, and specialized farmworkers (supervisors, pesticide handlers) are quite aware of the Guthion phaseout, and have significant experience with most of the newer alternative products and other IPM practices. In addition, project participants have responded very positively to its outreach activities.

The Pest Management Transition Project is working to secure additional funding to enhance adoption of new technologies via an industrywide implementation of biologically intensive IPM in order to address the critical challenges imposed by increased regulatory action restricting or eliminating old pest control technologies.

More information about the Pest Management Transition Project can be found by visiting the project Web site: http://pmtp.wsu.edu.