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Growers and researchers will learn together, says Dr. Jay Brunner.

Growers and researchers will learn together, says Dr. Jay Brunner.

A program is under way to help Washington apple growers learn how to use new pest controls in place of the old organophosphate pesticides.

Dr. Jay Brunner, director of Washington State University’s Tree Fruit Research and Extension Center in Wenatchee, said orchardists will be forced to change their pest management strategies as use of organophosphates becomes more restricted.

Use of Guthion (azinphos-methyl) is being phased out. In 2008 and 2009, growers will be allowed to apply no more than three pounds of active ingredient (three applications) per season, dropping to two pounds in 2010, and 1.5 pounds in 2011 and 2012. After that, it cannot be used. Brunner said other organophosphate insecticides, including Lorsban (chlorpyriphos) and diazinon, are also under review by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The Pesticide Management Transition Project is viewed as a proactive way to help the industry adopt alternative pest management strategies and materials for codling moth and leafrollers, while demonstrating to the community at large what the industry is doing to move towards technologies that are safer for workers and the environment.

The project’s leaders will be looking not only at how new pest management programs impact growers, but how education and information can be delivered to the farmworker community. They also hope that the industry will be able to relate better to policy makers so they understand the reality of growing fruit, and the challenges and complexities of the biological systems that growers are working with, Brunner said.

The focus is on education and implementation, rather than research, he emphasized. "We’re not going to be setting up experimental units and testing products. The mission here is to change practices and perceptions about integrated pest management—not just the new insecticides, but how the whole system’s going to change. We want to sustain grower profitability and acceptable crop production as we transition to these new products."

It will be important that growers understand how the products work, what stages of the pest to target, and the timing of applications, he added.

WSU entomologist Keith Granger has been hired as manager of the project. Executive committee members are Brunner; Jim Hazen, executive director of the Washington State Horticultural Association; Dr. Jim McFerson, manager of the Washington Tree Fruit Research Commission; Dr. Chris Feise of WSU’s Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources; and Karen Lewis, WSU Extension educator.

Brunner said Hazen played a key role, through his association’s work with the Washington State legislature, in securing state funding of $550,000 for the project through July 2009. Brunner hopes funding can be obtained for a further two years to complete the project.

It will begin this winter with a baseline survey by WSU to find out what pest controls growers are using and what the challenges are. He said the project’s administrators are looking for honest feedback.

Small groups

The program will set up small groups of growers, orchard managers, and consultants in the same geographic area, though not necessarily contiguous. These groups, called implementation units, will be similar to the groups that participated in areawide projects to adopt mating disruption for codling moth control in the 1990s. However, introducing the new chemistries for codling moth control is more complicated than introducing pheromones, Brunner said. "We have so many choices of products, it can be complex. It can be overwhelming.

"We will get people together in local areas who are willing to work together, share information, and learn together," he explained. "We think we know a lot about some of these new technologies, but when you get them out to the industry on a day-to-day basis and people are using them through the season, we’re going to find things we didn’t know about. We’ll learn more about the successes, and when things go wrong, we want to understand why they went wrong and change those types of practices."

Interaction with crop consultants will be important, he said, and researchers will work with the groups to share new knowledge.

"The idea is to learn together, and take the best information we have, apply it to the program, and learn from the experience."

Brunner stressed that the project will not replace crop consultants. "This project is not going to do monitoring or make weekly recommendations on what you should do. The idea is to present you with the concepts and the knowledge so you will be able to work with crop consultants to make better decisions on implementing these new technologies."

The project has an advisory committee made up of representatives of government, educational institutions, growers, packers, shippers, and consultants as well as the environmental community.