WATSONVILLE, Calif., March 7, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Today, the Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) and California Strawberry Commission announced a research partnership that will look for alternatives to fumigant pesticides. The $500,000, three-year project will explore ways to grow strawberries in peat or substances other than soil.
"This project shows our commitment to encourage and support development of effective and environmentally friendly ways to control pests," said DPR Director Brian R. Leahy. "Fumigant pesticides are an important tool farmers use to control a wide variety of pests and diseases. The objective of this project is to provide even more tools to safely and economically grow crops in our state."
Leahy made the announcement at the Monterey Bay Academy in Watsonville where research on alternatives to fumigant pesticides has been under way for several years. The project will build on previous research to develop non-chemical alternatives to fumigants and to reduce fumigant emissions that contribute to global warming.
Fumigants are gaseous pesticides injected into the soil of agricultural fields prior to planting. Mounting and costly fumigation restrictions, including buffer zones around fields being treated to protect the public from potential exposure, underscore the urgency to find a replacement.
"Strawberry production is important to the state and local economies, and strawberry producers should have a full spectrum of tools available to maintain the viability of their industry," Leahy emphasized.
Commission President Mark Murai said, "California strawberry growers have a long history of developing innovative farming practices. We are energized to be partners with the Department of Pesticide Regulation to jointly tackle the challenges farmers face with soil-borne plant diseases."
Dan Legard, Commission research director added, "We initiated research four years ago that started looking at the potential of growing strawberries in substrate. This important partnership helps get these trials out to growers' fields for farm-scale testing."
The Brown Administration's support for developing more environmentally friendly farming practices is reflected in the state's proposed 2012-13 budget that includes a $713,000 annual increase for DPR to support research for fumigant alternatives. If approved, the first funding cycle for this program would be fiscal year 2013-14.
DPR's partnership with the California Strawberry Commission and the proposed fumigant alternatives research grants are in addition to its Pest Management Alliance Grants. Since 1998, DPR has awarded approximately $6 million to more than 60 projects that use integrated pest management (IPM) strategies to reduce pesticide use. IPM combines natural and preventive strategies that focus on long-term pest prevention and pose a low risk to people and the environment. Pesticides are used as a last resort and selected to remove only the target pest.
The research project and grants are subsidized with special funds generated by fees on pesticide sales.
"We're excited to be working with the California Strawberry Commission on this cutting-edge, boots-in-the field research that will be followed by farmers throughout the world," Leahy said. "This project also advances DPR's mission to foster reduced-risk pest management in both agricultural and urban settings through research, grants and recognition."
One of five departments and boards within the California Environmental Protection Agency, DPR regulates the registration, sale and use of pesticides to protect people and the environment. More information about DPR is posted at www.cdpr.ca.gov.
For more information about the California Strawberry Commission, a state government agency that represents 500 growers, please visit: www.calstrawberry.com/.