MSU Extension helps growers protect the quality of Michigan’s water resources

From 2003 to 2010, the MSUE Small Fruit IPM program contributed to reduce insecticide use in blueberries by approximately 30% which is 22,200 pounds less of pesticides in the environment.

In 2004, the Environmental Protection Agency reported that agricultural nonpoint source pollution is the leading source of water quality impacts and a major contributor to ground water contamination and wetlands degradation (see http://water.epa.gov/polwaste/nps/outreach/point6.cfm).  

The major agricultural pollutants of surface and ground water are sediment, nutrients, pathogens, pesticides, and salts.

In Michigan, blueberry production is conducted in the proximity of Lake Michigan. Because of numerous lakes, streams and wetlands surrounding blueberry fields, they are considered “Environmentally Sensitive Zones.” The use of pesticides around these areas is a major concern.  Excessive use of pesticides or accidental spills and pesticide drifts may end up in surface and ground waters affecting water quality and the environment in general.

In 2003, the USDA Fruit Chemical Use Survey reported that Michigan blueberry growers used approximately 70,000 pounds of insecticides to protect their crops; 56,900 pounds corresponded to organophosphate insecticides (OPs). Because of the industry “zero” tolerance for insect parts in fresh and processing blueberries, OP insecticides were the main pest control tool. These broad spectrum insecticides were inexpensive and easy to use. However, the implementation of the Food Quality Protection Act (1996) eliminated or greatly restricted the use of OPs in order to protect the health of farmworkers, consumers (mainly children) and the environment. In contrast to broad spectrum, reduced-risk insecticide replacements can’t be used under a “calendar” based spray program. They are more pest-specific and require intensive Integrated Pest Management (IPM) scouting to be successfully applied. In addition, reduced-risk insecticides are more expensive and multiple applications are required to obtain similar levels of control than conventional OPs.

Obstacles to comply with the FQPA legislation were lack of qualified IPM scouts and few reduced-risk insecticides registered for use in blueberry production. To alleviate this situation, the MSUE Small Fruit team implemented several actions that included:

1) developing and implementing an IPM scout training program (see Anamaria Gomez-Rodas’ report http://www.aiaee.org/attachments/178_Vol-12.2.pdf)

2) On-farm testing and implementation of a reduced-risk IPM program (see description by Rufus Isaacs http://www.isaacslab.ent.msu.edu/RAMP/Images/BB%20RAMP%20Report%202006.pdf

3) A technology transfer program through a series of “Twilight Meetings.”

The success of this strategy was first confirmed by the results of the 2005 USDA Fruit Chemical Use Survey. Growers used 8,300 pounds of insecticide less than in 2003. By 2009, the same survey indicated a reduction of 22,200 pounds (30%) with respect to 2003. The use of Guthion, the most controversial insecticide, was only 4,400 pounds; a 55% reduction with respect to 2003.

The success of the MSUE Small Fruit IPM program in protecting Michigan’s water quality and the environment has been the result of the concerted effort of Extension educators, Michigan’s blueberry industry, and stakeholders. For more information on this subject please visit: http://www.greenenvironmentnews.com/agriculture_chemical_usage.php#fruits

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