IPM > Agriculture IPM > Agriculture IPM Description
Near the end of our work with city trees and schools, and national parks we decided to set up a field station in the Sacramento Valley and start work on Agricultural Crops to see if our idea of IPM could be implemented successfully in large scale agriculture. Initial funding came from EPA water pollution funds since water sampling in the Sacramento River was showing considerable insecticide and herbicide residues, a portion of which were traceable to tomatoes (see the final Tomato Report 1998). We started work with processing Tomatoes because grower interviews informed us that the most important money crop was processing Tomatoes and once acreage was chosen for tomatoes the other crops were then designated. Processing tomatoes are used in salsa, paste, ketchup, sauces and soups. These are big growers, averaging 300 acres, with some cooperators over 1,000 acres. The biggest farms produced crops on up to 5,000 acres. We developed a concept called Reference Field Monitoring and focused on late season crops since that is where the most pesticide was being used. Late season processing tomatoes in the Sacramento Valley are those being harvested after September 15. These get a premium as harvesting late helps keep the canneries open.

Some of our work was also done on organic farms, against the spotted cucumber beetle and squash bug. The Grazing work is reported under State Reports.

This tomato project was a prototype for a possible transition program whereby University based researchers, graduates, and students could join an IPM/BC based project leading to private employment. We called it a Reference Field Project since selected farms participated (volunteered) covering a wider geographical area and not all the farms in an area. Thus growers not in the first group could monitor the progress on nearby fields and later apply what was learned if they chose to do so.

My final comments on this project which ran over 5 years and used a substantial funding based (see Acknowledgements in the Final Report 1998) were rather disappointing. One assumes that if substantial savings could be demonstrated from better monitoring and less insecticide use growers would pay attention and want to learn more and use what was being learned. We did not experience this.

One would also assume that the University based professors and students would also seek ways to cooperate or otherwise help the project. We did not experience this as well. We concluded that an incentive type program that involved the canneries would be necessary. Such a program would require some political support and a considerable effort from Federal and State Agencies involved in water pollution and pesticide regulation. Although we did obtain a considerable monetary supply from Federal (EPA) and from The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) we could not entice greater support. Possibly if we continued for a longer time this would have occurred. But I doubt it. We were just too far out there in the real world as a project officer told us when we sought funds from the National Science Foundation.

I take these observations as a commentary on some much larger problems with how research is funded and how implementation based on this research gains entry to the larger society.

One major barrier is the Agricultural Extension component. These people do not gain advancement like their counterparts in the Ag Colleges. Publications are the main criteria when a better measure would be how well research is adopted by growers, for example.

The pesticide information system needs to be upgraded so that any pesticide use can be found as soon as it is applied and the actual fields identified where this “cide” use occurs. This would identify fields, growers and pesticides so illegal and bad applications could be quickly identified. This would create an incentive type system to reduce pesticide use. Community pressure would be possible as well as environmentalist monitoring.

Also an advisor should not only be versed in insects and other pests but also fertilizer optimization. Combining both functions in a single advising unity means that where fertilizer use leads to greater insect problems they could be a focus of change and experimentation.