a farmer sprays pesticide on crops

Safer, more sustainable pest management

In *All, Earth Day, Environmental Stewardship, Pest Management, Pollinator Week by AgIsAmerica

Managing pests is essential to healthy, safe and productive agricultural, urban, residential and natural areas. However, chemical pesticides can cause air and water pollution and unintended harm to nontarget organisms. Exposure to pesticides has also been linked to human health problems. In addition, many pests eventually develop resistance to commonly used chemicals, rendering them ineffective. Researchers at land-grant universities across the United States are developing alternative and integrated pest control methods that are safer and more sustainable.

Successful examples include:

  • Integrated pest management (IPM) combines different strategies — such as modifying habitats, releasing natural predators, growing resistant crop varieties and using pesticides — to provide pest control. IPM is especially important as pests develop resistance to certain tactics and stakeholders raise concerns about the environmental and human health risks of chemical pesticides. Since 1996, 10 northeastern states — Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont — have joined forces, along with representatives from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Environmental Protection Agency, to coordinate integrated pest management efforts in the region. This multistate committee facilitates communication among IPM programs at northeastern land-grant universities, helping researchers and Extension educators stay current on emerging pest issues, program needs and stakeholder needs.
  • The overuse of horticulture chemicals creates significant environmental contamination and pollution. For example, homeowners can apply up to 10 times the amount of pesticides per acre compared to farmers. To reduce environmental contamination and pollution, University of Wisconsin Extension’s plant diagnostics services follow an IPM approach, which encourages using pesticides and fertilizers only when needed and prioritizing the least toxic approaches. Through its programming, people in households and commercial horticulture practitioners are becoming more sufficient in growing their own food and reducing negative environmental impacts when caring for plants, growing food and gardening.

Source: National Impacts Database

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