Pesticide Trend Use in California

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Farmers are successfully transitioning to safer, more environmentally friendly compounds to combat pests and diseases. The analysis of pesticide use in California described in this report shows a 66 percent decline in the use of older, traditional broad based chemistries over a 12-year period in favor of more targeted, softer and often organically approved pest and disease control alternatives.

A recent U.S. Environmental Protection Agency report supports this trend nationally.

The California Department of Pesticide Regulation has the most extensive pesticide use reporting system in the United States and supports one of the most comprehensive pesticide regulatory programs in the world. As part of these regulations, annual reporting of pesticide use in the State of California is mandatory for agriculture and pest control businesses.

The most recent report of pesticide use issued by DPR is for the 2009 calendar year. A detailed look at the top 100 pesticides used in 2009 shows the #1 and the #3 mostused pesticides in California are approved for use in the production of organic foods. These two pesticides alone account for over one third of all pesticides used in California agriculture and reported to DPR.

The purpose of the analysis provided in this paper is to examine long-term use trends for the older broad based and, in general, more highly regulated pesticides in California agriculture. Specifi cally, the report tracks the use of what DPR classifi es as Category I, Category II and Category III organophosphate and carbamate classes of insecticides between 1998 and 2009.

The analysis indicates a very clear decline in total usage of these pesticides going from 9.6 million pounds in 1998 to 3.3 million pounds in 2009 – a reduction of 66 percent.

Conversely, the number one pesticide currently used in California is sulfur – a product that is approved for use on organically grown crops – with over 42.3 million pounds of sulfur reportedly applied in 2009. Another organically approved pesticide, mineral oil, was the third leading pesticide applied in 2009 at just over 11.6 million pounds. The analysis also estimates another 7.5 million pounds of pesticide used in California during 2009 are bio-pesticides or other compounds approved for use in organic farming bringing the total of bio-pesticides and pesticides approved for organic farming to 61.4 million pounds or 39% of all pesticides applied in 2009. The older, more highly regulated pesticides, analyzed in this report represent just 2 percent of all pesticides applied in the state.

While use of organophosphate and carbamate pesticides in California are on the decline, the need for effective pest control for both commercial agricultural and home gardeners has not diminished. For both users, increased regulation has resulted in the removal of some products from the market. However, in recent years, environmentally friendly alternatives are becoming increasingly available to both home gardeners and farmers. In addition, both users are incorporating techniques used in organic farming into their production practices.

For both home gardeners and farmers, the ability to judiciously apply some of the older, broadly eff ective compounds is still important to maintain as some pest outbreaks can be very diffi cult to control. In addition, California is increasingly experiencing the introduction of exotic pests which have the ability to destroy entire commodities, compromise the health of our forests andcan be devastating to landscaping and home gardens. Unlike home gardeners, when pesticides are applied to commercial agriculture crops, their application is highly regulated by both federal and state agencies. This is particularly true for the use of the older restricted use compounds which can be subject to as many as 70 diff erent laws in the state of California each time one is applied.