The California Department of Pesticide Regulation reports a small increase in commercial pesticide use during 2003, compared to 2002. A DPR analysis linked the increase primarily to wet, cool spring weather that caused more disease problems.

Some 175 million pounds of pesticide applications were reported in 2003, a 4 percent increase from the previous year. Although analysts said such variations are normal, DPR Director Mary-Ann Warmerdam will launch an initiative to renew DPR emphasis on reducing pesticide risks and use.

“Maintaining the status quo just isn't good enough,” said Warmerdam, who joined DPR last September. “We must do more to reduce risks and encourage IPM — integrated pest management

“DPR needs to expand its commitment to IPM with a comprehensive, long-term strategy that will maximize the use of our existing resources, while seeking out new opportunities to support IPM on the farm; in schools, parks and other public areas; and in our homes,” said Warmerdam.

Toward that goal, Warmerdam will direct DPR's Pest Management Advisory Committee (PMAC) to begin developing a blueprint for IPM progress when the committee holds its next meeting on Feb. 23. Warmerdam noted that DPR budget cuts in recent years eliminated IPM grants for agricultural and urban groups, and slowed advancement of DPR's school IPM program.

“Meanwhile, the need for least-toxic pest management methods has never been greater,” said Warmerdam. “Agriculture faces legal and legislative mandates to improve air and water quality, while urban areas are under similar pressure to reduce runoff and pesticide risks in schools. IPM projects sponsored by DPR have already demonstrated success in these areas,” she said.

IPM ‘win-win’

“Most importantly, our experience shows that IPM is good for our economy as well as our environment,” said Warmerdam. “Pesticide users who employ IPM save the time and expense associated with the use of highly-toxic, highly-regulated pesticides. It's a win-win situation for business, workers and the public, and for our air and water.”

Warmerdam will ask PMAC to respond with an initial set of recommendations in six months. “We also will seek advice and support from a broad range of stakeholders, including the environmental community, industry, legislative representatives, and others,” said Warmerdam. “We all recognize the fiscal constraints facing government and the private sector. But that is all the more reason to seek environmental progress that can benefit our economy.”

2003 summary

Increases in pesticide pounds applied from 2002 to 2003 were noted in almonds (1.4 million pounds more, or 12 percent), strawberries (1 million pounds more, 12 percent), carrots (800,000 pounds more, 10 percent), rights-of-way (600,000 million pounds more, 16 percent), and rice (500,000 pounds more, 9 percent).

Decreased pounds applied were found in wine grapes (600,000 pounds less, or 3 percent), table and raisin grapes (600,000 pounds less, 3 percent), structural pest control (300,000 pounds less, 6 percent), potatoes (300,000 pounds less, 12 percent), and lemons (200,000 pounds less, 5 percent).

Most-used pesticides as measured by pounds were sulfur, petroleum oils, metam-sodium, and methyl bromide. Sulfur use decreased slightly but remained the most highly used pesticide, both in pounds applied and acres treated. By pounds, sulfur accounted for 53 million pounds, or 30 percent of all pesticide use. It is a natural fungicide favored by both conventional and organic farmers.

Petroleum oil use decreased by 209,000 pounds; metam sodium use decreased by 322,000 pounds, and methyl bromide use increased by 834,000 pounds.

Use increased in most pesticide categories. The largest increase in pounds was with the fumigant 1,3-dichloropropene. (Fumigants are applied at high rates, in part, because they treat a volume of space rather than a surface area such as the leaves and stems of plants.)

Some statistical changes from 2002 to 2003 include:

  • Chemicals classified as reproductive toxins increased in pounds applied from 2002 to 2003 (up 480,000 pounds, or 2 percent) and increased slightly in cumulative acres treated (up 22,000 acres, less than 1 percent).

  • A similar pattern applied to suspected carcinogens. Use of these chemicals increased in overall pounds applied (up 1.9 million pounds, 7 percent) and in cumulative acres treated (up 390,000 acres or 11 percent). The increase in pounds was mainly due to increase in uses of the fumigant 1,3-dichloropropene but the increase in acres treated was due mainly to use of the fungicides maneb, iprodione, mancozeb, and captan.

  • Use of organophosphate and carbamate chemicals, which includes compounds of high regulatory concern, continued to decline by pounds, decreasing by 680,000 pounds (about 8 percent). Treated acres were nearly the same, down only 3,000 acres (0.05 percent). Use of chlorpyrifos increased; the largest decreases in use were molinate, thiobencarb, and diazinon.

  • Use of chemicals categorized as ground water contaminants was nearly the same in 2003 as in 2002. Use increased by 38,000 pounds applied (less than 2 percent), but cumulative acres treated decreased by about 5,000 acres (0.3 percent). Most of the increase in pounds was in use of diuron and simazine.

  • Chemicals categorized as toxic air contaminants, another regulatory concern, increased by 2.6 million pounds applied (8 percent). Cumulative acres treated increased by about 367,000 acres (12 percent). Most of the increase in pounds was due to increased use of methyl bromide and 1,3-dichloropropene. Most of the increase in acres was due to maneb and 2,4-D.

  • Use of reduced-risk pesticides increased considerably, by 311,000 pounds applied (41 percent) and 1.8 million acres treated (47 percent).

DPR analyses have shown that pesticide use varies from year to year depending upon pest problems, weather, acreage and types of crops planted, economics, and other factors. The 2003 summary — which included analyses for 12 crops — found pest problems for most were higher in 2003 than in 2002, due to the wet and cool spring in 2003. Prices for most of the 12 crops also improved in 2003.

The threat of higher financial losses may have prompted some growers to use more pesticides. Pesticide use is reported as the number of pounds of active ingredient and the total number of acres treated. Data for pounds include both agricultural and nonagricultural applications; data for acres treated are primarily agricultural applications. The number of acres treated is cumulative.