The California Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is offering $125 per acre to growers to use the University of California Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program’s year-round IPM programs for their crops.

In the 2002 farm bill, NRCS was tasked to promote adoption of new pest management practices and IPM programs to reduce environmental problems associated with pest management. The program resulted in the establishment of a Pest Management Standard, incorporation of pest management goals into funded NRCS conservation plans, training and certification of NRCS staff in pest management and identification of pest management practices that would improve environmental quality.

To be eligible for NRCS’ Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), a crop must have a complete year-round program available on UC IPM’s Web site at http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/crops-agriculture.html. Currently, programs are available for almonds, cotton, grapes, nectarines, peaches, plums and prunes. Alfalfa, avocados, pears, and tomatoes will be available by early 2007, in time for the next growing season. The year-round IPM programs identify major activities growers need to do at each crop growing stage to implement a comprehensive IPM program.

Based on UC research and expertise, the year-round IPM programs provide annual checklists that guide farmers through a year of monitoring pests, making management decisions and planning for the following season. The programs also outline specific IPM practices that reduce water quality risks and other environmental problems, including many preventive actions such as sanitation, resistant cultivars or crop rotation. Problem pesticides are identified through the UC IPM WaterTox database that rates available options according to their potential to damage water quality.

To receive the incentive, growers must perform all of the activities described in the program and maintain records of all monitoring and other actions taken to manage pests, using the annual checklist on the UC IPM Web site. Growers can use alternative activities or pesticides described in the pest management guidelines on the site when the criteria for their use are met. The incentive provided should provide sufficient funds to hire a pest control consultant to assist in required monitoring.

The NRCS guidelines also specify that pyrethroids, organophosphates or emulsifiable concentrate formulations should not be used without evidence that listed softer chemicals are not effective in particular circumstances.

The deadline to submit an application for EQIP is Dec. 1. Funds will be allocated and contracts finalized by March 31, 2007. For more information, visit the NRCS Web site at http://www.ca.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/eqip/, or call Alan Forkey, program manager at (530) 792-5653, or Mark Parson, EQIP program specialist, (530) 792-5660.