The California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) is awarding three environmental grants totaling $585,000 to encourage pest management in California.

“In challenging economic times, it is more important than ever to help farmers and urban pesticide users find effective pest management tools that also provide more protection for public health and the environment,” said DPR Director Mary-Ann Warmerdam.

“These grants will help us transition to natural, preventive, and less-toxic chemical strategies to control pests,” Warmerdam said.

The environmental grants were selected by DPR’s Pest Management Alliance Program, initially launched in 1998 to form partnerships with agricultural and urban organizations to develop state and industry wide pest management techniques that reduce risks to people and the environment.

The three projects include:

• San Joaquin Valley: A peach canning alliance was awarded $195,000 to reduce the use of organophosphate insecticides. By 2011, the project aims for a 20 percent cutback in these insecticides. Growers can learn to adopt new monitoring methods for key pests including pheromone methods to disrupt mating and enhance existing biological control by planting sunflowers as a refuge for parasites of the Oriental fruit moth.

• San Francisco Bay Area: The Urban Child Care Facility Alliance received $215,000 to start an integrated pest management (IPM) program for child care providers throughout the state. The alliance plans to survey child care providers to establish current pest management practices and then develop English- and Spanish-language educational materials for the management of pests common in child care, including cockroaches, ants, rodents, spiders, yellow jackets, fleas, and mildew.

• San Joaquin County and the Delta: The Waterways Pesticide Alliance will receive $175,000 to assist tomato, alfalfa, walnut, and wine grape growers in reducing pesticide runoff up to 10 percent by 2011. The project will support a workbook of best management practices. These include pest monitoring, hedgerow plantings to increase beneficial insects, sediment basins and enzyme treatments, tail water return systems, vegetative ditches, and irrigation scheduling.