On Jan. 27, the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) will recognize a diverse group of businesses and organizations as 2010 IPM Innovators. They control insects, weeds, rodents and other pests with a combination of natural and preventive strategies and pesticides less toxic than traditional treatments.

“Integrated pest management, or IPM, is being used by this year’s honorees in innovative and effective ways to reduce pesticide use,” DPR Director Mary-Ann Warmerdam said. “We are proud to showcase their efforts that range from free tours of native plant gardens that thrive without pesticides, pioneering strategies to grow organic walnuts and winegrapes, technology that helps farmers make data-driven decisions and incentives to encourage more environmentally friendly pest control.”

Warmerdam will present the IPM Innovator Awards at 1:30 p.m. Thursday in the Sierra Hearing Room on the second floor of the California Environmental Protection Agency building in Sacramento. The public is invited.

This year's recipients are:

• Bringing Back the Natives Garden Tour, Contra Costa County

• Dixon Ridge Farms, Solano and Yolo Counties

• Bonterra (Fetzer) Vineyards, Mendocino County

• Mosquito and Vector Control Association of California, Sacramento County

• SureHarvest, Santa Cruz County

• University of California Statewide IPM Program and Natural Resources Conservation Service Partnership

Since IPM Innovator awards were initiated in 1994, more than 100 California organizations have been recognized for their efforts to reduce risks associated with pesticide use and for sharing their research and methods with others. Candidates are evaluated in seven categories innovation; value; effectiveness; supports research; organizational education; outreach; and leadership.

A brief description of the 2010 IPM Innovators follows:

Bringing Back the Natives Garden Tour

The Bringing Back the Natives Garden Tour, which attracts more than 6,000 participants annually, is a free, self-driven tour of gardens in Alameda and Contra Costa counties that contain at least 50 percent native plants and are free of synthetic pesticides. The tour demonstrates that both seasoned and novice gardeners can implement sustainable practices that protect the environment. In 2010, 20 percent of the gardens on the tour were hosted by people who had attended the event, been inspired by it and transformed their gardens.

The primary goal of the tour is to motivate attendees to garden with California native plants to eliminate pesticide use, preventing contaminated runoff to urban creeks and San Francisco Bay. Other goals are saving water, generating less solid waste and providing habitat for wildlife. The gardens on the tour show that California native plants are beautiful and display a sense of place that is uniquely Californian.

Planning for the seventh annual tour in May is already under way. The tour is supported with funding from local stormwater control agencies and a native plant sale held in conjunction with the tour and donations. More information is available on the tour”s Web site, or by contacting coordinator Kathy Kramer or call (510) 236-9558.