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Cutting IPM program could endanger public health and safety

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 16, 2010
Contact: Don Rutz, 315 787 2208; dar11@cornell.edu

by Mary Woodsen

Cutting IPM program could endanger public health and safety

Geneva, NY. The NYS Integrated Pest Management program—which represents a massive return on investment for the state—has been zero-funded in the proposed New York budget. The IPM program saves millions of dollars for farmers and consumers while keeping thousands of tons of pesticide out of New Yorkers' water and soil.

Meanwhile, emerging pests like bed bugs and Swede midge are poised to take off and take over.

Grower Doug Mason enrolled his 325 acres of sweet corn, tomatoes and potatoes in IPM nearly 30 years ago. “Our savings the first year were dramatic, unbelievable,” says Mason, who learned the best ways to scout for pests, cut back on pesticides, and use newer “soft” pesticides that target pests while leaving other organisms unharmed.

“Last year we didn’t use a single spray on our 200 acres of sweet corn because IPM’s trap network showed the pests weren’t there,” the Wayne County grower says. Savings: about $18,000 on sprays he didn’t use.

But IPM isn’t just for New York’s 36,000 farmers.

Case in point: bed bugs.

“Bed bug calls have skyrocketed in New York City as well as the nation,” says Jody Gangloff-Kaufmann, IPM’s urban entomologist who chairs the city’s bed bug advisory counsel.

“People end up spraying stuff that doesn’t even work because they don’t know the preventive steps to take,” Gangloff-Kaufmann says, noting that the wrong spray could just spread bugs to other rooms or apartments. New York City’s advisory council is about to release guidelines that will reverse that trend, she notes. Her leadership—gone, if the NYS IPM Program is lost.

The Big Apple isn’t alone in feeling the bite. “Bed bugs are back in every city you could name,” says Peter Castronovo, senior sanitarian at the University of Rochester, noting that apartment buildings, dorms, and hotels are hardest hit—and that this is just the beginning.

“The public, pest-management industry, and regulatory agencies are going to need guidance, research and education,” Castronovo says. “IPM programs are the logical ones to help. It would be a terrible mistake to cut IPM now.”

People are more likely to spray if they don’t understand what makes pests tick, says NYS IPM’s Director Don Rutz. “It doesn’t matter if they’re farmers, school custodians, golf course superintendents or homeowners,” Rutz says.

Meanwhile, a nine-year research partnership between NYS IPM and Bethpage Golf Course, home of the 2009 US Open, has developed a range of innovative practices that, bundled together, steeply cut pesticides and their consequences. Golf courses are often faulted for high pesticide use. But Bethpage staff use the IPM program’s EIQ (environmental impact quotient) to maintain superb play quality.

“The EIQ helped us cut our environmental impact by as much as 96 percent compared to conventional methods,” says Bethpage head groundskeeper Andy Wilson. “And IPM helps push manufacturers to come out with softer products.”

More IPM impacts:

$700,000 saved by 20 soybean growers in Jefferson, Wayne and Seneca counties. A 2009 hands-on teaching program taught them to scout for soybean aphids; reports on aphid counts went to hundreds of growers. New York’s soybean crop: 1.8 million bushels in 2009.

New York’s 699 school districts spend $250,000 on herbicides each year. IPM demos showed groundskeepers that “intensive overseeding” dramatically cuts herbicide use.

“Avoiding apple scab can save me $2 million a year,” says apple grower Tre Green of Clinton County. Green uses IPM’s disease forecasts to stay on top of diseases like apple scab, spraying only if IPM’s finely-tuned forecasts show a strong likelihood of disease.

New York’s apple crop—30 million bushels of apples a year—could suffer “millions of dollars” in losses without IPM research and education, notes Deborah Breth, a fruit specialist with Cornell Cooperative Extension. Codling moths alone could cause upward of $500,000 in damage. IPM’s on-farm demos show that investing an extra $150 per acre in “mating disruption” can prevent losses of $1000 or more per acre. “Mating disruption works better the longer you use it,” says Breth. “By the third year growers can cut insecticide use by about 65 percent.”

Jim Bittner saves “$10,000 each year on pesticides I would’ve sprayed if I didn’t know about IPM” on 100 acres of peaches in Niagara County.

At the scale Steuben County’s Gary Mahany grows at, farmers could spend as much as $450,000 per year on sprays. "For them, saving even one spray is substantial," says Mahany, noting that some years—just on his 575 acres of potatoes (he farms 2590 acres altogether)—IPM pest forecasts help cut pesticide use to the tune of $68,000. “The environmental impact is far less,” he says. “I want safe water too.”

Grape grower Bill Dalrymple in Seneca County routinely taps into IPM’s statewide disease and insect forecasts—offering such value that just this year he bought his own weather station and hooked them into the IPM network. But he still keeps tabs on the trends via IPM’s online forecasts. “If Branchport gets hit, I can see it coming,“ he says.

“IPM has become such an important part of our program, I can’t imagine losing it,” Dalrymple says.

The NYS IPM Program will end in July 2010 if state funding is not reinstated.

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