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UCR to Coordinate Western Region Pest Management Program

UCR to Coordinate Western Region Pest Management Program

(September 20, 1999)

The University of California, Riverside has been selected to manage a major research funding program that develops ecologically sound, integrated methods to manage damaging insects, weeds, diseases and other plant pests in both agricultural and urban set tings.

UCR on Oct. 1 will become the host institution for the Western Region Integrated Pest Management Program - a federally funded project that assists in developing and putting into place pest management systems that rely less on synthetic pesticides. Integr ated Pest Management (IPM) systems use a combination of techniques - such as biological control, modified farming practices, use of pest-resistant plant varieties and limited used of pesticides - to prevent pests from damaging crops and urban landscapes.

In managing the western region of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National IPM Network, UCR will administer a research grant program expected to total about $800,000 in each of the next five years, according to UCR entomologist Nick Toscano, coordin ator of the Western Region IPM Program. Toscano will assist scientists in setting research priorities and coordinate research efforts in the western region, which includes 13 U.S. states and four territories. He will also solicit proposals for research pr ojects that cut across state lines, administer grant funds, and manage a World Wide Web site to distribute widely the latest scientific information on control of damaging pests in the western U.S.

"The benefit of this regional approach to IPM solutions is the collaboration of scientists on pest problems that several areas share in common," Toscano said. "By working together to identify shared issues, we can maximize the financial resources availab le to study pest problems and come up with solutions."

One example of a pest that lends itself to a regional research and management program, Toscano said, is the wheat-blighting Karnal bunt fungus, which first appeared in Arizona in 1996 and was later found on seed that had been planted to New Mexico, Texas and California. Karnal bunt has little effect on grain yield, but it is worrisome for growers whose wheat is bound for overseas markets because many countries ban import of wheat contaminated with Karnal bunt.

An integrated approach to eliminate Karnal bunt from wheat fields includes planting disease-free seed and seed of cultivars less susceptible to the disease, mulching soil with materials that make it less conducive to the reproduction of the fungus, adjusting planting dates and, if necessary, using chemical pesticides.

IPM, which dates back to the 1960s, employs multiple tactics to control plant pests. Such systems might include a combination of biological control - the use of "natural enemies" to combat a pest - as well as changes in farm practices and planting of pes t-resistant plant varieties. Pesticides are typically used only when other methods are not enough to combat the pest. Prior to wide use of IPM, farmers relied heavily on a pesticide-based single-tactic approach to pest management and pests commonly found ways to subvert or become resistant to the pesticides used, according to Toscano.

"Pest control strategies should be implemented in a way that minimizes risks to humans, the environment and beneficial or 'non-target' organisms. And the purpose of a pest management program should be not just to kill pests, but to allow harvesting of a product in the quantity and quality acceptable to a grower," he said.

Toscano's own research at UCR has led to IPM programs for cotton, lettuce, tomatoes, celery, sweet potatoes, cole crops and strawberries. He has previously served in several administrative positions involving pest management issues, including program dir ector of pest management for the University of California Cooperative Extension and associate dean for Cooperative Extension in UCR's College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences.

The western region of the National IPM Network includes the states of Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming, as well as the U.S. territories of Guam, North Mariana Islands, Micronesia and American Samoa.

Prior to UCR becoming the host institution for the Western Region IPM Program, Colorado State University managed the program.

For more information on the regional program, call (909) 787-5826.

The University of California, Riverside ( is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.

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