From: Robina Suwol
Date: 20 Nov 2006
Remote Name: 188.8.131.52
Pesticide use declines in 2005 due to loss of land
November 18, 2006
By TOM RAGAN
SENTINEL STAFF WRITER WATSONVILLE
California farmers used less toxic chemicals last year, including ozone-depleting methyl bromide, according to a new report.
The state said the decline is due in part to the continuing loss of farmland and laws that require growers to spray only when pest levels are unbearable.
A report issued this week by the Department of Pesticide Regulation revealed that 194 million pounds of pesticides were applied in 2005 compared with 180 million pounds in 2004. But half the amount in 2005 was sulfur, a relatively innocuous pesticide used by organic and conventional growers to combat mold and mildew.
As in previous years, most farm pesticide use occurred in the San Joaquin Valley, the nation's No. 1 agricultural area. Fresno, Kern, Tulare, San Joaquin and Madera counties had the highest use as measured in pounds.
Santa Cruz County maintained its No. 24 rank in the state, though pesticide use here dropped slightly. County farmers applied 1.68 million pounds last year compared to 1.74 million pounds in 2004. Monterey County fell one spot to No. 6. Fresno County ranked No. 1 both years, with 62 million pounds for both 2004 and 2005.
Santa Cruz County Agriculture Commissioner Ken Corbishley said much of the decline across the state and locally can be attributed to laws that are only now beginning to see results in what is commonly referred to as integrated pest management.
"These days, farmers just don't go out and spray for pests on a regular schedule," he said. "They have to make sure that the pests are actually harming the crop. It's a concept that's been heavily promoted under the Food Quality Protection Act."
While pesticide use by Monterey County growers decreased overall, farmers used more methyl bromide - 1.3 million pounds in '04 to 1.6 million pounds last year.
Fumigant use fell statewide including in Santa Cruz County, where it dropped from 640,875 pounds in 2004 to 591,382 pounds last year.
California Strawberry Commission President Mark Murai attributed its usage to more strawberry acreage. Each acre takes about 200 pounds of methyl bromide.
Wine grapes, oranges, raisins, table grapes and almonds used more pesticides while rice, fresh tomatoes, strawberries and lemons used less pesticides.
"The DPR continues to put strong emphasis on reducing pesticide risks ...
whenever possible," said DPR Director Mary-Ann Warmerdam. "While last year's weather presented challenging conditions for growers, we see a growing reliance on sustainable pest management."