Pesticides are important tools for farmers around the globe—ask anyone who has contemplated a hundred acres of cabbage aphids. However, some pesticides are significantly more hazardous than others. Broad-spectrum pesticides carry risks to nontarget species like earthworms and birds in addition to the pest species. Some pesticides can cause acute or chronic physical problems in humans, from headaches to motor-skill impairment to cancer, particularly when children are present in or near fields.
The pesticide risk reduction program within Oregon State University's Oregon IPM Center develops multi-faceted approaches to limit the use of pesticides in Oregon’s crops. Integrated Pest Management (IPM) promotes techniques such as crop rotation and protecting beneficial insects such as ladybug beetles, known for their appetite for aphids. The center's pesticide risk reduction and IPM methods have been well received by farmers and third-party certifiers. They were first adopted by the Food Alliance, a certification nonprofit, and then by the Sustainable Agriculture Network as the basis for its Sustainable Agriculture Standard.
To support IPM in Oregon and beyond, OSU faculty have developed a number of tools and materials. IPM Strategic Planning provides a consultation process to document critical pest management needs among Oregon’s agricultural industries. The “ ” tool provides weather-based pest and crop development models to support pest-management decision-making.
When used effectively, IPM can reduce risks while achieving high productivity. Reserving higher-risk pesticides as a last resort by incorporating as many lower-impact alternates as possible ensures a future that will support both agriculture and the environment.