OSU Extension-led team searches for chlorpyrifos alternatives for controlling insect pests in Oregon grass seed crops

A person wearing a protective suit sprays grass seed crops in a field.

Oregon leads the country in grass seed production, with over 400,000 acres grown each year. Insect pest issues continue to be an issue for Oregon’s grass seed growers, impacting profitability due to both crop damage and the added $10-$15 per acre cost of using products to control the pests.

The Environmental Protection Agency recently banned the insecticide chlorpyrifos due to concern over the chemical’s neurological impacts on humans, so the grass seed industry needs immediate solutions for insect control. Not being able to use chlorpyrifos leaves growers with only one chemical class – broad-spectrum pyrethroids – that are known to control soil-borne insects.

In response, Navneet Kaur, Oregon State University Extension Service entomologist and assistant professor in the College of Agricultural Sciences, started a multi-pronged research project to find alternatives for managing insect pests in grass seeds crops. Kaur is investigating diverse chemistries as well as microbial control methods for management that can be used in integrated pest management (IPM) plans.

A collaboration between OSU Extension and commodity groups will use a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for Specialty Crop Block program to identify chemical and biological controls that could be important controls of pest insects.

As a result, the research team anticipates generating data for alternatives to chlorpyrifos in the near future. The information will be used to support registration of new insecticides with new modes of action for sustainable insect pest management in grass seed crops grown in Oregon.

Data on the efficacy of existing products has been shared with growers and agricultural industry professionals through publications, journals and blogs of the OSU field crop entomology program. Outreach efforts also include sharing ongoing research findings.