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Pesticide Use in California Increases after Four-Year Decline (December 2011)

According to recently released data by the Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR), pesticide use in California rose in 2010 after declining for four consecutive years. The data shows an increase of 15 million pounds – or 9.5 percent – from 2009.
The increase in pesticide use reflected a 15 percent jump in acres that were treated with pesticides – up 9.7 million acres to a total of 75 million acres in 2010. The Summary of Pesticide Use Report Data 2010 is posted at http://www.cdpr.ca.gov/docs/pur/pur10rep/10_pur.htm.

As in previous years, sulfur, a natural fungicide favored by both conventional and organic farmers mostly to control powdery mildew on grapes and processing tomatoes, was the most highly used pesticide in both pounds applied and acres treated. By pounds, sulfur accounted for 27 percent of all reported pesticide use and had grown by 10 percent, with a growth of 9 percent in acres treated.

DPR Chief Deputy Director Chris Reardon explained that the increase could be due to the weather. The winter and spring of 2009 and 2010 were cool and wet, which could have resulted in an increased in fungicide use to control mildew and other diseases. The below average temperatures in summer and fall resulted in a late harvest allowing for more insect damage and additional treatments.

Most of the growth in pesticide use was in product agriculture, which saw application increased by 12 million pounds.

Depending on factors such as the weather, pest problems, economics and types of crops planted, pesticide use will vary from year to year. Any increase or decrease in pesticide use from one year to the next does not necessarily indicate a trend.

In order, the top five counties that saw an increase in pesticide pounds in 2010 were Fresno, Kern, Tulare, San Joaquin and Madera, all of which are major producers of agricultural products.

Pesticides with the greatest increase in pounds applied include 1,3-dichloropropene (1,3-D), meta-sodium, glyphosate and metam-potassium. Crops that showed an increase in pesticide use included wine, grapes, carrots, cotton, almonds, and table and raisin grapes. There was, however, a decline in pounds applied to rice, processing tomatoes, alfalfa, peaches, nectarines and application to fields crops are planted to control pests.

For more information, please Contact TSG.
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