California invests $3.75 million to fund research into safer, more sustainable pest management

Today, the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) awarded $3.75 million to fund 10 research projects that explore Integrated Pest Management (IPM) tools for urban, non-agricultural, and agricultural pest management. The 2021-2022 DPR Grants Programs funded by the state budget represent a 617% increase from the previous year’s funding to accelerate the transition to safer, more sustainable pest management.

“The grant projects we are funding today are critical to developing and expanding innovative practices and biological, non-chemical, and physical tools to manage pests in agriculture, urban, and other non-agricultural communities,” said DPR Director Julie Henderson. “The research will support the state’s work to accelerate a systemwide transition to safer, more sustainable pest management and better protect human health and the environment.”

DPR’s Research Grants Program funds project that advance IPM, an approach that uses the least-toxic, most effective method to solve pest problems. In the last decade, DPR has awarded $9,702,819 in research grants.

Research projects funded for agricultural pest management: 

  • Investigating a pesticide-free mating disruption approach using vibrational signals to control the spotted lanternfly, which presents a particular risk to grapes, hops, apples, and stone fruit, along with maple, poplar, walnut, and willow trees. The Spotted lanternfly is one of the most damaging invasive insects nationwide and has already caused significant harm to crops and landscapes across 11 states. This research will be led by Dr. Rodrigo Krugner at the United States Department of Agriculture – Agricultural Research Service (USDA ARS)
  • Evaluating an IPM approach that will disrupt insect behavior by targeting and interfering with a pest’s biological processes and minimizing possible unintended effects on other organisms. The project will evaluate the use of this tool for controlling diamondback moth and western flower thrips that impact California vegetable crops such as lettuce. This research will be led by Dr. Daniel Hasegawa at USDA ARS.
  • Assessing a biocontrol system for the management of tadpole shrimp in rice. Tadpole shrimp usefully eat some early-season weeds but can cause damage to the rice later in their lifecycle. To preserve their role in controlling weeds but diminish the shrimp’s later impact on the rice harvest, predator mosquito fish will be introduced mid-season to control the shrimp’s population when necessary. This research will be led by Dr. Ian Grettenberger at UC Davis.
  • Testing two emerging IPM technologies for agricultural use, the automatic release of biocontrol organisms using flying drones and precision spray application technology, which uses much less pesticide than applying pesticide sprays using current techniques. This research will be led by Dr. Ian Grettenberger at UC Davis.
  • Developing an IPM software decision-making tool for pistachio growers that helps reduce pesticide use by guiding more precise pesticide applications when chemical use is necessary. This IPM tool leverages smart technology to help growers transition from routine preventative spraying to more limited threshold-based chemical use. This research will be led by Dr. Themis Michailides at UC Davis.

Research projects funded for urban and agricultural pest management:

  • Studying the use of a reduced-risk ”attract-and-kill” approach as an effective alternative to urban and agricultural pesticide spray programs for managing South American palm weevils, a pest that damages date palms in urban and agricultural environments. “Attract-and-kill” strategies use pheromones that attract the target pest to a small amount of pesticide that kills the insect instead of spraying a large quantity of pesticides over an area to control pest populations. This research will be led by Dr. Mark Hoddle at UC Riverside.
  • Studying the impact and potential of using insect growth regulators that target Argentine ants for pest control in urban and agricultural environments. Insect growth regulators are new, safer pest management tools that pose a much lower risk of causing unintended damage to beneficial insects when compared to many traditional insecticides. This research will be led by Dr. Dong-Hwan Choe at UC Riverside.

Research projects funded for urban and nonagricultural pest management:

  • Testing non-chemical entrapment methods for trapping, monitoring, and eliminating bedbugs, a significant public health pest that disproportionately affects low-income Californians. This research will be led by Dr.Catherine Loudon at UC Irvine.
  • Creating a new set of guidelines for effectively identifying and managing biting mites, a common but poorly understood indoor pest that is often misidentified and incorrectly managed. This research will be led by Dr. Andrew Sutherland at UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UCANR).
  • Assessing a baiting system for detecting western drywood termites to reduce the number of unnecessary fumigation treatments in California homes, especially in Southern California, where termites represent a significant pest problem. This system would indicate when active termite infestations have returned and if preventative treatment is needed, greatly decreasing the amount of high-risk pesticide use in homes. This research will be led by Dr. Dong-Hwan Choe at UC Riverside.

For more information on past recipients of DPR’s Grants Program, please visit DPR’s Grants Program webpage.

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