Integrated pest management for tomato growers

11/01/2005 02:00:00 AM

In 1994, the U.S. Department of Agriculture established the Integrated Pest Management Initiative. Its goal was to foster the adoption of IPM practices on 75 percent of U.S.-planted cropland by 2000. During those six years, the use of IPM practices increased from around 40 percent to nearly 70 percent, yet pesticide use (in terms of weight per unit of area) increased slightly.

Florida fresh market tomato growers were among the IPM adopters. They are committed to IPM principles and practices.

The USDA has collected and published pesticide use data on select Florida crops, including fresh market tomatoes, every other year from 1992 through 2004. By examining this data, it is evident that the implementation of IPM principles by Florida tomato growers, working in conjunction with Extension agents and professionals, has led to a decline in the use of restricted use and “Danger”-labeled pesticides. The lack of commitment to IPM, on the other hand, can lead to crop loss and failure.

An in-depth look at the data

The insecticides endosulfan, esfenvalerate, methamidophos, methomyl and permethrin, the herbicide paraquat, and the fumigants chloropicrin and methyl bromide represent more than 95 percent of the restricted and “Danger”-labeled pesticides used in Florida’s fresh market tomato production. No fungicides used in Florida fresh market tomatoes are classified as restricted use. 

From Table 1, it is apparent that use reductions of between 74 percent and 79 percent (in comparison to the peak year of 1994) have occurred since 1998, with the last year of data reflecting a 75 percent reduction in restricted or “Danger”-labeled insecticide use in Florida tomato production. 

A similar but less dramatic reduction has occurred in fumigant use. In this case, the impetus for reduction in use has come mainly from the methyl bromide phaseout that is occurring under the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer. This trend is mainly due to the reduction in rate, rather than a reduction in use, because all fresh market tomato acreage is fumigated. 

Use reductions of between 17 percent and 26 percent (in comparison to the peak year of 2000) have occurred since 2002. The use of methyl bromide will continue to shrink, until it is completely phased out as an agricultural pesticide. However, its use may well be supplanted by methyl iodide, which would likely carry the restricted use status and “Danger” labeling. 


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