Managing agricultural pests in a state as populous, agriculturally diverse, and productive as California is inherently complex. Despite California’s strict regulatory system, there are still pest management practices and chemical tools in use that can cause harm to humans and the environment.
We are at a pivotal point in the evolution of pest management in California. Changing pest pressures, increased urbanization, and the demand for healthy and reasonably priced food all drive the need to re-examine our relationship to, and management of, pests. Since 2012, Ag Innovations has led a series of projects intended to advance collaboration and accelerate action toward safer, sustainable pest management in California. With each project, Ag Innovations progressively led key stakeholders to consider the issues more systemically and across divides, thus advancing the State’s thinking from particular pesticide alternatives to a systemwide approach to sustainable pest management. Find descriptions of our most recent projects on sustainable pest management below.
“Resolving conflicts in agriculture has never been more difficult or more important. Complex issues combined with a wide range of viewpoints within and outside the typical agricultural stakeholder require knowledgeable and skilled facilitation. Ag Innovations navigates these dynamics with skill and professionalism.”
~ Casey Creamer, California Citrus Mutual, Sustainable Pest Management Work Group
Sustainable Pest Management (SPM) Work Group
Following Ag Innovations’ facilitation of the Alternatives to Chlorpyrifos Work Group the State of California recognized the need for a systemwide approach to sustainable pest management in urban and agricultural settings across California. From 2020-2022 Ag Innovations partnered with the California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA), the Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR), and the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) to form and facilitate a work group that would develop a Roadmap to accelerate the transition away from high-risk pesticides toward adoption of safer, sustainable pest control practices.
Ag Innovations facilitated a 29 person SPM Work Group focused on agriculture, and a nine person Urban Subgroup representing a wide range of interests in the system, including production agriculture, farmworker and rural communities, Tribes, urban communities, historically marginalized communities, the pest control sector, chemical input companies, government, supply chain companies, academia, environmental sciences, public health, and technical assistance. Over the course of 18 months Ag Innovations supported these work groups in navigating the very diverse interests and concerns of the stakeholders they represent to advance recommendations that accelerate systemwide SPM.
Through focus groups, learning journeys, a systems assessment, stakeholder feedback, and dialogue the group aligned on key recommendations described in the monumental report Accelerating Sustainable Pest Management: A Roadmap for California. This Roadmap articulates a vision for pest management over the next 25 years and beyond that promotes human health and well-being, environmental health and resilience, and economic viability for all. It is an invitation and a call to action for all Californians to join the effort in co-creating a healthy, thriving California with safer, more sustainable pest management for generations to come.
Please visit the Department of Pesticide Website here to learn more about the SPM Work Group and the Roadmap:
“Growers tell me all the time they still have many pest issues not currently solved by current systems and crop protection solutions. At the same time they have increasing pressure from consumers while faced with restrictions and removals of chemicals. Therefore a different paradigm for sustainable pest management is required. The Sustainable Pest Management Working Group worked hard to create a roadmap to help growers with more systems based, sustainable pest management solutions.”
~ Pam Marrone, Invasive Species Control Corporation
Towards Safer and More Sustainable Alternatives to Chlorpyrifos
In May 2019, the California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA) announced that the Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) was taking action to ban the use of the pesticide chlorpyrifos in California to protect workers, public health, and the environment.
DPR and the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) announced the establishment of a work group to develop short-term and five-year action plans to identify safer, more sustainable pest management tools and practices in agricultural production, focusing on the current use of chlorpyrifos and identification of alternatives to the use of chlorpyrifos. Ag Innovations was brought on to facilitate this diverse, cross section of stakeholders working in agriculture, labor rights, research, and public health.
Ag Innovations led the work group in a collaborative, consensus-based, mutual learning approach to develop the action plan Towards Safer and More Sustainable Alternatives to Chlorpyrifos: An Action Plan for California. This project pushed the needle on the conversation around sustainable pest management. Recommendations from the action plan resulted in State funding to form an even more robust working group charged with developing a statewide roadmap to sustainable pest management over the next 25 years.
Pests, Pesticides, and Integrated Pest Management (IPM)
From 2017-2018 Ag Innovations facilitated a two-year conversation tackling the complex topic of pests and pest management, and examining ways the pest management community could reach a common understanding of the issues surrounding pests, pesticides, and IPM and the barriers and drivers of IPM adoption throughout California.
Over the course of the project, Ag Innovations convened and facilitated in depth discussions with small teams of community members, scientists, extension personnel, regulators, commodity group representatives, conservationists, worker advocacy representatives, health workers, growers, and pest control advisors from throughout California.
Dialogues resulted in a series of key recommendations for the pest management community, an inaugural IPM Summit, and a white paper, Roadmap for Integrated Pest Management: Using Systems Thinking to Build Better IPM for All Californians. For more information on the Pests, Pesticides, and IPM Project visit: https://ipm.ucanr.edu/pests-pesticides-and-ipm-project/
Nonfumigant Strawberry Production Working Group
Owing to potentially devastating soil borne pests, strawberry growers have relied on soil fumigation treatments for many years. The Department of Pesticide Regulation convened a group of industry and scientific leaders in 2012 to develop recommendations that, if followed, could accelerate development and adoption of management tools that manage soil borne pests in strawberries effectively and economically, and reduce the need for conventional fumigants.
Ag innovations facilitated this diverse group of 12 stakeholders representing growers, academics, commodity groups, environmental organizations, and government agencies working in pest management to develop an action plan identifying recommended research and projects to advance nonfumigant strawberry production, reducing risks to people and the environment.
View the action plan here: Nonfumigant Strawberry Production Working Group Action Plan.