Posts Tagged 'IPM'

Our Vision for Successful SPM: Part 8 Pest Management Myths and Truths

Ron Whitehurst, PCA and co-owner Rincon-Vitova Insectaries, Inc.

MYTH: “Chemical farming is based on sound science.”

TRUTH: The science that backs chemical fertilizer and pesticide use is largely “tobacco science”. It took 50 years from the time that tobacco was shown to cause cancer to get a label on a pack of cigarettes that said that smoking was linked to cancer. The tobacco industry paid scientists to do studies that “showed” that using tobacco did not cause health problems. Pesticide companies pay scientists to do studies that “show” that pesticides work and are needed.

Beware of the public-private partnership! Our tax dollars build public universities; but since we, as a society, support little pure research inquiring about biological control entomology, professors are forced to secure private money from pesticide companies to do research and trials on pesticides. Furthermore, peer review is not the sole measure of sound science. Unsound and biased study designs are often hard to detect. Peer reviewers can be, knowingly and unknowingly, compromised by not wanting to act against vested interests that could damage their careers. 

A common distortion resulting from study designs is the choice of the type of farming system used for trial plots. Chemical pesticides are trialed on farms where the plants attract pests that have been or are out of control. If the pesticide was trialed on farms with healthy plants where pests and beneficials were in balance, reduction in the pest density would not be statistically significant, and there would be no benefit over the untreated check, and no point in doing that study. It is easy to design a study to prove that a pesticide treatment killed significant numbers of pests compared to plots which received no treatment. This is beyond unsound–it is manipulated science. And yet there are peers who do not question this type of study design.

Peer reviewers can be, knowingly and unknowingly, compromised by not wanting to act against vested interests that could damage their careers. 

MYTH: “There is no evidence that healthy plants do not attract pests and disease.” 

TRUTH: There is an abundance of repeated observations that healthy plants are not subject to pests and diseases. Repeated observations are at least as valid scientifically as controlled variable peer-reviewed comparison studies. Those who make such repeated observations discuss them widely on webinars, but their observations will not be found in peer-reviewed journals and they are rarely invited to present at academic conferences. 

Scientists who want to study biological input-based agriculture, biological control and agroecology are excluded from funding and staff and can’t get their work published due to difficulty finding peers willing to review their papers. Everything they have done or want to do is effectively censored. They try to find funding from NGOs and unlikely sources. They may collaborate with a nearby hospital for the privilege of using their lab equipment. They may establish their own labs and sell services and possibly field trial contracts with pesticide companies and/or the EPA to support their own research. The funding pipeline from pesticide companies can even distort office relationships to the extent that those who refuse chemical pesticide and fertilizer funding are marginalized socially. Manipulated science is suspected in much chemical farming research while truth-seeking science regarding biological-input and biodiversity-based alternatives is suppressed. Sadly, the careers of those interested in honest research are negatively affected, or they are driven out of research institutions to be free to pursue such study and tell the truth. [Verhaaq, 2009]

MYTH: “Better living through chemistry; we can improve on how nature works.”

TRUTH: We live in a world of relationships. We are not disinterested, un-affected bystanders observing technology and marketing. Science tries to be objective as a means to a socially-accepted basis of truth. Adding toxins to our environment harms those beings with which we are in relationship: microbes that provide fertility in our soil, essential microbes in our gut, insects that pollinate our fruit, birds that eat pest caterpillars, lizards that eat ants, our children that fill us with joy, grandparents that share their wisdom.

“Technology” supporting nature is essential, but what most people understand as proprietary technology is not what it is cracked up to be. There are other ways of knowing and being in relationships. We must listen when those other ways contradict what “chemistry and technology” are saying. New federal policy requires that Indigenous Traditional Ecological Knowledge (ITEK) and internal methods of validating knowledge must be respected and plan programs that work with, not against, nature.

Adding toxins to our environment harms those beings with which we are in relationship…

MYTH: “A small amount of toxin in a large volume or area is diluted to have negligible negative effects, aka dilution is the solution to pollution.”

TRUTH: Fat soluble pesticides are biomagnified so that small amounts of toxin in an area can bio-accumulate. Insects feed on the toxin, and then it builds to toxic levels in the bodies of birds, bats and amphibians. Through the phenomenon of biomagnification, whale blubber and human breasts and prostate glands all become destinations for fat-soluble organochlorine pesticides in the food web. 

MYTH: “Ingenuity and innovation will yield new technological solutions to overcome problems of pesticide resistance, risks and residues.”

TRUTH: The only way to perpetuate funding for research is to manifest this myth that more study will yield a better patented product input solution. Because natural enemies and agroecological knowledge are not patentable, no vested interest has any incentive to spend money to fund such research. 

MYTH: “Farm Advisors help farmers consider alternatives to toxic inputs.”

TRUTH: The studies and trials paid for by pesticide companies become the basis for the recommendations included in the Guidelines by the UCIPM program and by the University of California Cooperative Extension. If a Farm Advisor wants to help a farmer consider alternatives, he or she must reach outside of what is found in University publications. There have been individual Farm Advisors over the decades who have made and disseminated their own useful observations about non-toxic alternatives, but that has not been the rule and some actively push toxic methods and marginalize biological methods at farmer meetings. For example, at a presentation about using Trichogramma to help control navel orangeworm, a UC Farm Advisor closed the meeting telling over 200 farmers that the pest would develop resistance to the Trichogramma wasps. 

The University of California and UC Cooperative Extension have long largely functioned as marketing arms of the pesticide and fertilizer industry with some wonderful exceptions. Test this yourself. Ask an Extension agent how to control a particular pest and observe. Chances are quite high that he/she will go to the UC-IPM Guideline and relay to you the chemical pesticides effective for that pest. Most agents need to be prompted to list the other IPM approaches for controlling the pest. 

Ask an Extension agent how to control a particular pest and observe. Chances are quite high that he/she will go to the UC-IPM Guideline and relay to you the chemical pesticides effective for that pest. 

MYTH: “Pesticides approved for use in California go through the most thorough, scientifically-based analysis and review in the world.”

TRUTH: Europe has much more strict hazard-based vs risk-based evaluation. Europe employs the precautionary principle. Evidence suggests and some Public Records Requests have revealed clearly that the US-EPA registration process is capable of and has perpetrated well-practiced blind acceptance of manipulated study designs and data (i.e. cutting off an animal toxicity study before tumors develop, selective inclusion of data, and/or excluding data showing harm by questioning the health of the control animals, etc.) to enable/legitimize pesticide manufacturers to pollute our shared public commons.

Additionally, because of their smaller size and accelerated metabolism, children are about 10 times more sensitive to pesticides than adults. But the intent of the registration process prioritizes getting toxic products on the market rather than protecting public health. Claiming that pesticides currently on the market are extensively tested is a false statement. 

MYTH: “Pesticide products are thoroughly tested for safety.”

TRUTH: Manufacturers submit required safety test data on the active ingredient in the product, but not on the adjuvants or on the formulated product as it is sold. The toxicity of the product on the shelf was not tested for the regulatory process. However, formulated pesticides are 10 to 100 times more toxic depending on the particular target organism. To accommodate this fact, toxic levels should be 1/100th of the published level. 

The current “safety” regime is not working. IF the intent is to prevent harm from proper use of pesticides, neighbors of farmers using toxic pesticides (according to label instructions) shouldn’t get sick, have a degraded experience of life, get cancer, and/or die. But the experience is that farmers that use toxic pesticides and their neighbors get sick. Globally, an estimated 44 percent of farmers, farmworkers, and pesticide applicators experience at least one incident of acute pesticide poisoning on the job every year, and 11,000 die annually from accidental pesticide poisoning. [Boedeker, 2020]

If the intent is to allow a certain percentage of citizens to get sick to enable pesticide companies to make a profit, that is neither acceptable nor ethical. Again, evidence shows that the registration process is merely a tangle of mental gymnastics designed to enable/legitimize pesticide manufacturers to pollute our shared public commons with impunity.

The toxicity of the product on the shelf was not tested for the regulatory process. However, formulated pesticides are 10 to 100 times more toxic depending on the particular target organism. 

MYTH: “These ingredients that are evaluated and registered by US-EPA go through over three hundred required human health and environmental safety studies.”

TRUTH: Let’s look at the case of Industrial Bio-Test Laboratories (IBT Labs) faking data for the toxicity of Roundup. The studies were never replicated, so Roundup has remained on the market for 45 years without valid toxicity studies [GMO Myths and Truths, 2014]. The much touted “science” is done by or for the pesticide registrant, muddied by a conflict of interest. This is science in service of the profit motive. If the study design is biased or lacking and stringent data handling procedures are not ensured, no amount of peer review of a fraudulent study can transform the results into sound science. 

Instead, the risk analysis amounts to an “acceptable” number of cancers or birth defects per 100,000 from using the product in a certain way. The individuals that put their bodies on the line with exposure to the pesticide, most often unknowingly because they trust that the government regulations protect them, do not have significant input into that decision. What is an “acceptable” number of cancers? In contrast to what? And to whom?

All the crops in CA can be grown organically without synthetic toxic pesticides, using natural pesticides which have zero risk of causing cancer. That is one of a number of reasons why the organic label must be utilized as the metric for setting transition goals away from toxic pesticides.

MYTH: “In a standard risk vs benefit analysis, any hazard from using a pesticide is mitigated (made OK) by restrictions on the label.”

TRUTH: A risk/benefit analysis assumes that there is a valued benefit to some entities from using the pesticide. Who benefits? The prevailing narrative is that the farmer benefits from using the pesticide to protect the crop; however, there are non-toxic alternatives for that pesticide. Additionally, using strong chemical pesticides disrupts biological control on organic and regenerative farms where pests are managed using cultural or mechanical methods and (soft) bio-pesticides where necessary.  Introducing a toxin therefore provides no benefit to the people involved, whether they be farmers, farm workers, or the neighbors living and working nearby. There are likewise negative impacts from introducing a toxin into their surrounding environment. 

There are financial benefits for the pesticide manufacturer, distributor, and salesperson from selling the pesticide, which are often justified as beneficial to the economy. So the farm worker is required to risk cancer for the benefit of the “economy”, meaning the pesticide industry sector. Is this a trade off that you would accept?

MYTH: “Despite the US-EPA registration process, products entering California undergo an independent second comprehensive evaluation by DPR scientists before being registered for use. DPR also requires additional “California only” studies before registration reviews are complete. This process is very painstaking and slow (taking 5-7 years) because DPR wants to be sure the new product has some level of efficacy and can be safely brought to market in California.”

TRUTH: Based on what has been reported by retired EPA scientists and discovered in Public Record requests, most of the studies submitted to the US-EPA for review could be flawed. There is enough evidence to conclude that none can be trusted without a fresh review looking for flaws, biases, and/or high-level US-EPA administrative intercession on behalf of pesticide manufacturers overruling the recommendations of rank and file scientists. The same studies are sent from the US EPA to the CA EPA. The conflict of interest resulting in flaws and biases in required toxicity studies moves unchanged from the federal to the state regulators. 

The slowness of CA EPA to review such new products is apparently not because of the extra care taken in the review. There is at least an appearance that the review process is being overseen by individuals who are influenced by powerful pesticide companies. In a typical “good ol’ boy ” culture, decisions are based on the belief that pesticides are necessary “tools” to grow our food. Meanwhile DPR accepts the risks associated with registering new pesticides, and farms continue to be sacrifice zones, and farmworkers disposable pawns in the registration game. 

CA EPA could streamline the process for review of new and biorational pesticides, but assessments need to be based on hazard and not risk. 

The conflict of interest resulting in flaws and biases in required toxicity studies moves unchanged from the federal to the state regulators. 

MYTH: “Additional label restrictions on products protect public safety, like Restricted Use Pesticides (RUP), and Agricultural Commissioners have discretion to require even more restrictions when conditions in their counties may require them. In addition, Agricultural Commissions must be given a Notice of Intent (NOI) prior to an application of a RUP based on risk parameters established through the product’s registered label and DPR’s registration requirements.”

TRUTH: No amount of pseudo religious legal ceremony or certified papers will change the fact that using toxic pesticides is an aggressive act. The non-aggression principle is a good approach to interacting with others. Putting a toxin into the commons (my space) that has the potential to make one sick, poison livestock, poison wildlife (food for some), and pollute resources is an aggressive act. This is done without the consent of those affected. 

MYTH: “Pesticides are safe when used according to label directions.”

TRUTH: We hear continuing reports from farmworkers who are sickened by exposure to pesticides in the fields where they work. Farmworkers who are sickened by exposure to pesticides in the fields have many reasons for hesitating to ask questions or express a grievance. Scientific reports show low sperm counts, birth defects, fertility problems, from neonics (endocrine disruptors) which are considered low risk pesticides. There are also reports that safety training is superficial and does not adequately explain the risks if someone does not follow the label instructions. There is no information on the label about cumulative risks and synergistic effects and whether the formulation is more risky than the active ingredient.

Public health professionals around the world talk about One Health, the combination of ecological, human, social health, and others talk a bit more broadly about Planetary Health.[Garnier, et. al. 2020]

“Farmworkers who are sickened by exposure to pesticides in the fields have many reasons for hesitating to ask questions or express a grievance.”

MYTH: “American farmers need to feed the world.”

TRUTH: It is true that the climate crisis, supply line disruption, and political unrest point to food shortages and famine. Someone in the world is dying of hunger every four seconds. As a parent I empathize with parents watching a child die for lack of food. But the solution is not shiploads of devitalized GMO corn and dairy milk powders from cows living on GMO feed. Solution: pay for the loss and damage to countries suffering climate impacts who did nothing to cause it, ensuring that it goes into capacity-building for small-holder agroecosystem restoration.

Industrial agriculture to feed 30% of the world’s population is using 80% of the world’s land, water, and fertilizer. Smallholder farmers with less than five hectares of land feed 70% of the world with resources that they regenerate. 

There are effective ways to help these small farmers be successful, such as appropriate trade agreements and political alignments so that farmers in poor nations can compete with internal and external corporate agriculture interests, make land-grabbing and water-grabbing by US-based entities illegal, and invest in restoration of land and small water cycles for resilience to climate impacts. America needs to overhaul every US AID program from food aid that destroys markets for local farmers to Farmer to Farmer that arrogantly exports myths about industrial agriculture efficiency. The world would benefit if American farmers focused on their own soil conservation and crop diversification, including increased perennial cropping and cover cropping for climate and economic resilience. They could even consider welcoming immigrants seeking asylum as neighbors and co-learners in rural resilience strategies.

MYTH: “It will take a long time to turn around a chemical input-based farm.”

Truth: Soil Food Web trained consultants and regenerative agriculture consultants have successfully reversed degraded fields in one season with experienced help. The knowledge and experience in soil and sap analysis works to dramatically reduce fertilizer and pesticide use and tillage. The duration depends on soil type, compaction, weather or climate, and the level of soil degradation.

John Kempf of Advancing Eco Agriculture uses primarily sap analysis to plan foliar nutrient sprays and soil inoculants to ensure healthy plants and a healthy plant microbiome to produce a good crop. Soil Food Web technicians ensure high quality compost is used for side dressing, teas and extracts, determine what functional groups of bacteria, fungi, protozoa and nematodes are missing, and suggest appropriate practices and inputs to build life in the soil. 

It often used to take three to five years to repair degraded soil and it still can in some soils, but with skilled, experienced help it now takes less time. It is an existential imperative to start now. We need to sequester carbon in soil and we can reduce pesticide use when plants are healthy and don’t have pests. 

When we get it right we can transform a desolate, degraded landscape into a lush, productive, veritable paradise in a couple years. What do you want for your legacy?

“It is an existential imperative to start now because of the potential for biological carbon sequestration.”

MYTH: PCAs are well trained and licensed to protect the public health.

TRUTH: The words of Robert van den Bosch in 1978 could have been written today:

“The examination and licensing law has been a severe setback to the development of a rational pest-control system in California, because it drapes the pesticide salesman with a mantle of professional respectability and thereby enhances the myth that he offers competent and objective advice on pest-control problems. Now when the salesman flashes his business card to a prospective customer, it bears the impressive title licensed pest control adviser, and this title is backed by a document bearing the seal of the great state of California. The salesmen are so proud of their newly achieved respectability that they have formed an organization, the Council of California Agricultural Pest Control Advisers, to advertise their transition from peddlers to “professionals.” But despite their instant professionalization, they remain salesmen, and rational pest control suffers because of their legally sanctioned camouflage. California’s Agricultural Pest Control Advisory Committee, with its inclusion of chemical company employees and a pest-control operator (spray applicator), fortifies the misconception that pest control and chemical control are essentially synonymous….Thanks to the politics of pest control, the pest-management advisory profession seems destined to decades of mediocrity, and the environment to a continuing biocidal blight.” Van den Bosch (p.96-7) 

“Integrated control is simply rational pest control: the fitting together of information, decision-making criteria, methods, and materials with naturally occurring pest mortality into effective and redeeming pest-management systems.” Van den Bosch (p.151) 

Thanks to the politics of pest control, the pest-management advisory profession seems destined to decades of mediocrity, and the environment to a continuing biocidal blight.” Van den Bosch (p.96-7) 

MYTH: Access to a suite of effective and feasible ‘alternatives’ to high-risk pesticides” is what is most needed to reduce economic risk.

TRUTH: This is the “efficiency/substitution” attempt to stay within a chemical input-based farming system. In chemical farming systems “alternatives” generally refer to chemical pesticides.  However, every crop can be grown in a biodiversity-based farming system that best mitigates every risk. For resiliency we need to move to biodiversity-based or regenerative farming systems. The reduction of risk is primarily in whether the farmer is open to increasing biodiversification. Reliance on cheap pesticides is a major economic risk growers bring on themselves. Greater profitability is achieved when healthy soils yield healthy plants that need few inputs.

MYTH: PCA certification is working, we don’t need to fix it.

TRUTH: Martin Guerena, Sustainable AGriculture Program Specialist, with private non-profit National Center for Appropriate Technology–ATTRA, made these observations about the challenges for Pest Control Advisors: 

Especially with annual vegetable and strawberry growers, Martin Guerena observes that a lot of them would spray regardless of a need.”It was like insurance. And a lot of times it was not needed, yet they sleep better knowing the product has been sprayed, especially about two weeks before harvest, maybe even a week before harvest, just so when they get to harvest there won’t be an issue. It’s twisted. But that’s how it is. And I’m sure just those two factors alone would reduce useless use of pesticides tremendously.”

“The structural issue of PCA sales incentives must be fixed. Incentives to sell chemicals trump good sense.  Scouting needs to become a serious trained occupation, paid for unbiased, high quality information.  Chemical sales consultants should stop masquerading as knowledgeable agronomists.  Making this happen seems both essential and very difficult….The fact that PCAs working for chemical companies work on commission, so the more they sell, they are stimulated or incentivized to sell more chemicals than are actually needed. That is a big political issue.” 

No matter how much training and additional certifications are added, unless the conflict of interest occurring when people receive commissions on pesticide sales is addressed, this critical role in pest management advising for farmers will bias farming toward synthetic pesticide use. Pay PCAs a good flat rate with no commission, and then have them recommend whatever they need to recommend. But with a commission on how many pesticides they sell, of course, the more they sell the more money they are going to make.   

California Code for Pest Control Advisor Regulations must be amended to require (a) Each licensed agricultural pest control adviser and grower, when determining if and when to use a pesticide that requires a permit, shall write up a biological and/or organic treatment methodology for consideration, which would substantially lessen any significant adverse impact on the environment.

Amend Code 6556 to read:  Each recommendation shall include: (e) Certification that written methodology of biological and/or organic treatment measures that would substantially lessen any significant adverse impact on the environment have been shared with the grower (or written by the grower who is also a PCA).  The code must delete “if feasible” because every crop in California can be grown organically.

A standing advisory committee is needed to guide the development and continual improvement of SPM educational curricula, composed primarily of entomology and agroecology instructors at state and community colleges.

Pay PCAs a good flat rate with no commission, and then have them recommend whatever they need to recommend.

MYTH: Transforming agriculture to regenerative will not reverse climate change. The models forecast uncertain capacity to sequester carbon.

TRUTH: This negative prognosis is the result of reductionist framing, that the whole is the sum of the parts. It is ignorant of the emergent properties of complex systems that are more than the sum of their parts. 

We are looking at horribly degraded landscapes. When people colonized California they killed the beavers, cut the trees, overgrazed with cattle, plowed, fertilized and poisoned with pesticides that reduce the capacity of living soil to sequester carbon. Glyphosate herbicides are ubiquitous even in government programs for soil conservation. Never mind that they chelate minerals so they are unavailable to the plants, compromising plant health, reducing their defenses against pests. The landscape we now see will not pull carbon dioxide from the air in any great quantities. We can realize a better future, by transforming our agriculture to intensive horticulture, creating food forests, providing meaningful work, food, clothing, supply medicine, restore small water cycles, buffer weather extremes, and move our economy of scarcity to one of abundance. With directed work we can recreate a paradise on Earth.[Kravcik, 2012]

Cautious estimates of carbon sequestration look at increasing organic matter in the top six inches of soil, the plow share. With perennial agriculture, we can look at increasing organic matter in the top 2 meters of soil, with no practical limit on how much carbon it can hold. Of course we are not looking at a static situation, we are talking about increasing the cycling of carbon, through a living system.

Our landscape has been de-watered. We are causing warming and drought by the way we manage the land. If we increase the latent heat of evaporation by covering the soil and moving to perennial crops, rain will sink into the ground and be available to grow trees which cool the earth, recreating small water cycles.This is the same process as when you get out of the pool and the wind blows and you feel cold as the water evaporates from your skin. When we plant a 100 km2 area (about 40 square miles) with trees, we change the weather. 

The California Air Resources Board unfortunately appears to believe that the available models are all they have on which to base incentivizes for carbon farming. We suggest that time is wasting given that there are people who have the necessary knowledge and experience to speed up the transition to biodiversity-based farming systems characterized by deep roots, high microbial and carbon levels, and reduced pests and pesticides. We need to charge in with ambitious goals within a plan of adaptive management and on-going evaluation.

REFERENCES:

Boedeker, W., Watts, M., Clausing, P. et al. The global distribution of acute unintentional pesticide poisoning: estimations based on a systematic review. BMC Public Health 20, 1875 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-020-09939-0

California Code of Regulations (Title 3. Food and Agriculture) Division 6. Pesticides and Pest Control Operations, Chapter 2. Pesticides, Subchapter 4. Restricted Materials,  Article 3. Permit System

Fagan, J., Antoniou, M., Robinson, C. GMO Myths and Truths–An evidence-based examination of the claims made for the safety and efficacy of genetically modified crops and foods. 2014, EarthOpenSource, 2nd Ed.

Garnier, J., Savic, S., Boriani, E. et al. Helping to heal nature and ourselves through human-rights-based and gender-responsive One Health. One Health Outlook 2, 22 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1186/s42522-020-00029-0

Kravcik, M. Water for the Recovery of the Climate – A New Water Paradigm, 2012.

Van den Bosch, R. The Pesticide Conspiracy, 1978. Reprint University of California Press.

Verhaag, Bertram and Verena Schonauer (Directors), Arpad Pusztai, Ignacio Chapela, Scientists Under Attack: Genetic Engineering in the Magnetic Field of Money, 2009 Documentary film 88 min.

Our Vision for Successful SPM – Part 7: What has to be different for SPM? [Hint: Life]

Ron Whitehurst, PCA and owner Rincon-Vitova Insectaries, Inc.

“Working with these species in a bio-diverse agroecosystem will require specific training and the ability to evaluate the pest-crop-beneficial input dynamic in very diverse locations. Biological control is a cornerstone of IPM.” – Entomologist Lynn LeBeck, Executive Director, Association of Natural Biocontrol Producers 

In biodiversity-based farming systems, also referred to as regenerative organic, farmers reduce inputs and increase profit through building soil and plant health and increasing biodiversity. Sustainable Pest Management (SPM) recognizes that successfully transitioned regenerative organic farms have few pest problems and little or no pesticide use. This is because natural control is achieved by the presence of a pests’ natural enemies maintaining a proportionately high ratio. To support the transition to regenerative organic farming, monitoring and interventions related to biological control is a major field for Research and Extension investment along with development of new effective biopesticides for the Roadmap to achieve its goals. For six decades the centrality of biological control has been understood by leaders of thought about pest management.

In this article we survey contributions to the history of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) to understand why it has not prevented pest infestations, nor reduced the number of new pesticides or the level of their use, and explore what needs to be different when using Sustainable Pest Management (SPM).

1959 EVERETT DIETRICK AND IPM’S FORERUNNER “SUPERVISED CONTROL”  

My mentor, Deke, left the University of California Citrus Research Station because there was no more funding to do biological control research. He wrote, 

“UC Farm Advisors and county agents in addition to the UC researchers in the Department of Entomology were particularly supportive of pesticides.  Only a very few would carry on a dialog about integrated control and least of all IPM.  Their mantra was to apply pesticides whenever what was left of the natural biological control failed and of course it failed when broad spectrum chemicals were applied.  Integrated control was monitoring and spraying every time the economic threshold was reached.” [Unpublished memoirs]

He built a business mass-producing beneficial insects and selling a service to farmers that he called “Supervised Control”.

Deke’s insights and enthusiasm convinced farmers in the Imperial and Coachella Valleys to stop calendar DDT spraying of cotton by selling egg parasitoid wasps (Trichogramma) for cotton bollworm.  Having learned during twelve years with the University of California Department of Biological Control surveying insect ecology on “untreated” farms  in the years prior to “organic”,  his business expanded with a dozen Supervised Control consultants using applied biological control instead of pesticides, successfully persuading farmers of the method’s effectiveness.  

During such conversations with farmers, he often listened for the moment when a farmer was visualizing the interaction of the problem pest and the “natural enemy complex” on his or her farm, as the farmer would eventually ask a question about how the insect ecology worked if you introduced natural enemies. Deke would say, “Food drives all these systems.” As that understanding sank in, the farmer stopped being fearful and began to show curiosity about how to observe insect ecology. Once he or she recognized that both monitoring information and consideration of alternative actions focused on conserving natural enemies, the farmer rarely ever resorted to chemical pesticides again. These are the same principles, features, and pedagogy that direct our company Rincon-Vitova Insectaries today.

1973 LICENSING OF PEST CONTROL ADVISORS (PCAS) IN CALIFORNIA

Deke recalled passing the exam in all categories in 1974. He wrote, 

“There was nothing written or questions asked about the ecological basis of pest management and natural biological control. It seems that IPM is all about chemicals and mortality from these powerful pesticides and not about beneficial insects and the interference of the pesticide applications to the work of these biological control organisms. Applied biological control organisms were not covered, nor was there anything suggesting that natural enemies are destroyed in a blowback and resurgence of pests following a pesticide application.” [Unpublished memoirs]

1986 ECOLOGICAL THEORY AND INTEGRATED PEST MANAGEMENT PRACTICE, ed Marcos Kogan

Clara Nichols and Miguel Altieri in their book chapter entitled “Agroecology: contributions towards a renewed ecological foundation for pest management”, explain the theoretical principles about transition in a farming system framework. They state that the desirable attributes of stability and resource conservation “are connected to the higher levels of functional biodiversity associated with complex farming systems.”  It is clear, they say (referring to Southwood and Way, 1970) that insect population stability depends on “the actual density-dependence nature of the trophic levels”, not just on trophic diversity, specifically on who eats who.

In other words, stability will depend on the precision of the response of any particular trophic link to an increase in the population at a lower level.” 

They also had this to say about biodiversity-based farming systems: 

“Diverse systems encourage complex food webs which entail more potential connections and interactions among members, and many alternative paths of energy and material flow through it. For this and other reasons a more complex community exhibits more stable production and less fluctuations in the numbers of undesirable organisms.”

1994 INTEGRATED PEST MANAGEMENT: THE PATH OF A PARADIGM by James R. Cate and Maureen Kuwano Hinkle. Excerpts from recommendations, pages 30-33:

  • The first need is…a clearly articulated definition of IPM that goes beyond use of monitoring and economic thresholds restoring the ecological basis of IPM.
  • Regulatory incentives can encourage the development and registration of biological alternative products.
  • Pest management should be directed at developing solutions that provide durable, long-term controls [by] a systematic assessment of key pests and the nature of the ecological upset or imbalance that has caused a pest problem.
  • Funding of programs needs to be maintained over a decade or more and implementation projects often require three to six-year commitments. 
  • Funding needs to be allocated in a way that avoids agency competition, turf disputes, and conflicting purposes [in a] competitive grants program of basic research, mission-oriented research, and implementation grants…
  • Adoption by farmers…is best accomplished by having the users be active participants in the development and implementation teams….A team building structure would help to diffuse technological advances quickly and establish a social and cultural receptivity to continued practice and improvement of IPM…
  • The advice should not be influenced by the commercial need to generate sales of specific products. 
  • Inducements could be in the form of crop risk insurance for users and private crop consultants and in the form of IPM program development incentives to users, particularly during the transitional periods when growers are moving to ecologically based management from chemically based management.
  • Inducements could also be in the form of predictive models and information that can be used by consultants and users to forecast pest population models and seasonal growth of crops, pest populations, and populations of biological control agents. 
  • Pest management cooperatives could be encouraged with incentives to assist farmers and neighbors in addressing pest problems in area-wide and systematic ways.
  • Building on the scientific principles that support an ecologically based IPM, and the original concepts of Integrated Control, IPM is a useful organizing principle around which utilization of all technologies can be integrated—biological controls, host resistance to pests, biotechnology, alteration of the cropping system, etc.— to facilitate natural controls or antagonists of the pest or to create a more unfavorable environment for the pest. By focusing on the basic causes… and appropriately addressing different types of pests, we can manage pest populations so they no longer damage crops, goods and human health.

1996 NAS: EBPM

National Academy of Science report (1996), Ecologically Based Pest Management (EBPM) stated that EBPM “should be based on a broad knowledge of the agro-ecosystem and will seek to manage rather than eliminate pests” in ways that are “profitable, safe, and durable.” Its vision was the transition of agriculture to a total-system approach in an agroecological framework.

1997 NAS: TOTAL SYSTEM APPROACH TO SPM 

National Academy of Science (1997) Proceedings paper, “A Total System Approach to Sustainable Pest Management,” went further in calling for “a fundamental shift to a total-system approach for crop protection [which] is urgently needed to resolve escalatory economic and environmental consequences of combating agricultural pests.”  Successful transition to SPM operates in the context of the type of farming system in which one is working. In the context of a new Roadmap for Sustainable Pest Management, we need to be unambiguous about which “system” we are referring to.

2005 SARE GUIDE TO ECOLOGICAL STRATEGIES

As plants developed inherent protective mechanisms against pests, they were assisted by numerous partners in the ecosystem, including:

A total-system approach was then well described in Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) Handbook 7, Manage Insects on Your Farm – A Guide to Ecological Strategies (2005) by Miguel A. Altieri and Clara I. Nicholls with Marlene A. Fritz. They wrote that EBPM (EPM for short)

employs tactics that have existed in natural ecosystems for thousands of years. Since the beginning of agriculture— indeed, long before then — plants co-evolved with pests and with the natural enemies of those pests. 

  • Beneficial insects that attack crop-eating insects and mites by chewing them up or sucking out their juices
  • Beneficial parasites, which commandeer pests for habitat or food
  • Disease-causing organisms, including fungi, bacteria, viruses, protozoa and nematodes, that fatally sicken insects or keep them from feeding or reproducing. These types of organisms also attack weeds.
  • Insects such as ground beetles that consume weed seeds
  • Beneficial fungi and bacteria that inhabit root surfaces, blocking attack by disease organisms” [page 2]  

2021 “THE FUTURE OF ORGANIC INSECT PEST MANAGEMENT: BE A BETTER ENTOMOLOGIST OR PAY FOR SOMEONE WHO IS”, by David Headrick

As he explains in this paper, David Headrick, Professor of IPM and Biological Control at Cal Poly SLO, trains PCAs and sees them as a critical link in the transfer of knowledge and skills to the growers for site-specific problem-solving, toward a goal of diverse cropping systems. He also explains that the California State Universities (CSUs) are the primary educational institutions training future PCAs.  So, the CSUs must be included in the discussion regarding implementation. 

Dr. Headrick sees a continuum from chemical-reliant systems to biological-dependent systems, but he supports the framework we have adopted of a continuum of three basic types of farming systems: chemical input-based, biological input-based and biodiversity-based.

Dr. David Headrick in “Scouting for pests – Virtual Avocado Field Day at Cal Poly” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7EB9rjkke7g 

There may currently be more progress in other parts of the world where public investments are addressing the climate crisis. INRA, the French National Institute for Agricultural Research, began publishing papers in 2015 about a framework for study of farms in transition. Beginning in 2020, it merged with IRSTEA, the French National Research Institute of Science and Technology for the Environment and Agriculture to form INRAE, the French National Research Institute for Agriculture, Food and Environment, creating a critical research mass and pooling of labs and observatories, technical platforms, data repositories, etc. making it uniquely able to perform valuable research on the preservation and restoration of biodiversity and risk anticipation and management, as well as regional agricultural strategies, water resources, digital agriculture, and more. 

The INRA, now INRAE, framework for characterizing farming systems informs the following discussion:

CHEMICAL INPUT-BASED FARMING SYSTEMS

Deke called these systems Conventional Chemical Control (CCC) to distinguish them from Biological Control by Natural Enemies (BC by NE) systems. He often described very different interventions in such systems belonging to neighbors or family members growing the same crops. “Both are right”, he said, “because what works in a BC by NE system won’t work in a CCC system.” 

At one end of the spectrum are chemical input-based systems under eradication programs for invasive species. Since the pest is usually eventually declared established and the state can no longer conduct area-wide eradication, as Dr. David Headrick explains to his Plant Protection students, “Then it’s biological control to the rescue for a long-term solution to avoid economic losses and having to use insecticides.” This leads to a discussion of the problem of pesticide resistance and how to manage that by alternating pesticides with different modes of action. Since their inception, bio-control entomologists have advocated against total eradication programs, because they practically never succeed and the spraying is highly disruptive. 

Another characteristic of chemical input-based farming systems is the degree to which they are embedded in globalized commodity-based food systems that favor large growers and distributors far removed from consumers and end-users. This allows producers to be invisible and thus less accountable for negative health and ecosystem impacts. The Roadmap toward SPM is timely because opposition to the resulting pollution and lack of accountability is steadily growing. 

BIOLOGICAL INPUT-BASED VERSUS BIODIVERSITY-BASED FARMING SYSTEMS

Distinguishing between biological input-based and biodiversity-based farming systems in the pest management transition continuum is increasingly important. Differences lie not only in the relationship between biodiversity and biological control of pests described above.  We now have insights that increasing biodiversity is correlated with accelerated timelines and community tipping points when sufficient multiple species are growing together. Beneficial increases in measures of soil health, carbon sequestration, plant fertility, pest resistance, water penetration and water-holding capacity, and resilience to climate impacts all result.  Past understandings of risk to benefit ratios and economics are shifting toward a wider scope of valuable characteristics not always found on typical organic farms that are biological input-based systems. 

Biological input-based systems (most organic acreage in California) are still usually relatively simple systems and not evolved to provide much in the way of the above-described biodiversity benefits compared to what is experienced in regenerative farming systems that build on the best practices for soil aeration, hydration, protection and fertility with well-developed and conserved soil microbial biodiversity and habitat enhancements for natural enemies.  Biological input-based farming systems are a middle area of the continuum between chemical inputs and biodiversity-based systems that have more complexity and more resilience with fewer inputs.

The “efficiency/substitution” paradigm analyzed by INRAE scientists, especially when it prioritizes “alternatives” without the end-goal of biodiversity, limits the language and patterns of thinking in contrast to a more biodiversity-based paradigm for transition. Successful consultants in regenerative agriculture within our network quickly recognize the limiting belief that soft chemical or biopesticides are essential for SPM.  Experts holding the paradigm of “efficiency/substitution” are understandably averse to setting goals for transition to organic, because from a farming system perspective it is far from perfect with some strict prohibitions that are not pragmatic. 

However, there is no doubt that the organic label from a policy and economic perspective will drive adoption of SPM. The federal government is investing in transition to organic and the state must do so as well by removing all fees and inspection costs, by providing a full day of expert consultation toward an Organic Farm Plan, and by requiring the public kitchens purpose increasing percentages of local organic products. Organic farming systems are not the objective, but rather a stepping-stone on the path to regenerative biodiversity-based farming systems. The marketing value of the organic label cannot be squandered. It is the ideal metric for incentivizing accelerated soil carbon sequestration and advancing SPM. Buyers can be educated and also in some cases required by their institutions to seek out those inquisitive, determined, pioneering organic farmers that have at least begun to care for the soil and wildlife, have stopped toxic chemical inputs, and are on the path to profitable biodiversity-based farming systems. 

Hence, the SPM Roadmap must feature the recognized co-benefits of biodiversity PLUS the following: 

  1. Biodiversity-based systems offer long-term success that is unlikely when “alternatives” and substitution of soft chemical and biopesticides are disproportionately spotlighted in the middle part of the farming system continuum. 
  2. The organic label is the most powerful metric to drive consumer investment and rapidly scale transition regardless of the scientific rationale of the standards or the net value to farmers of inputs and practices. If there are anomalies or absurdities in the Organic Standard, they can be fixed while focusing investment in transition to organic. 
  3. Regenerative organic agriculture is trending and is powerful in featuring incentives beyond the basic organic label, because of its focus on soil carbon and potential carbon or eco-credits, not to mention it providing the greatest economic and ecological resilience or the farmer. 

BEWARE OF ‘ALTERNATIVES’

We don’t want alternatives. We want to do what is actually most effective for the long term. The limiting paradigm of “efficiency/substitution”-based agriculture and the limits of a “sustainable agriculture” framework are discussed in two papers from the preeminent research team at INRA [Duru et.al. 2015; Therond, et.al. 2017]. In the Duru paper the limiting aspect of the “efficiency/substitution paradigm” relative to the “biodiversity paradigm” is discussed. Framing transition in an “alternative or substitution mindset” will increasingly limit capacity to do what is most effective in the long-term. “Substitution thinking”, in fact, has already led to unfarmable land because of climate impacts. That is just the beginning of the difficulties that lie ahead.

“Efficiency/substitution” farming systems are often held up as “Best Management Practices” in a hierarchy of recommendations in UC-IPM publications with conventional chemical control presented FIRST and biological control presented as a chemical substitution or alternative. As such, the University of California imposes a top-down hierarchy of upside-down guidelines resulting from partnering with the companies selling patented products for profit.  The aim of these companies, and the researchers funded by them, is increasing efficiency and reducing costs and pollution by comparing a lower-risk alternative with a chemical control in a chemical input-dependent farming system test plot. Where is the biodiversity-based control?

At the meetings where Pest Control Advisor’s pay to receive Continuing Education Units, they generally hear product representatives and Farm Advisors sharing new information about which product killed more pests and what additional crops a pesticide produce label now covers. There is nothing on a chemical label about approved use of a product on a farm in transition away from being chemical input-based, such as potentially spot spraying based on a modified action level. Experts teach that their findings are uniformly applicable across all farms. By contrast, what if there were CEUs given for PCAs to learn how to recognize or build a biodiverse, problem-free system anticipating no need for alternatives to chemical pesticides?

I made a proposal recently to talk about biological control and cover crops that was rejected by DPR for CEUs. Our General Manager with nearly two decades of experience helping customers manage pests biologically was required to take twelve hours of courses in production farming and IPM centered around pesticide laws and regulations. She can now take the PCA exam and little to no questions will reveal the depth of her knowledge about SPM. The current dominance of the “efficiency/substitution” paradigm needs to change.  The pendulum seems to swing back and forth regarding acceptance of CEU’s for ecological approaches.

Farmers who demand urgent availability of “alternative” products before agreeing to consider changes in their practices are seriously hurting themselves. Climate impacts and particularly water shortages will teach them that they should have prioritized transition and said goodbye to pest management tools that hold them back.  The Roadmap should nowhere even faintly suggest that “alternative” inputs are the end-goal for SPM when we know that durable transition is attainable by increasing above- and below-ground biodiversity with its co-benefits, including low incidence of pest problems. 

In the words of Dr. Annemiek Schilder, Director of the Ventura County University of California Cooperative Extension office, 

“In the end, it is all about increasing biodiversity across the system, from the soil and roots to above-ground plant parts to the landscape and region, to increase efficacy and resiliency/robustness of the agroecosystem. There is a lot we don’t know, especially how soil health affects plant health….Within this, there needs to be a focus on understanding ecological principles, interactions and population dynamics of beneficial and pest species, as well as the role of and how to measure farm biodiversity. Also, is all biodiversity good or do we need specific components for a pest/disease-suppressive system?”

Dr. David Headrick, Entomology Professor at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo also encourages research that helps discriminate about how to diversify the cropping pattern: 

“In thinking about the tactic of diversifying the farmscape, I hope that the SPM workgroup can appreciate and acknowledge that diversification of an agroecosystem occurs on a spectrum.  On one end of the spectrum you can have the addition of a single plant to a monocrop; on the other end of the spectrum you can have hedgerows and insectary plantings in a polyculture farmscape.  It would be wrong not to acknowledge the efforts of current growers in Salinas in diversification.  Twenty years ago, the standard method for aphid control in row crops was an early application of Metasystox-R, an extremely dangerous systemic organo-phosphate.  But now many of them plant sweet alyssum to attract syrphid fly predators and get excellent control of aphids. This is thanks to the work of Eric Brennen with the USDA-ARS at his organic research farm in Salinas, and others.  By adding one additional plant – increasing the diversity of the cropping system – they have an excellent tool that invokes the natural aphid control provided by naturally occurring syrphid flies.”  

“So, on one end of the spectrum, we can have a single plant increasing the diversity of a monocrop that eliminates the need for one of the worst insecticides.  To me that is remarkable, worthy of note and is a significant step on the Roadmap toward Sustainable Pest Management and should be acknowledged as such.  This example also shows the successful collaboration of the research and grower communities.  At first, the alyssum was planted in several rows throughout the field, but growers were concerned about reduced productivity.  Dr. Eric Brennan, USDA/ARS Research Horticulturist and specialist in organic and climate-smart farming in Salinas, has been extending research done by Bugg et. al. (2008) showing that alyssum plants could be placed randomly in the fields at much reduced numbers and still maintain excellent aphid control without compromising productivity.”

The guiding principle that lifts SPM beyond IPM is that natural control is the end goal for successful transition. To help understand why this is so, we need to understand how living organisms communicate with each other in diversified agroecosystems. The interconnectedness has never been much of a feature in the practice of IPM. Nature exercises forces that must be part of the SPM knowledge base. The glimmer of knowledge available about heterospecific and conspecific communication in soil and above-ground food webs helps us appreciate pure entomological research AND respect intuitive ways of knowing. Our ignorance about natural phenomena is boundless compared to the tiny, usually biased glimmer we get from peer reviewed papers. 

For example, underlying plant-insect communication, we now know that by monitoring soil and especially also plant sap, practitioners can assess a plant’s health and capacity to resist pests. We can develop biological action levels for customized foliar nutrient and biostimulant sprays or side-dressings that shift the bioavailability of key nutrients to enhance plant defense mechanisms. Dr. Phillip A. Callahan spent decades researching and reporting on these phenomena showing that a healthy plant emits molecules and low energy electromagnetic waves that essentially repel pests while unhealthy, nutritionally out-of-balance plants attract pests. Dr. Tom Dykstra, a student of Dr. Callahan, founded a lab to continue this study and its application in agriculture.  

As I discussed in Part 6: “New knowledge for pest prevention” other research shows that molecules emitted by healthy plants continue for up to five days to protect neighboring plants [Sharma, et. al 2017]. Healthy plants can detect certain terpenoid molecules that cause an influx of calcium ions and membrane depolarization that can impact an herbivorous insect’s chewing ability.  It requires a lively soil biology for plants to access the calcium, sulfur and other minerals that are there in the soil and have such a widespread effect on the entire ecology including insect physiology. 

Moreover, complex plant communities of at least eight species support each other in the root zone to bump up nutrient cycling and fertility. Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi around plant roots stimulate systemic tritrophic interactions in the soil ecology. Plants living in such lively root systems emit molecules that consistently direct insect behavior. For example,

“All plants synthesize a suite of several hundred terpenoid compounds with roles that include phytohormones, protein modification reagents, anti-oxidants, and more. Different plant lineages also synthesize hundreds of distinct terpenoids, with the total number of such specialized plant terpenoids estimated in the scores of thousands. Phylogenetically restricted terpenoids are implicated in defense or in the attraction of beneficial organisms.” [Pichersky and  Raguso, 2017].

These molecular and bioelectromagnetic phenomena of living ecosystems are important for carbon farming as well as the SPM knowledge base.

The implications of the complexity in biodiversity-based systems seem miraculous. It is a challenge to measure or model the complexity that should characterize living ecosystems. It is generally not a straight-line linear correlation between diversity and systemic functionality such as where tipping points of biodiversity accelerate all healthful functions in the plant, including the amount of deposition of soil organic carbon, nitrogen availability, and molecules involved in defense mechanisms. This hyphal/molecular/bioenergetic/epigenetic world is the boundary where SPM can leave IPM behind.

Board Certified in multiple entomology specialties, my mentor Everett Dietrick studied the scientific literature, attended and sometimes presented at top scientific conferences, and maintained close communication with researchers around the world, but he frequently said that his own repeated observations were equally applicable compared to the knowledge base available in the scientific community. From decades of sweeping with a standard sweepnet and the D-Vac Vacuum Insect Net that he co-invented, his comprehensive monitoring of a field in the farmscape context often yielded exceptional intuitive insights about population dynamics and strategies to tip the balance in favor of natural enemies. Strong training to develop deep curiosity about relationships in the natural world and personal capacity for other ways of knowing will make SPM more successful than IPM in pesticide use reduction. 

###

Altieri, Miguel A. and Clara I. Nicholls with Marlene A. Fritz. Handbook 7, Manage Insects on Your Farm – A Guide to Ecological Strategies. Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE), 2005. 

Bugg R.L., R.G. Colfer, W.E. Chaney, H.A. Smith, J. Cannon. 2008. Flower flies (Syrphidae) and other biological control agents for aphids in vegetable crops, University of California, Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

Callahan, Phillip (1965-1975). 36 published papers summarized on The Free Library page “Electromagnetic communication and olfaction in insects”.

Duru, M., Therond, O., Martin, G. et al. How to implement biodiversity-based agriculture to enhance ecosystem services: a review. Agron. Sustain. Dev. 35, 1259–1281 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13593-015-0306-1

Dykstra, T. How Insect Pests Identify Unhealthy Plants. Regenerative Agriculture Podcast with John Kempf. 

Headrick, David. The Future of Organic Insect Pest Management: Be a Better Entomologist or Pay for Someone Who Is, Insects 2021, 12(2), 140; https://doi.org/10.3390/insects12020140

Nichols, Clara and Miguel Altieri, “Agroecology: contributions towards a renewed ecological foundation for pest management” in Ecological Theory and Integrated Pest Management Practice, ed Marcos Kogan, 1986.

Cate, James R. and Maureen Kuwano Hinkle, Integrated Pest Management: The Path of a Paradigm. Audubon Society, 1994.

National Academy of Science-National Research Council, Ecologically Based Pest Management (EBPM)-New Solutions for a New Century, 1996.

Pichersky, Eran and Robert A. Raguso, Why do plants produce so many terpenoid compounds? New Phytol 2018 Nov;220(3):692-702. doi: 10.1111/nph.14178.

Sharma, E., Anand G., & Kapoor, R. (2017). Terpenoids in plant and arbuscular mycorrhiza-reinforced defense against herbivorous insects. Annals of Botany, Volume 119, Issue 5, March 2017, Pages 791–801, https://doi.org/10.1093/aob/mcw263

Southwood, T. R. E., and M. J. Way. 1970. Ecological background to pest management. Pages 6–28in R. L. Rabb and F. E. Guthrie, eds. Concepts of pest management. North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC.

Therond, O., Duru, M., Roger-Estrade, J. et al. A new analytical framework of farming system and agriculture model diversities. A review. Agron. Sustain. Dev. 37, 21 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13593-017-0429-7

Van Lenteren, J., Sharad C. Phatak, James Tumlinson. “A Total System Approach to Sustainable Pest Management,” National Academy of Science – Proceedings paper,1997. 

__________________________________________________________

Our Vision for Sustainable Pest Management – Part 3: Incentivize regenerative organic and ban disruptive chemical pesticides

by Ron Whitehurst, PCA and co-owner Rincon-Vitova Insectaries, Inc.

“Organic” has different meanings, but the particular meaning that is quite valuable for making state policies is its meaning as “the USDA Organic Label” because it is working to help consumers support the farmers who have moved away from chemical input-based farming. From a farmer’s perspective organic 

The term “regenerative agriculture” also has varied meanings. “Regenerative” is an important term, because it is becoming increasingly recognized to have greater potential for carbon farming and carbon credits that are not as strong a focus in practices required for organic certification. The U. S. House Agriculture Committee recently held a hearing on “Soil Health Practices and Programs that Support Regenerative Agriculture”. “Regenerative organic” was the term they used to describe farming systems that sequester more carbon. There was agreement during the hearing that ‘standards’ for regenerative beyond those developed for the Regenerative Organic Certification label are not necessary. There are many ways to achieve the performance and economic outcomes beyond being organic that are recognizable and highly meaningful for farmers. The consensus advice among those farmers and their consultants walking this road is to just get started and to keep the metrics focused on what soil, leaf and sap analysis shows the crop needs to build soil microbiology and optimum plant health. The baseline is little or no toxic chemical or artificial nitrogen inputs.

“Biodiversity-based” is another useful term to describe a farming system that is getting off of disruptive pesticides. It is used by the preeminent French agricultural research team at INRA, because it is a descriptive rounding out of the concept of a continuum framework for change. The INRA framework and terms are descriptive without making value judgments, with chemical input-based farming systems at one end of the continuum and biodiversity-based at the other end. Biological input-based systems are the ones in-between.

The INRA farming system framework is useful for those reasons, but we also still need to refer to organic and regenerative agriculture if we are serious about getting off of chemical pesticides because organic is how the market supports farmers, and it is measurable and growing, despite red tape, costs, and sometimes frustrating arbitrary standards in the National Organic Program. Regenerative is the term farmers are using to describe the systems changes that are working well for them to transition away from chemical inputs. Finally, a movement is emerging that is being called “regenerative organic” where the economics are favorable and the resilience value is vital. 

Camarillo organic farmer Phil McGrath of McGrath Family of Farmers and his biodiverse habitat border planting.

Transition to organic must be incentivized to scale pesticide use reduction. Public kitchens should be required to spend a gradually increasing part of their budgets on products labeled organic that are grown locally. It is smart to make the most of the developed infrastructure for certifying and inspecting and continuous review of the standards for eliminating use of synthetic pesticides. California’s newly enacted goal of net carbon neutrality by 2045 is going to prioritize investment in organic farms to make more farms sequester more carbon faster. Such farms experience fewer pest problems. The future is bright for achieving ambitious goals, because it is more profitable when farmers learn to grow healthy soils that grow healthy plants that minimize pests.  In a future article we will share more of the science behind that.

The state should incentivize farmers to transition including paying organic fees. Subsidizing the costs to be certified organic is a no-brainer. County jurisdictions can also support local organic farmers. A 2016 survey showed that in counties characterized as an “organic hotspot” the median household income was $2,000 higher and the poverty rate was 1.35% lower (Jaenicke, 2016). Counties may offer favored tax treatment, help with Land Conservation Act contracts, and earn income from carbon farming accreditation. 

Some organic farmers can meet the minimum standards, but are not building the healthiest soil or producing the healthiest plants that resist pests. The standards and inspections do not go deep enough to ensure systemic changes that are considered regenerative or biodiversity-based. The biological inputs allowed in organic can be costly and disruptive to biodiversity and biological control. Yet, organic certification of acreage is a ready benchmark, because it says that the farmer is moving toward a farming system that serves the state’s goals.  Not only should we use the metric of “percent of farm acreage in organic” to measure progress, we should also incentivize farmers to become certified in ANY comparable label, e.g.  Real Organic Project, Regenerative Organic Certification, and the Demeter Biodynamic Certification. Consumers keep learning how and why to support the more resilient biodiversity-based farms that protect people and biodiversity. 

Our goal can be that organic acreage reaches 30% of all California farmland by 2030 from 4% last year, and to 80% by 2040. 

Meanwhile, what do we do with all these toxic pesticides? First, we should develop and promulgate real SPM alternatives and enforce laws that require the consideration of alternatives. Agriculture Commissions provide limited transparency and consistency about compliance with state law to consider alternatives before permitting use of Danger and Warning signal word registered materials. 

Create a Community Support Fund to provide direct protections from Danger and Warning signal word registered pesticides. This includes buffer zones, indoor home air purifiers/filters, tarping of all fumigations, personal protective equipment and other actions that minimize synthetic pesticide exposure for people nearby. There is additionally an urgent need for cancer cluster studies and other exposure programs to identify and help communities burdened with chronic health impacts. Decisions on how the fund is spent are the prerogative of those most impacted by pesticide use. 

Notify interested people of intent to use pesticides via texts or emails at least 72 hours before site-specific intent to use all Danger and Warning signal word pesticides (not just Restricted Materials). A notification program should be done for all products with potential acute or chronic risk to people on and near the site. Access must be available to those not living nearby, e.g. consultants and migrant laborers who need to know when toxic chemicals are planned before traveling to a farm.

Ban neonics. They were supposedly proven to have very low mammalian toxicity, but with time we’ve found that neonics are associated with damage to nerve cells and developmental and reproductive problems, including congenital heart and brain defects in which a large part of the skull is absent along with the cerebral hemispheres of the brain. There are also associations with autism and a disorder involving both memory loss and finger tremor. It is ironic that the macho act of spraying pesticides to kill and dominate pests results in effeminized male offspring. Touted as low-risk because users didn’t die immediately and the disastrous effects on pollinators were buried and suppressed through the influence of manufacturers. The EPA has been captured. Harm to reproductive organs was not studied and the other findings have not been taken seriously. [Omidashk et.al. 2022]

Ban glyphosate. FDA scientists determined in 1984 that this active ingredient in herbicides like Roundup is a human carcinogen, but there were internal EPA disagreements about the significance of the finding.  A 2001 study again showed malignant lymphoma in mice exposed to glyphosate. A follow-up study concluded glyphosate exposure can result in liver and kidney damage. A literature review in 2015 showed birth defects, tumors and liver damage at doses below the dose that industry tests deemed safe.  Other animal studies show endocrine disruption, reproductive and developmental damage, including damage to sperm, damage to DNA, and neurotoxicity. [Robinson, et.al. 2018] 

Diagram of different negative effects of glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup herbicide. Formulated herbicides with glyphosate are 10 to 100 times more toxic than glyphosate,
depending on target species.

Ban pesticides whose toxicity tests have been determined to have been falsified. The toxicity studies on glyphosate and Roundup have been shown in public records requests from EPA to have been falsified, likewise the studies of Chlorpyrifos effects on pollinators that finally led to California banning it. What other tests were manipulated to pass safety tests? The harmful physiological effects of paraquat and rotenone are undisputed, but the epidemiological studies for relationship to Parkinson’s Disease and cardiac disease are mixed. Is the data from necessary two-year animal studies trustworthy? At least 85 pesticides have been banned in China, Brazil, or the European Union that were still used in the U.S. in 2016 and that number has almost certainly increased. 

Ban pesticide formulations that have not been the subject of long-term safety studies. There is strong evidence that adjuvants contained in pesticide formulations can be highly toxic compared to the active ingredient alone. The formulation of  herbicides containing glyphosate have never been the subject of long-term safety studies.The actual product that we are exposed to must be tested, otherwise all safety claims are bogus. [Cox and Zeiss 2022]

Ban all pesticides that make people sick. Consider people who don’t have significant input into the decision about whether to register the pesticide. Farmers put toxins into the environment, the commons, that cause their neighbors harm, using a license from the state.  Financial considerations have been more important to DPR than protecting public health. Or as Will Rogers, Cherokee and cowboy humorist, said, “we have the best government that money can buy.”

Decrease use of and phase out pesticides that may contribute to cumulative effects, gut microbiome disruption, and Toxicant Induced Loss of Tolerance (TILT) in which the nervous system reacts in a wide array of symptoms after low-level chemical exposures. Dr. Claudia Miller professor emerita at the University of Texas San Antonio raises connections to a wide range of public health diseases in numerous peer-reviewed publications, and the professionally acclaimed book, Chemical Exposures: Low Levels and High Stakes reporting on the failure of the regulatory system to fully evaluate and control for the range of adverse effects of pesticides and complexity of their interactions. 

Eliminate all toxic chemical pesticides by 2040 leaving only OMRI-approved products with no exceptions for emergency use for longer than three years. It took decades to finally get rid of methyl bromide after it was banned. 

In conclusion, banning toxic pesticides is easy when we are achieving the economic and resilience benefits of transition to regenerative organic agriculture and biodiversity-based farming systems.  Citizens of California are asking the state for relief from harm. Do not register toxic, hazardous, pesticides that make people sick and cause reproductive harm. Include actions to protect communities, particularly when we are just beginning to meet long-range reduction targets. Our system of evaluating toxicity and negative effects of pesticides is flawed. Particularly if we know these pesticides are causing harm, then the time to ban them is immediately. If the Roadmap aims for a 90% reduction in residues in soil, we need to start now, as the pesticide half-life must be taken into account, with some more persistent than others.  

References

Cox, Caroline and Michael Zeiss. “Health, Pesticide Adjuvants, and Inert Ingredients: California Case Study Illustrates Need for Data Access”. Environmental Health Perspectives, 130:8, Aug 2022.

Delta Institute and Earth Economics (2017). “Valuing the Ecosystem Service Benefits from Regenerative Agriculture Practices–Farmland LP 2017 Impact Report”.

Jaenicke, E. Penn State Ag Economist. (2016) U.S. Organic Hotspots and their Benefit to Local Economies prepared for Organic Trade Association https://ota.com/sites/default/files/indexed_files/OTA-HotSpotsWhitePaper-OnlineVersion.pdf

Omidakhsh, Negar, Julia E. Heck, Myles Cockburn, Chenxiao Ling, Jerome M. Hershman, and Avital Harari, “Thyroid Cancer and Pesticide Use in a Central California Agricultural Area: A Case Control Study”, The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 2022, XX, 1–9

Robinson, C., Antoniou, M., and Fagan, J. GMO Myths and Truths, 2018. Pp 149-162.

Our Vision for Sustainable Pest Management Part 2: Defining how SPM actions relate to each other- Rev 9/23/22 

by Ron Whitehurst, PCA, and co-owner Rincon-Vitova Insectaries, Inc.

DEFINITIONS ARE CRITICALLY IMPORTANT

We sometimes hear people talk about “biologicals” as if the word is interchangeable with biological control. It is an example of lack of understanding about the full meaning of biological control in the transition away from conventional chemical control. Agreement on the vocabulary for agroecology, insect ecology and biological control is essential for productive conversations and successful pest management. 

We like to use definitions from Biological Control by Natural Enemies (1974) by Paul DeBach modified by Huffacker and Dahlston to include antagonists of plant pathogens. These align with those used by David Headrick, Professor of Agricultural Entomology, Biological Control of Agricultural Pests, Vertebrate and Insect Pest Management in the Plant Protection Science Program at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. 

In a recent personal communication, Dr. Headrick wrote:

“Definitions are critically important, and I am particularly frustrated by the blurring of the lines on what is and isn’t biological control throughout the industry.  I agree with the definitions of biological control that you have provided below.  It is important to consider the difference between natural control and human-aided biological control, with biological control being the use of populations of natural enemies (imported or naturally occurring) to control or reduce populations of pests with various methods.”

Our mentor Deke’s understanding about biological control drew on countless hours of discussions over many years including on skin-diving trips. Here are UC entomology researchers Everett “Deke” Dietrick (l) with Paul DeBach (center) and Blair Bartlett (r), Moro Beach ~1948.

Our mentor Everett J. “Deke” Dietrick favored Paul DeBach’s terms and ideas. Deke, Paul, Blair Bartlett and a few other eminent biocontrol entomologists shared a love of not just biological control, but also enjoyed a long friendship and lively discussions while searching for the perfect skin diving cove between Laguna and Cabo Pulmo. Such conversations animated their lunch hour handball games at the Riverside Citrus Experiment Station (now UCR) as well as field trips including with Evert Schlinger, Robert van den Bosch, Fred Legner, Dan Gonzales, and others. This cadre of biocontrol entomologists helped Deke develop the clarity and confidence to leave the University of California and become the first consultant in California relying solely on biological control by natural enemies to manage pests.  This was before the invention of the term “IPM or Integrated Pest Management”. He called what he and enthusiastic consultant associates did for farmers “Supervised Control”. 

The birth of IPM and EBPM (Ecological-Based Pest Management) and the ‘Path of a Paradigm’ will be a later deep dive in this series for those interested in a sufficiently broad conceptual framework for talking about transition. But first, let’s agree on the terminology.   

RECOMMENDATIONS FOR DEFINITIONS:

Biological control, when considered from the ecological viewpoint as a phase of natural control, can be defined as the action of parasites, predators, and pathogens and antagonists in maintaining another organism’s population density at a lower average than would occur in their absence. [DeBach, 1974]

  • Note:  It can be measured, human manipulation is not implicit and it does not include plant selection for resistance to pests.  Biological control by natural enemies is central to transition from chemical input-dependent systems. When monitoring shows that there are enough natural enemies so that biological control is working, the complexity of phenomena may be too costly to measure and assess what actions are critical. The greater the biodiversity, the greater the complexity of interactions, the greater likelihood of a good ratio of natural enemy populations over pest populations. (See monitoring)

Applied biological control is the study, importation, conservation, and augmentation of natural enemies for the regulation of population densities of other organism’s abundance below the level of economic injury. Applied biological control can be achieved in differing degrees of economic importance which have been distinguished as partial, substantial or complete.

Natural control (sometimes called naturally occurring biological control) may be defined as the regulation of populations within certain more or less regular upper and lower limits over a period of time by any one or any combination of natural factors. [DeBach, 1974] 

Augmentative biological control is the mass collecting or rearing and release of natural enemies (predators, parasites and pathogens) to control pests in a timely seasonal or inundative manner to prevent population increases, or to suppress a pest population, sometimes called inundative releases to differentiate from colonizations.

Classical or importation biological control is the foreign exploration, importation and colonization of natural enemies of a pest of exotic origin that lacks natural enemies to suppress their populations. 

Conservation biological control is about conserving natural enemies either by reduction/elimination of toxic pesticides or enhancing/modifying the environment to invoke/enhance/supplement natural control.  

  • Note: This is a useful definition that covers all of the newer terms like ecological pest management in regenerative organic agriculture, farmscaping, biodiversity-based agriculture, and so on, that work by conserving biological control.  

Biological control monitoring consists of skills and tools to assess the ratio of the pest and natural enemy populations to indicate whether biological control is increasing or decreasing. Each farming and cropping system has relevant observable phenomena that can be identified, counted, recorded, and compared with samples from other sites or time scales. Sometimes visual inspection, sticky or pheromone traps are sufficient. Sometimes a sweep net is essential and sometimes a vacuum insect net is the only way to observe the presence of important natural enemies. Identification of organisms follows monitoring of the insect ecology. The required accuracy in counting sample contents and the precision in identification depends on the level of consequence for cost-effective decision-making. 

Biological action level is the density of key pests relative to the biological control at a particular stage in the crop cycle and the pest cycle that suggests that the application of one or more natural enemies will help ensure that the pest population stays below economic injury levels.

  • Note: David Headrick explains that the timing of applications of natural enemies, i.e. the biological control action levels, has to be carefully thought through and monitoring has to be more intensive than for chemical control action levels.

Economic injury level is the number of insects (amount of injury) that will cause yield losses equal to the cost of insect management – generally used for pesticide application decisions. 

Chemical action level or threshold is the pest density at which the pesticide application should be done to prevent an increasing pest population from reaching the economic injury level. 

Beneficial organisms in the context of SPM are predators, parasites, and pathogens and their antagonists contributing to biological control. The term does not typically include fish, amphibians, birds, reptiles, and mammals, but it can.

Natural enemies in the context of SPM refers collectively to all of the predators, parasites, and pathogens and their antagonists that reduce numbers of pest insects and mites, and may include fish, amphibians, birds, reptiles, and mammals, e.g. bats and other rodents. Organisms can have key roles as predators and may also transport beneficial parasites and pathogens in biodiversity-based farming systems. [UC-IPM

Biologicals are products derived from naturally occurring microorganisms, plant extracts, insects or other organic matter that may be categorized as 1) biostimulants to enhance plant growth and productivity, 2) biopesticides to protect plants from pests, or 3) biofertility or plant nutrition products.  

Note: A “biological” is an input whereas “biological control” is its larger sense a characteristic of the ecosystem. Biologicals are often products viewed as alternatives to chemical pesticides. They may still disrupt biological control by negative impacts on natural enemies.

Biopesticides are certain types of pesticides, 1) biochemicals, 2) microbials, and 3) Plant-Incorporated-Protectants (PIPs) derived from such natural materials as animals, plants, bacteria, and certain minerals.  [US-EPA] 

Biological control entomology is the applied branch of zoological study dealing with  insects and loosely including other arthropods (e.g. spiders and mites) for the purpose of controlling pests through conservation, importation, colonization and augmentation of beneficial organisms. Biological control deals principally with insects because most pest species are insects and most insect pests have natural enemies.

Biological control phytopathology and entomo-pathology are branches of study dealing respectively with the interaction between pathogens and plants and between pathogens and insects.

Biodiversity-based farming systems rely on re-designing the site-, space-, and time-specific practices and production approaches to create a high biological diversification and intensification. It is knowledge-intensive with outcomes of greater productivity and fertility from less exogenous inputs, and greater resilience to external impacts. This approach introduces a paradigm shift in expectations. It requires integration of interconnected processes, including influences of chemicals and/or low and very low short low-frequency waves, as well as integration of organization levels in ecological systems, such as landscape level populations and communities. [Duru, et. al. 2015]

Biological input-based farming systems rely on external biological more than chemical inputs to increase efficiency in combination with incremental substitution changes or system adaptations, such as organic fertilizers, and low-risk biological and botanical pesticides that mimic natural phenomena in biodiverse agroecosystems. This approach may integrate conservation, colonization and/or augmentation biological control [Duru, et. al. 2015]

Chemical input-based farming systems rely on external chemical inputs and technologies for improved efficiency and yield, that often include the use of Haber-Bosch-based nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus fertilizers and chemical pesticides that optimize yield while limiting pollution. This approach may integrate conservation, colonization and/or augmentation biological control. Prohibition of nitrogen run-off may lead to use of cover crops in sensitive areas or in landscape features to prevent water pollution. Larger farm sizes and economies of scale may be required to afford the cost of technologies, such as sensors, spray equipment with targeting ability, drones, robots, satellites, cultivars and animal breeds. [Duru, et. al. 2015]

Efficiency/substitution approaches are economically driven practices within a chemical or biological input-based farming system. They are often top-down, developed by companies selling products or advisors that have evaluated products to meet expectations of greater profits by greater efficiency and use of technologies and innovations that reduce costs. [Duru, et. al. 2015]

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) IPM is an ecosystem-based strategy that focuses on long-term prevention of pests or their damage through a combination of techniques such as biological control, habitat manipulation, modification of cultural practices, and use of resistant varieties. Pesticides are used only after monitoring indicates they are needed according to established guidelines, and treatments are made with the goal of removing only the target organism. Pest control materials are selected and applied in a manner that minimizes risks to human health, beneficial and nontarget organisms, and the environment. [UC-IPM]

Sustainable Pest Management (SPM) is an agroecological approach within a spectrum of continual improvement to prevent, minimize, and manage pests in ways that protect human health and are environmentally sound, socially equitable and just, and economically viable. Pests are managed by combining biological, cultural, physical (including the use of new technologies that can improve detection, precise interventions, and plant resistance to pests), and, only when absolutely necessary, chemical tools, in a way that minimizes economic, health, and environmental risks.

Organic as a labeling term indicates that the food or other agricultural product has been produced by approved methods. USDA organic regulations require the application of a set of cultural, biological, and mechanical practices that foster cycling of on-farm resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity. These include maintaining or enhancing soil and water quality; conserving wetlands, woodlands, and wildlife; and avoiding use of synthetic fertilizers or pesticides, sewage sludge, irradiation, and genetic engineering.

Regenerative agriculture has been called a land management philosophy. It involves the development of biodiversity-based farming systems focused on agroecological principles and practices that 

  • minimize soil disturbance; 
  • cover soil by mulching and multi-species cover crops or pasturage to prevent erosion and minimize weed growth; 
  • rotate crops to increase nutrient cycling, soil fertility, and water retention; 
  • increase plant diversity to conserve wildlife, pollinators and biological control and  increase soil microbial abundance; 
  • keep living roots in the soil as much as possible to protect soil microbes and retain water and nutrients; and, 
  • integrate animals into the farm as much as possible that adds nutrients and builds soil organic matter.

It draws on knowledge from agroecology,  agroforestry, organic practices, and holistic and rotational grazing. It offers increased yields and profit, improved watersheds, and enhanced ecosystem services, such as restoration of small water cycles, carbon drawdown and potential for accreditation for carbon and “eco” credits, resilience to climate instability, and better health and vitality for farming communities.

Regenerative organic encompasses organic farming and then raises the bar, prioritizing building soil health as a way to fight climate change. A holistic system, regenerative organic sees the well-being of earth, humans and animals as interconnected. High standards for animal and worker welfare are critical. It does not mean that the farm has Regenerative Organic Certification; it means that the farm is striving to apply these principles. [Patagonia Provisions]

Regenerative Organic Certification (ROC) is a label that can be added to organic certification for farms that meet higher standards in three areas: Soil Health & Land Management, Animal Welfare, and Social Fairness. Producers can choose to meet a beginning set of criteria (Bronze), an intermediate (Silver) or the highest achievable level of regenerative organic production (Gold). There are additional fees for ROC certification.

Real Organic Project (ROP) is a label that can be added to organic certification for farms that grow their plants in healthy, living soil and raise their animals humanely and on pasture to help consumers differentiate farms that are growing their animals and crops to both the letter and spirit of the certified organic standards. There is no fee for ROP certification.

Demeter Biodynamic Certification is a label that indicates that a comprehensive organic method has been used that requires the creation and management of a closed system minimally dependent on imported materials, and instead meets its needs from the living dynamics of the farm itself. The standard reflects the characteristics  of biodiversity-based farming systems. There are fees to become certified.

REFERENCES

DeBach, P., Biological Control by Natural Enemies, Cambridge University Press, 1974.

Duru, M., Therond, O., Martin, G. et al. How to implement biodiversity-based agriculture to enhance ecosystem services: a review. Agron. Sustain. Dev. 35, 1259–1281 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13593-015-0306-1

Huffaker, C.B. and D. L. Dahlsten, “Scope and Significance of Biological Control”, in Bellows, T. S. and T. W. Fisher, Ed: Handbook of Biological Control, Academic Press, 1999.

Ron Serving on California Work Group to Promote IPM

Thanks to Kimberly Rivers for a great little article about our in-house Pest Control Advisor Ron Whitehurst on an adventure with various pest management experts from around the state co-creating a common vision for a paradigm shift in pest management. Ron brings unique knowledge and experience about why IPM does not need to include any dangerous pesticides. Here is Kimberly’s article:

BUG GROWER JOINS STATE SUSTAINABLE PEST MANAGEMENT WORK GROUP I RON WHITEHURST TO HELP REDUCE CHEMICAL USE ACROSS STATE

May 12, 2021 | Kimberly RiversNewsVentura |  |     

Last month West Ventura resident Ron Whitehurst, pest control advisor and co-owner of Rincon-Vitova Insectaries Inc., was named to a new 26-member working group aimed at shifting the state’s agricultural operations away from the use of harmful chemicals, a stated goal of Gov. Gavin Newsom. 

“Transitioning away from toxic pesticides requires us to speed up the development of effective alternatives,” said Jared Blumenfeld, secretary of the California Environmental Protection Agency. “By giving our farmers a suite of integrated pest management tools, we can better protect farmworkers and some of California’s most vulnerable communities. This dynamic task force will give us the roadmap to achieve this bold vision.”

Whitehurst with the other members of the new Sustainable Pest Management Work Group will work over the next 18 months to advise the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) in developing policies to use non-chemical means for management of pest issues in agriculture. 

Taking a whole systems perspective, Whitehurst has developed his biological pest control knowledge over a lifetime of organic farming and gardening, and through working with mentor and Rincon-Vitova founder Everett J. “Deke” Dietrick, who pioneered effective biological control methods with his “Five Features of Ecologically Based Pest Management,” over 50 years ago. 

In October of last year, Newsom signed an order (1) citing the climate crisis and advancing directives to various state agencies including the California Environmental Protection Agency and California Department of Food and Agriculture to “reinvigorate populations of pollinator insects across the state, which restore biodiversity and improve agricultural production.” The directive includes implementation of “strategic efforts to protect California’s native plants and animals from invasive species and pests that threaten biodiversity and economic activities,” as well as to “enhance soil health and biodiversity through the Healthy Soils Initiative.”

Newsom’s order led to a plan to increase fees associated with pesticide use, which will be used to fund programs initiated by the new order, including the new work group. 

Historically, the fees were standardized for all chemicals, regardless of level of toxicity. A tiered system is being considered with increased fees for chemicals that the state rates as more dangerous. The fee structure also brings back the Biologically Integrated Farming System (BIFS) programs using farmer-to-farmer and farmworker pest management training in organic and regenerative systems to build healthy soils with greater organic carbon, increased water holding capacity and resilient crop yields.

Rincon-Vitova Insectaries, Inc., is located off of Ventura Avenue at 108 Orchard Drive and since 1950 has promoted ecologically-based agriculture solutions by providing beneficial organisms to enhance suppression and management of pests and diseases.  

  1. https://www.gov.ca.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/10.07.2020-EO-N-82-20-.pdf
  2. https://www.rinconvitova.com


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