Home News Ag Economics DPR Awards $3.15M in Research Grants Investing in Safer, Sustainable Grape, Nut & Tree Fruit IPM

DPR Awards $3.15M in Research Grants Investing in Safer, Sustainable Grape, Nut & Tree Fruit IPM

The California Department of Pesticide Regulation today announced it has awarded $3.15 million in research grants to seven projects to support a statewide, systemwide transition to safer and more sustainable pest management.

DPR’s Research Grants Program funds projects that advance integrated pest management (IPM) knowledge, tools and practices in agricultural, urban and wildland settings. IPM is a pest management approach that uses the least-toxic, effective method to solve pest problems.

Over the past decade, DPR has awarded more than $13.45 million in research grants.

“These grants are a cornerstone of DPR’s mission to advance sustainable pest management and continuously improve the state’s protection of people and the environment,” said DPR Director Julie Henderson. “These projects play a central role in developing alternative approaches to pest management that support agriculture, enable the production of an abundant, healthy food supply, and support the well-being of all California communities.”

In January 2023, DPR released the Sustainable Pest Management Roadmap, which outlines critical goals and actions to accelerate the transition to sustainable pest management.

Among the projects funded this year, two seek to reduce fumigant use while three others could help decrease farmers’ reliance on neonicotinoids and other pesticides. Fumigants – gaseous pesticides used in agriculture to kill soilborne pests – are a concern because they are often highly toxic and can impact surrounding air. Neonicotinoids are also a concern since they have been linked to pollinator deaths.

Other grant-funded projects seek to reduce human health effects of spray applications, and to provide effective alternatives to traditional pesticides.

Award recipients:

Research projects supporting alternatives to fumigant use:

  • Dr. Cassandra Swett will advance understanding of the emerging fungal pathogen Fusarium falciforme, which affects a range of California crops and drives high-risk fumigant usage. Dr. Swett’s project will seek to evaluate a variety of potential reduced-risk control strategies for this pathogen in lieu of fumigation.
  • Dr. Andreas Westphal will research soils that suppress root lesion nematode in almonds. These efforts will ideally offer alternatives to the current usage of soil fumigants to control these microscopic worms and other soilborne pests and pathogens.
Research projects supporting reductions in neonicotinoid and other insecticide use:
  • Dr. Paul Rugman-Jones will lead a project developing non-genetically engineered sterile-insect techniques for combating Asian citrus psyllid (ACP). ACP is an insect that spreads a bacterial plant disease called huanglongbing (HLB). HLB is a major threat to California citrus production and one that drives the use of neonicotinoids in citrus.
  • Dr. Hailing Jin will lead research into antimicrobial peptides to combat Pierce’s Disease in grape and HLB in citrus, two highly damaging diseases of perennial crops in California. The project will also focus on their vectors – ACP in citrus and glassy-winged sharpshooter in grape. Alternatives to current vector control practices for these diseases offer the potential to reduce the usage of neonicotinoids and other broad-spectrum insecticides.
  • Dr. Stephanie Bolton will expand the use of canines to rapidly scout grapevine leafroll-associated virus 3 (GLRaV-3) and vine mealybug in grape nurseries and commercial vineyards, which greatly impact California grape production. Early detection is a key IPM practice that will help reduce the use of neonicotinoids and other insecticides to control vine mealybug.

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Research project supporting reductions in fungicide use:
  • Dr. Mary Wildermuth will research a suite of RNA interference approaches to combat powdery mildew in grapevine, potentially resulting in a tailored, highly specific alternative to repeated usage of fungicides.

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Research project supporting reductions in spray drift and worker exposure:
  • Dr. Peter Larbi will develop and refine a remote nozzle selector device to allow for rapid, safe changeouts of spray nozzles when operating airblast sprayers. This technology will help minimize spray drift and potential exposure to workers and bystanders. Furthermore, these technological advances will be adaptable to traditional chemistries as well as emerging safer alternatives.

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For more information on past recipients of DPR’s Grants Program funding, or to learn more about DPR’s Grants Program and grant-related IPM research, innovation, implementation and knowledge-sharing, please visit DPR’s Grants Program webpage.

ABOUT THE DEPARTMENT OF PESTICIDE REGULATION

The California Department of Pesticide Regulation’s mission is to protect human health and the environment by fostering safer and sustainable pest management practices and operating a robust regulatory system to monitor and manage the sale and use of pesticides across the state. DPR’s work includes registering all pesticides sold or used in California, conducting scientific evaluation of pesticides to assess and mitigate potential harm to human health or the environment, monitoring for pesticides in the air and water, and enforcing pesticide regulations in coordination with 55 County Agriculture Commissioners and their 500 field inspectors. DPR also conducts outreach to ensure pesticide workers, farmworkers and local communities have access to safety information. DPR invests in innovative research to encourage the development and adoption of integrated pest management tools and practices. More information about DPR can be found at www.cdpr.ca.gov.

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