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IR-4 Specialty Crop Pest Management

  • Overview
  • The Strategy
  • The Four-step Approach
  • IR-4 Accomplishments for 2007
  • Contacts


The Inter-Regional Research Project Number 4, (IR-4), Minor Crop Pest Management Program has been the major resource for supplying pest management tools for specialty crop growers for 45 years. IR-4 is a highly effective, collaborative effort among the state agricultural experiment stations (SAES), NIFA, the USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), commodity growers, and the crop protection industry. The mission of the IR-4 Project is to provide safe and effective pest management solutions for specialty crop growers.

Specialty crop growers produce high-value, small-acreage crops throughout the United States. Twenty-six states derive more than 50 percent of their agricultural crop sales from specialty crops. These include food crops such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, and herbs and nonfood crops such as turf and ornamental landscape plants. These crops have a value of approximately $45 billion, or about 33 percent of the total farm crop value in the United States. In many cases, the agricultural chemical industry cannot justify the time and expense required to research much-needed crop protection products on these high-value crops. The success of the IR-4 project is proven and can be measured in its development of data to support over 20,000 food use and ornamental horticulture label clearances.

Funding for IR-4 in FY 2007 came from NIFA, ARS, Foreign Agriculture Service (FAS), and other grants. NIFA funds are provided through IR-4 directed funding and the National Research Support Project (NRSP-7). In addition to the funds identified in the table, state agricultural experiment stations provide in-kind services. IR-4 Headquarters is associated with Rutgers , the State University of New Jersey. Each state has an IR-4 state liaison at its land-grant university. Four regional IR-4 research centers and analytical laboratories are maintained at Cornell University/NY SAES at Geneva , Michigan State University, University of California-Davis, and University of Florida. There are numerous field research centers. The ARS minor use program is an integral part of IR-4, supplying data through its own field and laboratory facilities.

Since 1977, IR-4 has assisted with the registration of crop protection chemicals and biological pest control agents on nursery stock, flowers, and turfgrass. The ornamental industry accounts for more than 35 percent, or $16 billion, of the total specialty crop value in the United States.

Additionally, biopesticides have been an important IR-4 focus since 1982. The IR-4 Biopesticide Program assists small companies, USDA, and university scientists by consulting and preparing regulatory packages to obtain registration of microbial and natural products. The primary objective of the IR-4 Biopesticide Research Program is to further the development and registration of biopesticides for use in pest management systems for specialty crops or for minor uses on major crops.


The Strategy

IR-4's strategy in assisting specialty crop growers includes:

  • Facilitating regulatory clearance of lower or reduced risk crop protection products for specialty crops.
  • Assisting, when appropriate, in the development of risk mitigation measures for existing minor use registrations.
  • Assisting with the registration of biologically-based crop protection products for specialty crops.
  • Registering and maintaining products essential to Integrated Pest Management (IPM).

The cornerstone of the IR-4 Strategic Plan has been to focus projects on lower-risk products. More than 80 percent of IR-4 efforts focus on lower-risk products.

The Four-step Approach

IR-4 Receives requests for assistance from growers, commodity groups, and research and extension personnel. In responding to these grass-roots needs, IR-4 leads the coordination and focus of generating data to support the regulatory clearances of crop protection chemical and biological products for food crops through the EPA. IR-4 also coordinates efforts to generate efficacy and crop safety data to support chemical and biological crop protection products for ornamental horticulture crops. To accomplish this, IR-4 has developed a 4-step approach: 1) Research prioritization, 2) Research planning, 3) Research implementation, and 4) Data submission and approval.

Step 1. ARS and university research is prioritized through annual workshops involving growers, commodity organizations, university research and extension specialists and EPA staff who collectively determine the project priorities based on the importance of the pest and the ability of the control tactic to manage the pest. Prior to and during the workshops, IR-4 industry partner representatives are consulted to confirm their support for adding new specialty crop uses to their product labels.

Step 2. Research planning is accomplished when research protocols are drafted, sent out for review by stakeholders and field research directors, revised to integrate comments received, and issued as a final research protocol.

Step 3. For food crops, research is implemented in two phases field and laboratory research. During the field phase, researchers apply the crop protection agent to the target crop according to the specified protocol. Samples of the crop are harvested and transferred to the laboratories, where crop matrices are analyzed for potential residues. All field and laboratory research is conducted under EPA Good Laboratory Practices. For non-food specialty crops (i.e. ornamental plants), Step 3 is accomplished with field and/or greenhouse research on the targeted crop or for a specific disease, insect, or weed.

Step 4. For food crops, IR-4 critically reviews the field and laboratory data, drafts formal regulatory packages, and submits reports for the research study to EPA for review. EPA will review the reports and, if appropriate, approve the registration of a particular chemical on a specialty crop by establishing a maximum residue limit, or tolerance. For ornamental horticulture crops, IR-4 prepares summaries of the research conducted. These summaries are sent to each manufacturer who, in turn, uses them to register new products or expand existing labels. These summaries, along with the researcher's reports are posted on the IR-4 website.

Fieldwork for food use and ornamental horticulture is coordinated by State Field Coordinators in California, Florida, Michigan, and New York and by ARS in Maryland for various sites throughout the United States . For food crops, these sites meet specific EPA requirements for geographic distribution of data. Most field research on food crops is conducted at field research centers in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin. All sites are subject to EPA inspections. For ornamental crops, IR-4 generates data with researches in 31 states.

IR-4 laboratory analyses are conducted primarily at the California, Florida, Michigan, and New York agricultural experiment stations, and ARS laboratories in Georgia, Maryland, and Washington. Protocol development, data assimilation, petition writing, and registration processing are coordinated through IR-4 Headquarters, the crop protection industry, food processors, and state and federal regulators.

IR-4 Accomplishments for 2007

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency established 203 permanent tolerances and five exemptions based on IR-4 submissions. These decisions support 628 new specialty crop use registrations for conventional and reduced risk pest control products and 19 for biopesticides for a total of 647. New use registrations were spread over 33 pest control products.

EPA published the Final Rule for two expanded crop groups and one new group. Final Rules included an expanded bulb vegetable group 3, and expanded berry and small fruit group 13, and the establishment of a new Edible fungi group 21. The decision for these crop groups will significantly increase the number of additional registrations for crops in these groups.

IR-4 conducted 644 field trials associated with 95 high priority studies on food crops to support eventual registration of conventional/reduced risk pest control products to answer specialty crop grower pest management needs.

2007 was the first year the Canadian Minor Use Program served as sponsor and study director in joint residue studies.

The Biopesticide Grant Program funded five Early Stage, 19 Advanced Stage, and 13 Demonstration Stage projects. These were conducted at 21 universities and USDA research centers. The research involved 30 scientists and nearly 100 product-crop combinations. EPA co-funded and co-reviewed the demonstration stage grants. EPA also provided additional resources to support three Technology Transfer Projects associated with the demonstration projects to further develop the extension phase of those projects.

Working with funding provided through a US EPA Region 2 grant, IR-4 created and posted on its website, a Biopesticide and Organic Label Database for Integrated Pest Management (IPM) practitioners.

IR-4 submitted eight Ornamental Horticulture data packages to registrants: two summaries on efficacy and six on crop safety. These comprehensive data packages contained results from 1658 field trials managed by IR-4.

The IR-4 Ornamental Horticulture program conducted nearly 1,246 trials with greenhouse and field ornamental crops. These will support recommendations in 2008/2009.

The Center for Economic Analysis at Michigan State University published an economic analysis of IR-4 Project activities and concluded that IR-4 contributes $7.7 billion to the annual gross domestic product.

IR-4, working alongside the USDA-Foreign Agricultural Service, US EPA and the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, brought together nearly 250 people from 56 countries to participate in the first Global Minor Use Summit. The Summit initiated a dialogue among countries toward the concept of working together to solve the minor use problem on a global basis.

IR-4 had to navigate through one of the most challenging financial situations in the Project's 44-year history. This challenge resulted from Congressional mandates which changed how USDA funds are administered. These changes could have resulted in a 25 percent reduction of IR-4 funding, as well as created delays in the distribution of IR-4 allocated funds.

IR-4 along with industry continues to work to implement the provisions of the Pesticide Registration Improvement Act of 2007 (PRIA II). The new provisions are more complicated and cumbersome. However, IR-4 packages are reviewed by EPA within an extremely rapid time frame, where most decisions are made in less than one year.

Text for The Strategy, The Four Step Approach, and 2007 Accomplishments is taken from " The IR-4 Project, 2007, Year in Review."


Monte Johnson represents NIFA on IR-4's Project Management Committee .

IR-4 Headquarters:
Dr. Jerry J. Baron
IR-4 Executive Director
IR-4 Project Headquarters
Rutgers, The State University of NJ
500 College Road East, Suite 201 W
Princeton, NJ  08540
Phone: 732-932-9575, Ext. 4605
FAX: 609-514-2612
email: jbaron@aesop.rutgers.edu
Web: ir4.rutgers.edu


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