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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), a Specialty Crop and Minor Use Pest Management Program, has been a major of contributor to the success and viability of specialty crop production for over 50 years. Currently, 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. Together these crops have a combined value of over $50 billion per year.

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 core mission of the IR-4 Project is to assure the safety, efficacy and availability of pest management solutions for specialty crops and minor uses through rigorous testing of conventional pesticides, reduced risk pesticides, bio-pesticides and public health pesticides.

This project is funded by NIFA and is coordinated by the IR-4 National Headquarters housed at Rutgers University. Comprehensive information on this program can be found on the IR-4 website: http://ir4.rutgers.edu/

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."


Rob Hedberg represents NIFA for IR-4 matters.

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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