Pests are a pain, so
West Virginia University
Extension is reaching out to growers and gardeners around the state about
the dangers of pesticides and how to incorporate safe alternatives — such
as barriers, insect traps and introducing predatory insects that feed on pests.
Carlos Quesada serves as the statewide WVU Extension entomologist and
the pesticide safety education coordinator. His research focuses on chemical and
biological approaches to insect pest management. Now, through an award from the
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Pesticide Environmental Stewardship Program,
Quesada and WVU Extension will educate West Virginians about integrated pest management
and pesticide safety.
IPM focuses on pest prevention as opposed to the regular use of pesticides.
“IPM uses different techniques, including non-chemical control and chemical control
which is the use of insecticides or other type of pesticides,” Quesada said. “And
that helps the growers to increase their productivity but also to be environmentally
friendly by using different techniques.”
For the next two years, he will conduct programming on IPM around the state. All
55 counties in West Virginia have a WVU Extension office, which gives him and his
colleagues the ability to reach all farming and growing communities.
Quesada will present topics about IPM pesticide safety to fruit and vegetable growers and Master Gardeners, as well as to commercial and private pesticide applicators. He also intends to increase outreach to Spanish-speaking growers and agricultural workers.
Quesada said while pesticide itself isn’t inherently bad, the problem often lies with its application.
“When people follow the label directions, pesticides might be harmless,” he said.
“However, when they don’t, they might be harmful. There are many pesticides that
are highly toxic to fish, for example. We are covering all these IPM techniques
and also things like evaluation and monitoring on these programs.”
Quesada, also an assistant professor at the
Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design, explained that
pesticides were popular in the 1990s and used as preventative control. Today, many
farmers still apply the treatment whether a pest is there or not.
“It’s because they know from experience what time of year that pest might show up,” he said. “Now, we’re trying to teach growers to monitor pests, to evaluate density of pests, and based on those evaluations, they can decide whether to apply that pesticide. It should be the last resort.”
When it comes to outreach, each audience is different. Quesada said Master Gardeners, who
have completed an extensive training course through WVU Extension, are often
eager and receptive learners. Growers, on the other hand, may be more reluctant
to adapt to new techniques given their financial investment in traditional pesticide
use, but will often embrace a new solution if it’s financially worthwhile
to do so.
He acknowledges that, sometimes, growers have few options.
“There are some insects that, if you have an outbreak, the only solution is pesticide.
However, we can go to that grower and say, ‘For next year, you can do other approaches
like a crop rotation.’”
Crop rotation is a way to stop a pest’s life cycle by planting a different crop for
two or three years. Once the pest population has been reduced, a grower can return
to the original crop.
“Then, in that way, you’ve reduced that population without applying a pesticide,” he said, adding that some insects can be prevented with barriers like row covers, a type of mechanical control.
While Quesada is a researcher by trade, his role with the WVU Extension is about
transmitting information in the most effective way possible.
“It does no good if we, as scientists, produce and publish a fancy paper that people cannot even understand,” he said. “It’s better to put it in a way that everybody can understand. So that’s what Extension does. It’s kind of like a bridge between research and the growers so they can improve their crop production. And so they can also improve their life.”
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WVU Research Communications
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