Darby Receives EPA Pesticide Environmental Stewardship Grant

A field of corn with trees and green fields in the background

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) selected the University of Vermont as one of six recipients that will receive a total of $780,000 from the Pesticide Environmental Stewardship Program (PESP) grant competition. The selected grantees will explore the use of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) in agriculture over the course of two years to reduce the risk of pests and pesticides.

Extension Professor, Agronomy Specialist Heather Darby is the principal investigator for this project at UVM.

While traditional pest control involves the routine application of pesticides, IPM focuses on pest prevention and only using pesticides as needed. IPM provides a more effective, environmentally sensitive approach to pest management especially for historically underserved communities that are disproportionately impacted by unnecessary exposure to pests and pesticides. Furthermore, IPM has the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change. IPM strategies often use fewer pesticides resulting in less fuel consumption for pesticide application.

Darby’s project is entitled, A Smart, Sensible and Sustainable Approach to Neonicotinoid Seed Treatments.

The goal of this project is to reduce neonicotinoid seed treatments applied to row crops in Vermont. The University of Vermont will educate farmers on how to scout for soil pests, evaluate thresholds, and determine pest management actions in corn and soybean fields in Vermont.

Six partner farms will serve as demonstration sites where current practices are compared to IPM practices. These fields will serve as educational sites where farmers and other agricultural industry stakeholders can learn about IPM tactics for soil pests that impact corn and soybean. Thirty partner farms will be active participants in the two-year project to gain direct experience and one-on-one technical assistance with scouting, action thresholds, and management decisions. The university will also create a webinar series, crop specific scouting factsheets, and presentations for growers and stakeholders. Through these actions, the project expects to reduce neonicotinoid seed treatments on at least 1,500 acres by educating over 1,000 Northeastern growers on IPM practices and providing 250 farmers with hands-on training. (Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency)

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