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Media Contact: Glenn Brank
November 15, 2006 (06-21)


(Editors/reporters: See county statistics and rankings online [PDF, 12 kb] and the 2005 Pesticide Use Report Summary with "top" data lists.)

SACRAMENTO – The California Department of Pesticide Regulation today reported a statewide decline in the use of several highly toxic chemicals in 2005, including fumigants and other pesticides of regulatory concern.

DPR tentative statistics for 2005 show 194 million pounds applied for all commercial uses, compared to 180 million pounds in 2004. Half of the increase was attributed to sulfur, a natural compound used by organic and conventional growers to combat mold and mildew. Wet weather was a factor for many growers in 2005.

At the same time, use of many higher risk chemicals declined, both in pounds applied and acres treated, while use of some reduced-risk compounds increased dramatically.

"DPR continues to put strong emphasis on reducing pesticide risks and use whenever possible," said DPR Director Mary-Ann Warmerdam. "While last year's weather presented challenging conditions for growers, we see a growing reliance on sustainable pest management.

"The number of pounds applied is not as significant as the chemicals that contribute to that total," said Warmerdam. "Increased use of less toxic materials shows that we are moving in the right direction."

As in previous years, most farm pesticide use occurred in the San Joaquin Valley, the nation's No. 1 agricultural area. Fresno, Kern, Tulare, San Joaquin, and Madera counties had the highest use, as measured in pounds. Other indicators summarized by DPR include the number of applications made and cumulative acreage treated, statewide and county by county.

Pesticide use varies from year to year based on many factors, including types of crops, economics, acreage planted, and other factors - most notably weather. A cool, wet spring in 2005 promoted fungus and other diseases in crops such as grapes, requiring more intensive pest management.

Some details from the 2005 DPR pesticide use summary:

  • As measured in pounds, the most used pesticides were sulfur, petroleum oils, metam-sodium, 1,3-dichloropropene (1,3-D), and mineral oil. Sulfur use increased by 7.3 million pounds (13 percent) and was the most highly used pesticide in 2005, both in pounds applied and acres treated. By pounds, sulfur accounted for 32 percent of all reported pesticide use. Sulfur is a natural fungicide favored by both conventional and organic farmers.

  • Fumigant chemicals decreased in pounds applied from 2004 to 2005 (1 million pounds, 2.5 percent) and decreased in cumulative acres treated (54,000 acres, 14 percent). Use of about half of the major fumigants decreased in pounds but nearly all major fumigants decreased in acres treated.

  • Pounds of reduced-risk pesticides increased by 630,000 pounds applied (60 percent) and by 2.4 million acres treated (39 percent).

  • Crops that showed an overall increase in pesticide pounds applied from 2004 to 2005 included wine grapes (6 million pounds), oranges (2.7 million pounds), raisin and table grapes (1.8 million pounds), walnuts (1.2 million pounds), and almonds (1 million pounds). Major crops or sites with decreased pounds applied included rice (1.5 million pounds), fresh tomatoes (700,000 pounds), strawberries (420,000 pounds), and lemons (370,000 pounds).

For several years, DPR annual pesticide use summaries have included various toxic categories. The statistical summaries for these categories are not risk indicators. DPR uses the data to support regulatory activities to enhance public safety and environmental protection. Some notable changes from 2004 to 2005:
  • Pounds of all the higher risk pesticide categories, except for toxic air contaminants, decreased and use of all the lower risk pesticides increased. Acres treated with carcinogens and organophosphates increased, mostly because of increased use of the fungicides mancozeb and maneb and the insecticide chlorpyrifos.

  • Chemicals classified as reproductive toxins decreased in pounds applied from 2004 to 2005 (2.1 million pounds or 8.8 percent) and decreased in cumulative acres treated (88,000 acres or 4.1 percent).

  • Pounds of insecticide organophosphate and carbamate chemicals, which include compounds of high regulatory concern, continued to decline as they have for nearly every year since 1995.

  • Chemicals categorized as toxic air contaminants, another group of pesticides of regulatory concern, remained nearly the same as in 2005 while cumulative acres treated increased by 220,000 (6.1 percent).

One of six departments and boards within Cal/EPA, DPR regulates the use of pesticides to protect human health and the environment.