Oregon lawmakers are considering House Bill 2610, which would direct $1 million to Oregon State University for the study of pest control alternatives, which is partly motivated by the loss of such insecticides as chlorpyrifos.
SALEM — Oregon State University would receive $1 million to study pest control alternatives under a bill that’s partly meant to replace certain insecticides in specialty crops.
New chemistries offer crop protection that’s safer for people and the environment, but they’re often not federally approved for niche crops grown in Oregon, said Katie Murray, executive director of the Oregonians for Food and Shelter agribusiness group.
“A lot of these new tools are only registered for the major crops in the U.S. because that’s the biggest market,” she said during a recent legislative hearing.
Under House Bill 2610, the university would be required to consult with farmers to identify “reduced-risk pest management tools” against the state’s major specialty crop pests.
The bill would appropriate $1 million for the research in the 2023-2035 biennium and require OSU to report its findings to lawmakers in 2027.
Through the USDA’s “IR-4” program, OSU already tests pesticides so they can be registered for specialty or minor crops — which represent roughly 200 of the 240 crops grown in the state, Murray said.
Recently, the university has conducted residue trials on a plant growth regulator known as NAA that can reduce suckers on hazelnut trees, said Dani Lightle, OSU’s IR4 specialty crops pesticide registration research leader.
The chemical could allow farmers to cut back on the herbicides paraquat, which can cause death if ingested, and 2-4D, which can cause serious damage if splashed in the eye, she said.
Research is also needed to find a replacement for chlorpyrifos, commonly sold as Lorsban or Dursban, an insecticide that growers have relied on to prevent serious crop losses.
The chemical’s health impacts have come under increased scrutiny, however, and Oregon farm regulators revoked all tolerances for its residues last year, which means farmers cannot use it on feed and food crops.
“As we lose these tools, like chlorpyrifos, it’s important we have suitable replacements to manage the pests,” said Scott Setniker, a farmer in Independence, Ore.
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