UC and IR-4 support California's fresh produce

The Issue

Most fruits, vegetables, nuts, herbs and spices that help make a healthy and diverse diet are specialty crops. To provide consumers with this wide array of fresh produce, growers of specialty crops need sustainable and affordable pest management technologies. The cost to register pesticides for each specialty crop far exceeds the purchases made by growers, who are a relatively minor segment of a pesticide company’s customers. So the U.S. Department of Agriculture created the Interregional Research Project No. 4 (IR-4) to enable the registration of low risk, effective pest management solutions for domestic, low-acreage specialty crops. No other public organization does this work so California’s $20 billion fresh produce industry depends on the publicly funded IR-4 project.

What Has ANR Done?

ANR provides in-kind resources to IR-4. UC Cooperative Extension specialists and farm advisors conduct research to help identify and manage pest problems; they request and help prioritize IR-4 research. Four ANR units conduct IR-4 field trials at several UC sites, including Kearney Agricultural, Desert, Lindcove and West Side research and extension centers. The Western Region IR-4 Center at UC Davis helps manage IR-4 by coordinating IR-4 activities in 13 states, working with key stakeholders, and determining the magnitude of pesticide residues on IR-4 field trial samples.

The Payoff

Low risk pesticides are available to protect California's fresh produce

Because specialty crop pest-management needs are met, California's growers can continue to supply consumers with affordable, safe and diverse fresh produce. Between 1963 and 2012, IR-4 has responded to more than 700 requests from California food crop growers. IR-4 data is used to set allowable pesticide residue levels on fresh produce. Over 13,300 new food-use pesticide registrations were supported by IR-4, which accounts for 50% of EPA’s annual food-use clearances. About 80% of IR-4’s work is on new reduced-risk pesticides suitable for integrated pest management, a process used to solve pest problems while minimizing risks to people and the environment. The increased availability of new reduced-risk pesticides has helped California's fruit and vegetable growers reduce their use of the older, broad-spectrum pesticides by 66% in the past 12 years.

Clientele Testimonial

“IR-4 is a proven program with proven success! Without IR-4, specialty crop growers would be left with very few tools to protect their crops and their livelihoods.” (Ray Ratto, Ratto Bros. Farms, Modesto, CA)

“Without it, growers would not have products labeled for specialty crops, and the public would miss out on locally grown fruits, vegetables and ornamental crops.” (Steve Little, The Pictsweet Company)


Rebecca Sisco, Western Region IR-4 Coordinator, (530) 752-7634, rsisco@ucdavis.edu, http://wrir4.ucdavis.edu, http://ir4.rutgers.edu