IR-4 Researchers Control Material to Help Citrus Industy
By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor
Jerry Barron, executive director of the IR-4 Project at Rutgers University in New Jersey spoke to California Ag Today recently about his program.
A major priority with the IR-4 Project is the prioritization of projects that need to be done to find crop protection products for crops such as citrus. Among the urgent challenges for citrus is the control of the Asian Citrus Psyllid (ACP) which vectors Huanglongbing (HLB)—a fatal disease to citrus. Barron spoke about the disease, which has devastated Florida citrus growers and all parts of the citrus economy in the state.
“HLB is devastating Florida citrus growers and the economy in Florida. It’s about a billion dollars of lost production, which is affecting local communities, food processors, and the people who are harvesting the fruit,” Barron said. “It is totally disrupting the whole economic base of certain areas.”
“So what we’re trying to do is work with the people in Florida, to provide them some tools, not only to control the Psyllid which transmits the disease but also provide them some tools to help control the disease once it’s infected the plant.
“At this point, it’s very difficult because certain crop protection products are just not available, but we’re trying to find these magic bullets to truly give them a solution for this devastating problem,” he said.
At a recent meeting, California Ag Today met up with Dan Kunkel, associate director of the IR-4 Project for The Food and International Program at Rutgers University in New Jersey.
Since 1963, the IR-4 Project has been a major resource for supplying pest management tools for specialty crop growers by developing research data to support EPA tolerances and labeled crop protection product uses. The main goal of the IR-4 program, according to Kunkel, is to help specialty crop growers in California, but with a new emphasis on crop exportation.
Commenting on this new strategic plan for the IR-4 program, Kunkel said, “We are going to be doing a lot of the same things, like residue work, efficacy testing and our biopesticide and ornamental programs. But we are taking a larger focus on international harmonization of the pesticide residue limits for our grower exporters so they can feel more confident that their commodities won’t have issues in foreign trade.
“Of course we submit crop protection registration to the EPA for our growers. But when the commodities go abroad, we also submit the data to CODEX, an international database with maximum residue limits (MRLs), a type of tolerance standard, for pesticides,” said Kunkel.
“We also share data with some of the U.S. commodity groups to submit to the Asian and European markets so our growers’ exports can meet these residue limits as well,” he said.
Michael Braverman manages biopesticides for Rutgers University’s IR-4 Project in Princeton, New Jersey. The IR- 4 Project helps with research to get these safe and effective pest management products registered for use in specialty crops, the cornerstone of California agriculture.
“We have two main objectives,” said Braverman. “We have an efficacy grant program, where we fund researchers all across the United States to conduct field or greenhouse trials involving biopesticides to see how they can fit into real-world production systems. The other part of our program is a regulatory assistance program. Biopesticides, like any crop protection products on the market, require EPA registration. We work with university researchers who may have discovered a new organism, a plant extract or whatever it may be, and we help guide them through the EPA registration process,” said Braverman.
“There is certainly a trend towards use of biopesticides,” Braverman observed. “If you notice, major manufacturers—all the biggest companies—are now investing in research or purchasing smaller companies that are involved in the biopesticide market. So it’s really expanding very rapidly,” said Braverman.