Program reducing pesticide detection in Oregon watersheds
By Eric Mortenson
PORTLAND — Pesticide stewardship programs have greatly reduced the amount of pesticides detected in streams and are a model worth expanding, coordinators told the state Board of Agriculture Wednesday.
The effort is voluntary and a result of cooperative effort by growers, conservation districts, watershed councils, tribes and Oregon State University’s Extension Service, said Steve Riley of the Oregon Department of Agriculture and Kevin Masterson of the state Department of Environmental Quality.
Changing application methods, monitoring weather conditions, disrupting pests’ mating cycles and other adjustments have reduced pesticide detections in Hood River and Wasco County watersheds, the experts said.
The reduction held even as Wasco cherry growers increased the use of Malathion to combat Spotted Wing Drosophila, the invasive fruit fly.
“These are the types of stories we would like to see replicated elsewhere,” Masterson said.
Stewardship programs are in place in seven Oregon watersheds, and the coordinators hope to start two more in 2014-15. So far, they have worked well in areas where tree fruits predominate, said Riley of the ag department. Success may be more complicated to attain in western Oregon’s Willamette Valley, where crop plantings are more varied, farming methods differ and forestry and residential pesticide use add to the problem.
Nonetheless, state ag Director Katy Coba said the program is an example of how two state agencies can work together, and said the Oregon Environmental Council deserves credit for pressing the agencies to continue the stewardship effort.
“This is a program we really want to wave the flag on,” Coba said.
Board member Doug Krahmer, a blueberry grower, noted that new pest problems can change agricultural practices in a hurry. The effort to fight off Spotted Wing Drosophila, which feeds on and lays it eggs in ripening fruit or berries and leaves a gooey mess, is an example, he said.
“I used to spray once a year, now I’m up to 10 or 12 times on those same acres,” he said. “That’s to meet the demands of customers that want clean fruit.”
In other business, the board received an update on legislation that makes $10.2 million in Oregon Lottery bonds available to pay for water supply beginning in 2015.
Also, Hermiston area farmers Bob Levy and Don Rice said a proposed powerline route will disrupt operations and take ground out of production. They said the cumulative effect of building energy facilities on farmland should be taken into account, and they’ll be asking to board to comment as the project moves through the public process.