Often, when I have the opportunity to discuss the IPM Program effort with farmers, I am asked if the current mission of the program, one of reducing pesticide use, is a good one, especially since pesticides are an important tool in the IPM toolbox. Over the years we have tried to keep the IPM Program focused on a long-term mission while producing some short-term results, all of which are in the best interests of the New York farmer.
In the early years of IPM most farmers were very successful at reducing pesticide use in the 14 major commodities then being addressed by the Program. Pesticide use has decreased by as little as 20 percent in some commodities and as much as 80 percent in others. This happened because IPM practices were taken right to the farms, where growers could gain familiarity with those that were new and be refreshed on some of the older ones. Thus the greatest levels of success came from the demonstration and implementation of IPM practices on commercial farms, by New York farmers.
Whether that success will continue is not certain, but the trends toward reducing environmental impacts and increasing grower adoption of IPM practices are clearly visible again this year. In several New York cropping systems, science has made most of the immediate advances that are possible and has reached an information and technology plateau. This has resulted in frustration for some growers who still face important pest problems and lack significant integrated management solutions. The pathway to success in these situations is a long-term one. Many potential solutions need to be devised and evaluated--not just in laboratories, but on commercial farms. Such a process will not happen in a one- or two-year time frame. It may take five to seven years before an integrated set of solutions can be developed and demonstrated.
Embedded in this time frame are the economics of potential solutions. The scientists who provide new IPM knowledge and technology usually seek to gather information on the economics of adopting it before it is promoted with the farmers. Too often the knowledge or technology is in its infancy, and the economics appear to be unacceptable. Economic judgments at this early stage are premature and may prevent growers from further implementing the methods that may turn out to be the most economical in the long run.
James P. Tette