PI(s): Weaver, Michael J (Project Leader)

Investigators: Schultz, Peter B (Investigator), Gatton, Holly (Investigator)

Abstract: The IR-4 Minor Use Pest Control Clearance Program was established in 1963 by the state land-grant university agricultural experiment stations. IR-4 is a partnership between agricultural producers, land grant universities, government, and chemical manufacturers. Today, IR-4 conducts research on chemical and biological pest controls. Virginia Tech pest management faculty are active in the IR-4 Project. This involves the indentification of grower needs for pest controls to maintain their minor crops (64% of Virginia crops are minor crops) and research to support the registration of chemical and biological pesticides and animal drugs.

Description:IR-4: Increasing Pest Control Options for Minor Crops and Minor Uses

Minor Crops

A minor crop is defined as any crop grown on 300,000 acres or less. This includes most vegetables, fruit, nuts, herbs, spices, nursery and landscape plants and flowers. Almost all food crops are minor crops except for the large acreage crops like corn, soybeans, wheat, oats, rice and cotton. Minor crops account for over 40 billion dollars in annual sales, which is about forty percent of the total agricultural sales for the U.S.

Minor Uses

Minor uses involve limited pest control treatments to large acreage crops like corn, soybeans and small grains, due to localized, infrequent, or sporadic pest problems.

Why is There Limited Availability of Pest Control Products for Minor Crops and Minor Uses?

Development, testing, registration and personnel time are huge expenses for the registrant of a pest control product. To maximize the return on investment, most pest control products are targeted on major acreage crops where there is potential for large sales. Thus, minor crops and minor uses end up with fewer pest control options despite their high value in the marketplace.

What is the IR-4 Project?

Lack of available pest control products for minor food crops is not new. Directors of state agricultural experiment stations recognized the problem in 1963. Working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), they organized the Interregional Research Project No. 4, commonly known as IR-4, to help minor crop producers obtain tolerances and registrations for pest control products. IR-4 is called the "minor use" program. It is a government and university sponsored program to develop the data necessary for submitting minor crop pest control options to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for approval. Through the years IR-4's mission has expanded to include ornamentals and biopesticides (including microbials like bacteria and viruses, and biochemicals like pheromones and growth regulators), but the goal has remained the same. IR-4 works with farmers, agricultural scientists, commodity organizations and extension personnel to provide pest management solutions to growers of minor crops. IR-4 receives major funding from the USDA, from both the Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service (CSREES) and the Agricultural Research Service (ARS).

What Makes IR-4 so Successful?

IR-4's success can be measured by the large number of minor crop pest control clearances established or retained as a result of IR-4's efforts. Over 5000 food-use clearances, over 7000 ornamental clearances and over 100 biopesticide clearances have been established since 1963. This quantity is over 40% of the total number of clearances granted by EPA. As the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA) threatens to restrict or eliminate many long-standing pest control products, IR-4 is focusing on "reduced risk" and safer chemistry to ensure that producers of minor crops have an adequate toolbox of pest control products, both traditional pesticides and biopesticides.

How does IR-4 Help the Agricultural Industry?

IR-4 is a grass roots organization where pest management needs, in the form of clearance requests, are initiated by individual growers, grower organizations, nurserymen, agricultural scientists and extension personnel. In addition, there is a network of state and federal IR-4 liaison representatives throughout the United States and its Territories, available to help with your minor use needs. The IR-4 network also includes regional field and laboratory research centers staffed with scientists who carry out testing necessary to provide data for clearance petitions.

How to Get Started

You must make your pest control needs known to IR-4 either directly or through the IR-4 liaison at your state land grant university. In Virginia, that is through the Virginia Tech Pesticide Programs (M. J. Weaver, IR-4 State Liaison). After a Pesticide Clearance Request (PCR) form has been submitted to IR-4, a selection process begins for the projects that will be studied.

How IR-4 Selects Projects for Research

Each PCR is reviewed regionally as well as nationally at the IR-4 sponsored Food Use Workshop. State and Federal minor crop pest control experts, growers, commodity organizations and representatives from EPA and industry attend the workshop and set research priorities. Priorities are developed and based on the importance of the pest problem, the availability of alternatives, the existence of data gaps, and the value to integrated pest management programs. Only high priority projects (Priority A and Priority B) are slated for research. IR-4's work is limited to field testing for effectiveness against the target pest, testing for crop safety, and residue analysis for food crops. Therefore, IR-4 must check to ensure that all the necessary core data requirements, such as chemistry, toxicology and environmental fate, have been completed by an agricultural registrant and accepted by EPA. The registrant's review determines whether data gaps exist that may create delays in reviewing and approving IR-4 petitions for tolerance or exemptions. The registrant must then agree to support the proposed use. This allows IR-4 to focus resources on projects with the greatest likelihood of successful completion.

The Research Is Conducted

Each research project begins when the research outline, called protocol, is written and approved. All phases of research from this point forward are conducted according to Good Laboratory Practice (GLP) requirements mandated by EPA. The research process is rigorous. State and federal agricultural scientists conduct the field research phase. The location of the research trials, predetermined by EPA, relates to the major production areas for the crop. The number of trials per crop, also predetermined by EPA, relates to the growing region. During the field research phase, pest control products are tested on the specific crop or crop grouping for plant safety and effectiveness. Field samples of food crops are sent to labs where they are analyzed for magnitude of pesticide residues. IR-4 quality assurance personnel frequently inspect and monitor the field and laboratory research to assist the Project in the GLP compliance assessment.

IR-4 Writes The Petition to EPA

All of the data generated during the field and laboratory phases of research are sent to IR-4 Headquarters. The data are reviewed by scientists at IR-4 and written in final format for submission to EPA. For food crops, the final format is a petition request for either the establishment of a tolerance or an exemption from the tolerance requirement. A tolerance is the safe, legally allowable maximum amount of pesticide residue on a crop following treatment. Ornamentals -both conventional pesticide and biopesticide data packages - do not require residue tolerance information. All petitions are reviewed one last time by the registrants before they are submitted to EPA. The time study initiation to petition or data package submission is 30 months for Priority A projects but may be longer for "B" priorities.

EPA Makes a Decision

EPA carefully reviews the IR-4 petitions and data packages. When EPA approves a petition, a Notice, followed by a Final Rule, is published in the Federal Register. The timeframe for EPA approval can range from three months to two years or more. Registration follows after the registrant requests EPA's approval of the specific directions for use which will appear on the label. The product may be made available for national use, be confined to a limited geographical region, or be identified for Special Local Need (24c) in a specific state or states.

IR-4 at Virginia Tech

Virginia Tech pest management faculty have been very active in the IR-4 Project over the years. Their activities involves the identification of grower needs for pest controls to maintain their minor crops (64% of Virginia crops are minor crops) and research to support the registration of chemical and biological pesticides and animal drugs. Most recently, Dr. Scott Salom was awarded an IR-4 research grant in 1998 to support his work to establish verbenone as a suppression tactic for Southern pine beetle. Virginia's greatest accomplishments in IR-4 have come from Dr. Peter Schultz' many years of IR-4 ornamentals research. Dr. Schultz is Director of the Virginia Tech Hampton Roads Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Virginia Beach, Virginia. He is also a Professor of Entomology in the Virginia Tech Department of Entomology and an Extension Entomologist with Virginia Cooperative Extension. The Virginia IR-4 Project is managed through Virginia Tech Pesticide Programs. Most recently, Drs. Enrique Perez and Edwin Lewis summitted proposals to IR-4 in 2000 to conduct research with controls of root knot nematodes on vegetable crops.