The goal of the Inter-regional Research Project #4 (IR-4) is to provide safe and effective pest management solutions for specialty crops. This program represents a partnership between the land grant universities, cooperative extension, and specialty crop growers and is comprised of field, laboratory and quality assurance units. <P>Pesticide residue data for new crop chemical registrations is generated under Good Laboratory Practice(GLP) guidelines. IR-4 focuses on next generation "lower risk" pesticides that effectively control disruptive pests without adverse effects on the environment. The program has substantially increased in size since it's inception in 1963 and currently IR-4 data is used to support more than 50% of the EPA registrations for new uses of existing pesticides.<P> The USDA IR-4 program is a national program comprised of 6 units: HQ (housed at Rutgers, NJ), 4 regions (North Central, North East, Southern and Western) and an A.R.S. group. The Western region activities are coordinated from U.C. Davis.<P> As outlined by USDA the three core objectives of the IR-4 program are: <ol> <LI> To obtain and maintain regulatory clearances of effective crop protection agents for high-value, minor/specialty food crops and for minor uses on major food crops with special emphasis on lower risk chemicals and uses that are compatible with Integrated Pest Management (IPM) programs. <LI> To support research to enhance the development and registration of bio-pesticides for use in food and non-food use pest management programs <LI>To support research on crop protection products that will expand their uses on ornamental crops (nursery, floral, turf, and other non-food crop systems) to allow management of new and important pest species.</ol> The project provides data for registration of pesticides on specialty crops and for minor uses in major crops. Uses in ornamental crops are also addressed and research is conducted with bio-pesticides. Routinely, there are approx 200 magnitude of residue food use field trials carried out at 11 field research sites during any one season. The IR-4 bio-pesticide grants program supports 4-8 bio-pesticide research projects in the West. For ornamentals, 10-12 projects are supported. The WR Analytical Laboratory generally performs analysis for up to 160 trials. All projects are carried out under Good Laboratory Practice guidelines with oversight from the Western Region Quality Assurance Unit. <P>The growers of specialty crops and the ornamental industry are the beneficiaries of the research. This target group encompasses not only state and regional growers but also growers nationally. <P>Consumers also derive a significant benefit from this research as they are provided with safe, high quality produce and ornamental plants. The pest management needs for specialty crops and the ornamental industry would go unanswered in the absence of a program such as IR-4.
Non-Technical Summary: The overall goal of the Inter-regional Research Project #4 (IR-4) program is to facilitate the provision of safe, effective and economical pest management solutions for growers of minor/specialty crops. In California and the Western region, there are pest management needs for a large number of specialty crops and an extensive ornamental industry. The emergence of invasive pests, chemical resistance, and the loss of older compounds makes new chemical registrations vital to California's multi-billion dollar specialty crop agriculture. In California, specialty crops dominate. For example, California is the sole producer (99% or more) of a large number of specialty crops including almonds, clingstone peaches, figs, and walnuts. In 2004, California's total gross cash income from agriculture was $31.8 billion of which approx. 70% was derived from specialty crops.The three core objectives of the IR-4 program are 1) to assist with regulatory clearances for crop protection agents, particularly lower risk chemicals, on minor/specialty food crops 2) to support research to enhance the development and registration of bio-pesticides and 3) to support research on crop protection products that will expand their uses on ornamental crops. The Western Region IR-4 program is housed at UC Davis and is comprised of an analytical laboratory, a field research office and a quality assurance unit to support GLP compliance requirements for pesticide registration. Field research sites are throughout California and other Western region States. Input is solicited from stakeholders (Growers, Commodity groups, Cooperative Extension specialists and farm advisers, State Liaison Representatives) to assist with prioritization of projects particularly those that use lower risk chemicals and are compatible with IPM approaches. <P> Approach: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires rigorous data packages for registration of pesticides and establishment of tolerances on food and feed crops. It is critical that this work is conducted in a manner that follows set regulatory guidelines so that the packages are acceptable to EPA and tolerances can be set. IR-4 has developed an extensive infrastructure which has qualified researchers, analysts and quality assurance professionals to conduct this work efficiently and effectively in support of specialty crops. The IR-4 program operates as a partnership between the State Agricultural Experiment Stations, USDA-ARS and USDA-NIFA with the goal of giving growers access to important pest management tools. Coordination and management of the National program is accomplished through the IR-4 Project Management Committee (PMC). This committee is comprised of the IR-4 Project Executive Director, the four Regional Directors, the ARS National Director, the five Administrative Advisers (1 each from the four regions, and the ARS administration), the NIFA National Program Leader for IR-4, and the Chair of the Commodity Liaison Committee(CLC). Long-term policy, coordination and integration are provided by the IR-4 PMC. The status of ongoing programs are reviewed, policy and procedures are developed, operational budgets are set, strategic plans are developed, and the overall goals and accomplishments of the program are reviewed. The CLC ensures that IR-4 continues to serve stakeholders by addressing highly relevant pest management needs. IR-4 research flows from stakeholder input through prioritization, field trials and measurement of residues to EPA submission. Input on prioritization of IR-4 research is sought from the commodity groups, growers, agricultural extensions specialists and farm advisers as well as from IR-4 Liaison Representatives from each State. Prioritization of research is achieved by a consensus mechanism organized around the Food Use Workshop (FUW) for pesticides on food use crops and the Ornamental Workshop for pesticides on ornamental horticultural crops. Once priorities have been established, trials are assigned to the regional field and laboratory groups at the National Research Planning Meeting (NRPM) and research protocols developed. All research in the Food Use Program (designed to address Objective 1) is carried out using Good Laboratory Practices (GLP) and is subject to review by Quality Assurance Units (QAU). At the completion of the studies and within a 24-36 month time line, IR-4 HQ assembles and submits a petition for registration to EPA. IR-4 maximizes efficiencies by coordinating and bundling registration packages within manufacturer and EPA time lines. The IR-4 bio-pesticide program is a grants program. Grants applications are solicited annually and a proportion are funded after peer review. One of the measures of the success of the IR-4 program is the number of food use clearances obtained for pesticides on specialty crops. Over the previous 10 years, output has increased by approx 5 fold from 200 to 1000 clearances indicating the continuing need for and success of the program.