Bee efficiency boosts diversified farming

This original article was published by Fruit Growers News on December 5, 2019. You can access the full story here.

The more diverse a farm’s plant population, the more beneficial it is for bee pollinators, and the more efficiently those pollinators work.

Those are the conclusions in a new paper published in the journal Ecology Letters by former Washington State University graduate student Elias Bloom.

Bloom and his co-authors, WSU entomology professors Tobin Northfield and David Crowder, looked at pollinator and plant populations on small farms (under 30 acres) and urban gardens in western Washington.

“Growing a wide variety of plants boosted the number of bee visits,” said Bloom, now a post-doctoral research associate in Michigan State University’s entomology department. “People want a silver bullet crop that they can plant that will bring in more pollinators, but that idea just wasn’t supported by our data. Having a variety, especially if they’re rare in a region, is the best way to increase pollinators.”

These rare plants, which could be anything that isn’t grown by other nearby farms, complement more traditional crops because they may flower at different times of year, or have beneficial traits that help pollinators vary their nutritional intake, he said.

Increasing that diversity also boosts pollinator efficiency by upping the number of visits a bee makes to crops at that farm.

“That means farmers can increase bee visits to their farm without adding more bees,” said Bloom, who earned his Ph.D. from WSU in entomology in 2019. “And we showed it works for both honey bees and wild pollinators. If a farmer is thinking about buying more bees, planting more diverse crops could be an alternative.”

A third finding of the paper is that giving bees a diversity of resources, like nesting habitat and flowers, in landscapes around a farm can also increase pollinator visits to a farm.

Bloom and his colleagues worked closely with 36 farms and urban gardens to look at the variety of plants each produces, and to measure pollinator visits. Among their partners were Hmong gardeners, originally from Southeast Asia, who now farm in the Seattle area.

“They brought a few plants with them when they immigrated here that you won’t find in other gardens,” Bloom said. “But they also grow staples found on most farms and gardens nearby, like tomatoes, peppers, or squash. Our research shows that this experimentation to introduce rare plant species may drive plant-pollinator interactions.”

That doesn’t mean farmers have to seek out rare produce from Asia or Africa, it just means they should consider a wider variety of plants from different plant families.

“You ideally want plants that flower at different times and with different flowers shapes and dimensions,” Bloom said. “Some flowers are very small and shallow, which is great for small wild bees. Taking those things into consideration helps boost pollinator visits to your farm or garden.”

Bloom’s research was part of his Ph.D. dissertation and was funded in part by the National Science Foundation, the USDA, Western Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education, and others.

Pesticide Program Update: EPA Seeks Nominations for the Farm, Ranch, and Rural Communities Federal Advisory Committee

This announcement was originally published by the EPA on November 8, 2019 and can be accessed here.

Today, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler is announcing a solicitation for 20-30 nominees to serve on the Farm, Ranch, and Rural Communities Committee (FRRCC). Established in 2008, the FRRCC provides independent policy advice, information, and recommendations to EPA’s Administrator on a range of environmental issues and policies that are of importance to agriculture and rural communities.

“One of our key priorities at EPA is to strengthen and solidify our relationship with agricultural stakeholders and rural communities by ensuring the agency is well informed on how its decisions impact rural America,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “Recruiting full membership of the Farm, Ranch, and Rural Communities Committee is the perfect opportunity to engage with those in our agriculture community, and I look forward to receiving the committee’s valuable input on important matters before the EPA in the very near future.”

To build a broad and balanced representation of perspectives for the FRRCC, members will be selected from a variety of relevant sectors. Members may represent allied industries and stakeholders including farm groups, rural suppliers, marketers, processors, academia/researchers; state, local, and tribal government; and nongovernmental organizations. In selecting committee members, EPA will consider qualifications such as: whether candidates are actively engaged in farming, hold leadership positions in ag-related organizations, possess a demonstrated ability to examine and analyze complicated environmental issues with objectivity and integrity, have experience working on issues where building consensus is necessary, and are able to volunteer several hours per month to the committee’s activities.

The previous Charter for the FRRCC was scheduled to expire and therefore was renewed in 2018; however, the committee currently has no members. EPA is specifically seeking 20-30 members for 2-3 year terms, and the Committee expects to meet approximately twice a year.

Applications must include a résumé or curriculum vitae and a statement of interest, and must be received by EPA by December 31, 2019. Letters of support and recommendation will be accepted but are not mandatory. 

Full details about qualifications and how to apply will be published in the Federal Register Notice, which will be posted once available on the committee’s website at: www.epa.gov/faca/frrcc.

For further information:

Farm, Ranch, and Rural Communities Committee (FRRCC) website: www.epa.gov/faca/frrcc

General information on federal advisory committees at EPA: www.epa.gov/faca

Contact Us to ask a question, provide feedback, or report a problem.

EPA Offers Guide to Help Translate Pesticide Safety Information into Spanish

This original announcement was published by the EPA on October 18, 2019 and can be accessed here.


EPA is taking an important step in its efforts to improve risk communication by expanding the agency’s Spanish language resources that assist with translating the health and safety portions of agricultural product labels. The Spanish Translation Guide for Pesticide Labeling resource is available for anyone to use, including pesticide manufacturers, and provides a resource for pesticide registrants that choose to display parts of their pesticide product label in Spanish.

EPA developed the Spanish translation guide in response to feedback from stakeholders who believe that having bilingual pesticide labeling is critical to the well-being of pesticide handlers, applicators, and farmworkers, many of whom do not speak English as a first language. EPA generally allows pesticide registrants to translate their product labels into any language so long as there is an EPA-accepted English version of the label and the translation is true and accurate. Some pesticide registrants already have their product labels fully translated in Spanish. However, many product labels are only available in English.

The guide is written in a universal form of Spanish to reach as many Spanish speakers as possible.

The guide provides translations for standard language typically used in the health and safety sections of pesticide product labels such as the:

  • First aid and precautionary statement label language;
  • Signal words;
  • Misuse statements;
  • Storage and pesticide container disposal instructions;
  • Personal protection equipment label statements; and
  • Worker Protection Standard agricultural use requirements.

The guide will help registrants maintain accurate, consistent translations on product labels and ease their burden when adding Spanish translations.



La EPA ofrece una guía para ayudar a traducir al español la información de seguridad de los pesticidas


La EPA está aplicando una medida importante en su esfuerzo por mejorar la comunicación de riesgos al ampliar los recursos en idioma español de la agencia, los cuales asisten en traducir las partes de salud y seguridad de las etiquetas de productos agrícolas. El recurso de la Guía de traducción al español para etiquetas de pesticidas está disponible para el uso de todos, incluidos los fabricantes de pesticidas, y ofrece un recurso para quienes registren pesticidas que decidan mostrar en español algunas partes de la etiqueta de los pesticidas que producen.

La EPA desarrolló la guía de traducción al español en respuesta a comentarios de interesados que consideran que tener etiquetas bilingües en los pesticidas es crucial para el bienestar de quienes trabajan con pesticidas, como los aplicadores y trabajadores agrícolas muchos de los cuales no hablan inglés como idioma materno. La EPA por lo general permite a quienes registren pesticidas traducir las etiquetas de sus productos a cualquier idioma siempre y cuando exista una versión en inglés de la etiqueta aceptada por la EPA, y la traducción sea fiel y correcta. Algunas personas que registran pesticidas ya tienen etiquetas de productos totalmente traducidas al español. Sin embargo, muchas etiquetas de productos solo están disponibles en inglés.

La guía está redactada en un español universal que entienda el mayor número de hispanohablantes que sea posible.

La guía ofrece traducciones del texto estándar comúnmente utilizado en las secciones de salud y seguridad de las etiquetas de productos de pesticidas como:

  • Texto de la etiqueta donde aparecen primeros auxilios y precauciones;
  • Palabras indicadoras;
  • Declaraciones de uso indebido;
  • Instrucciones para almacenar y desechar el envase de pesticida;
  • Declaraciones de la etiqueta sobre equipo de protección personal; y
  • Requisitos de uso agrícola según la Norma de protección de los trabajadores.

La guía ayudará a quienes registren productos a mantener traducciones correctas y uniformes en las etiquetas de productos y les facilitará agregar traducciones al español.

Click here for more!

Revised PRIA Fee Schedule for Pesticide Registration Applications Effective October 1, 2019

This original announcement was published by the EPA on October 2, 2019 and can be accessed here

EPA has published a list of updated pesticide registration service fees applicable to specified pesticide applications and tolerance actions. The new fees for FY 2020 and FY 2021 are effective on October 1, 2019. Under the Pesticide Registration Improvement Extension Act of 2018, the registration service fees for covered pesticide registration applications received on or after October 1, 2019, increase by 5 percent, rounding up to the nearest dollar, from the fiscal year 2019 fees.

The Pesticide Registration Improvement Extension Act of 2018, signed in March 2019, reauthorized the service fee system through fiscal year 2023 and established fees and review times for applications received from March 8, 2019, through fiscal year 2023.

The Federal Register notice for this action can be found at regulations.gov in Docket # EPA-HQ-OPP-2019-0543.

For more information about the Pesticide Registration Improvement Extension Act of 2018 or to see the fee tables.

EPA Releases Aquatic Life Benchmarks for Freshwater Species

This original announcement was published by the EPA on October 1, 2019 and can be access here

Today, EPA released the revised Aquatic Life Benchmarks table, which includes both new and updated aquatic life benchmark values.

State, tribal and local governments use these benchmarks in their interpretation of water monitoring data. Comparing a measured concentration of a pesticide in water to an aquatic life benchmark can be helpful in interpreting monitoring data and in identifying and prioritizing sites and pesticides that may require further investigation.

New aquatic life benchmarks represent newly available toxicity endpoints for registered chemicals. EPA’s goal is to add to these benchmarks on an annual basis.

EPA based these benchmarks on toxicity values found in scientific studies that the agency reviewed in support of publicly available ecological risk assessments and regulatory decisions. The table directly links the source documents for each of the benchmarks.

For more information click here.

EPA Releases Draft Policy to Reduce Pesticide Testing on Birds

This original announcement was published by the EPA on September 17th, 2019.

Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a draft science policy intended to reduce testing of pesticides on birds when registering conventional outdoor pesticides. The draft policy is open for public comment. This draft policy is in line with  EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler’s recent commitment to reduce animal testing at EPA.

“Today, EPA is issuing a new proposal to reduce pesticide testing on birds,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “This is EPA’s first action after my recent directive to aggressively reduce animal testing throughout the Agency.”

The draft policy represents another step toward the agency’s commitment to reduce animal testing while also ensuring that the agency receives enough information to support pesticide registration decisions that are protective of public health and the environment.

Waiving requirements for toxicity studies when they offer little additional scientific information or public health protection is an important component of the draft policy, which emphasizes avoiding unnecessary resource use, data generation costs, and animal testing.

The foundation of this policy is EPA’s collaboration with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). EPA and PETA are working on a retrospective analysis of avian acute oral and subacute dietary studies. This analysis will address whether EPA can confidently assess acute risk for birds using only the single oral dose protocol.

The draft policy can be found at: https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2019-09/documents/draft-waiver-guidance-avian-sub-acute-dietary.pdf.

EPA is accepting public comment until Nov. 1, 2019. Please email comments to OPPeco@epa.gov.

USDA surveying fruit growers about chemical use

The original article was published by Fruit Growers News on September 12, 2019 and can be accessed here

USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) Olympia, Washington office said in a Sept. 9 press release it would soon begin surveying fruit growers in 12 states for its biennial Fruit Chemical Use Survey.

This survey will collect information on fertilizer and pesticide applications, and pest management practices for bearing fruit acres, according to the press release. Acres treated and application rates will be collected for more than 20 fruit crops in the 12 program states.

“Growers benefit from providing this information because it is used to re-register products for their use, to illustrate the industry’s environmental practices, and to assure the quality of U.S. food to consumers here and around the world,” Northwest Regional Director Christopher Mertz said in the release.

The surveyed states are California, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas and Washington.

The Fruit Chemical Use Survey will provide much-needed information about the current crop production practices used in the United States, according to the press release. The results of this survey will paint a detailed picture of pesticide use and other pest management practices used by the fruit growers across the nation.

NASS said to conduct the survey, its representatives will contact selected Oregon and Washington growers to arrange in-person interviews. The results of this survey will be available in aggregate form only, ensuring that no individual operation or producer can be identified, as required by federal law.

“The Northwest Horticultural Council (NHC) strongly encourages tree fruit growers in the Pacific Northwest to participate in the upcoming NASS Chemical Use Survey,” Mark Powers, president of the NHC.

Survey results will be published in NASS’s online database, “Quick Stats,” in July 2020, NASS said. The database and all NASS reports are available on the agency’s web site: www.nass.usda.gov. For more information on NASS surveys and reports, call the NASS Northwest Regional Field Office at 1-800-435-5883.

USDA NASS survey
Source: USDA NASS

EPA Receives Request for Experimental Permit to Combat Mosquitoes

This original announcement was published by the EPA on September 11, 2019. View the proposal description here


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has received an application for an experimental use permit that would allow Oxitec to study the use of genetically engineered mosquitoes to reduce mosquito populations. EPA is sharing a description of the application with the public for a 30-day comment period, closing Oct. 11, 2019.

Aedes aegypti mosquitoes can spread several diseases of significant human health concern, including the Zika virus and dengue fever. Oxitec’s proposal is to conduct additional research on reducing these mosquito populations and to gather information that could support a subsequent application for broader use in the United States.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said that “preventing bites from insects and ticks is vital to stopping the spread of vector-borne diseases, and more prevention methods are needed.”

Oxitec is proposing to release genetically engineered male mosquitoes into the environment to mate with wild female mosquitoes. Male mosquitoes do not bite people. These males are modified in such a way that causes their female offspring to die as larvae. Male offspring would survive to become fully functional adults with the same modifications, which can provide multi-generational effectiveness so that ultimately Aedes aegypti mosquito populations in the release areas decline.

Oxitec’s proposed experimental program is designed to take place over 24 months on up to 6,600 acres in Harris County, Texas, and Monroe County, Florida.

After review of the application and public comments, EPA will decide whether to issue or deny the permit and, if issued, the conditions under which the study is to be conducted.

Public comments about this proposed permit should be submitted to EPA-HQ-OPP-2019-0274 on or before Oct. 11, 2019.

View the proposal description.

EPA Seeks Comment on Process for Evaluating Pesticide Synergy for Ecological Risk Assessments

This original announcement was published by the EPA on September 9, 2019.


EPA has developed an interim process to review synergy data for mixtures of pesticide active ingredients and potentially incorporate that information into our ecological risk estimates. The interim process will be available for public comment on or before October 24, 2019 on www.regulations.govin docket EPA-HQ-OPP-2017-0433.

EPA generally evaluates pesticide ecological risks based on toxicity information from studies conducted with single active ingredients. This is based on best available evidence on pesticide interactions and the expectation that those interactions are rare. More recently, patent claims of synergy against target pests have raised questions and concerns about the adequacy of estimating risk of each individual active ingredient alone, especially for products mixed prior to application or products containing multiple active ingredients. Synergy occurs when the combined effect of two or more active ingredients are greater than the sum of the effects the chemicals would have individually. EPA hopes this process will close the gap between patent claims and our ecological risk assessments.

The specific feedback EPA is looking for is included in section IV of the Federal Register notice. Based on feedback and our analysis of the results of this process, EPA will determine whether synergy data supporting patents is useful for our ecological risk assessments and whether we should modify the interim process.

EPA to Hold Environmental Modeling Public Meeting in October

This original announcement was published by the EPA on September 4, 2019. Click here for more information.  

On Oct. 16, 2019, EPA will hold its semi-annual Environmental Modeling Public Meeting. This is a public forum for pesticide registrants, other stakeholders, and EPA to discuss current issues related to modeling pesticide fate, transport and exposure for risk assessments in a regulatory context.

The meeting will focus on:

  • Sources of usage data (relating to the actual application of pesticides, in terms of the quantity applied or units treated);
  • Spatial applications of usage data;
  • Model parameterization;
  • Extrapolation of usage data to fill in gaps;
  • Temporal variability of usage; and
  • Updates on ongoing topics.

There will also be presentations on incorporating pesticide usage data into environmental exposure and ecological risk assessments.

Registration is required. Requests to participate in the meeting must be received on or before Sept. 23, 2019. Please contact Rebecca Lazarus or Zoe Ruge at OPP_EMPM@epa.gov to register.

More information can be found at www.regulations.gov in docket # EPA_FRDOC_0001-24430Sign up for updates and abstract requests for future Environmental Modeling Public Meetings.