Tuesday, December 16, 2014

How Could IPM Have Helped?

San Ysidro School District, San Diego, California is battling an unresolved lawsuit over alleged pesticide use, incurring $35,000 in legal costs as of last month. According to media reports, in 2011, teacher Josie Hamada took her students to a cherry tree grove on school property to draw and write about trees. After clearing some weeds, Hamada found herself contaminated with a blue substance which she suspected was a pesticide. Students were quickly moved inside to wash up. Health complaints followed, including at least one student’s trip to a hospital the next day.

School officials report that no pesticide had been applied by district staff or contractors, and claimed that notices are posted for every scheduled application. The district had also sent out 5,000 notices to parents asking if they wanted to receive individual notification when the school applied pesticides; only three parents responded.
Media reports indicate the cherry trees were planted as a memorial to September 11, 2001 victims. It’s unclear from the news stories if the blue substance was confirmed to be a pesticide, however an informed IPM coordinator might have suggested a lower maintenance alternative before the trees were planted. Cherry trees, much like apple, crabapple, dogwood and birches, are “key plants”, prone to insect and disease problems. In most environments, cherry trees and other key plants require interventions, including pesticide applications, to keep them healthy and attractive. Fruit trees also typically shed some of the crop throughout the growing season, which can provide a food and moisture source for rodents, flies, yellow jackets and other potential pests. Weeds can also be a challenge to manage. Barrier fabric and mulch can be a solution, but can also provide harborage for rodents, and requires ongoing maintenance to be effective. To real the full story, click here.
Red imported fire ant mound
(Jake Farnum, Bugwood.org)
In Texas, a student died at Has Middle School in Corpus Christi following an allergic reaction to fire ant stings he received on a football field. While the district has some IPM tactics in place, their IPM practices for fire ant management were not complete. The coaching staff was not trained to recognize the signs of anaphylactic shock.  Knowing when and how to inspect a field for fire ants and how to apply baits effectively are key to fire ant management.

According to Janet Hurley, Extension Program Specialist, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, “Your objective should be to find the method or methods that are most cost-effective, environmentally sound and fit your tolerance level for fire ants.” AgriLife Extension worked with the school IPM staff to develop a district-wide fire ant baiting program. One year later the district has reported fewer fire ant complaints and reduced cost with a broadcast bait program rather than treating individual mounds, which is time intensive, can require more pesticide use, and does nothing to manage fire ants foraging from mounds on adjoining property. Properly timed bait applications can be entirely consumed by foraging ants within hours, limiting potential for exposure to the bait. The district also adopted a policy to train all staff on how to recognize anaphylaxis and how to properly respond to an allergic reaction to both pests and food-borne allergies. Read the full story here. To learn more about fire ants and IPM visit Fire Ants and the Texas IPM in Schools Program.

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