In a landmark decision, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has granted funding to a Potatoes USA-supported research project aimed at finding alternatives to neonicotinoids, a widely used insecticide in potato farming.
The project, officially titled “Enhancing integrated insect pest management strategies for U.S. potato production systems” and informally known as “Potato IPM,” has been awarded a four-year grant under the USDA’s Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI).
Growing scrutiny due to environmental concerns
This initiative comes at a crucial time as neonicotinoids, or “neonics,” face growing scrutiny due to environmental concerns. Despite their 25-year history of effective and cost-efficient pest control in potato crops, neonics have been linked to issues such as rising pest resistance, harm to pollinators, and environmental contamination. Major retailers, including Walmart and Costco, have even urged suppliers to phase out neonic usage in response to these concerns.
The Potato IPM project sets forth ambitious objectives to revolutionize pest management in the U.S. potato industry. Its goals include developing and evaluating non-neonic pest strategies for ware and seed potatoes, creating pest prediction and decision-making tools, assessing the socioeconomic impacts of transitioning from neonics, and facilitating the adoption of new strategies among growers.
Potato Research Advisory Committee (PRAC) played pivotal role
Potatoes USA’s Potato Research Advisory Committee (PRAC) played a pivotal role in the project’s funding success. PRAC, which annually reviews research proposals for various funding opportunities, rallied unprecedented support for Potato IPM.
The committee gathered 51 letters of endorsement from a wide range of stakeholders, including national and regional organizations, processors, regulators, researchers, and growers across 12 states.
Since 2016, PRAC’s efforts have significantly impacted the potato industry, helping secure $38.8 million in funding for six major projects led by potato scientists. The Potato IPM project represents a significant stride in sustainable agriculture and showcases the collaborative effort of the industry to adapt to changing environmental and consumer demands.