The California Department of Pesticide Regulation in Sacramento reports that pesticide use in  2006 continues to decline.

Overall statewide pesticide use dropped to 189.6 million pounds in 2006 from 195.3 million pounds in 2005, a decrease of nearly 6 million pounds. Although use increased in landscape maintenance, public health and other categories, production agriculture saw a 10 million pound drop.

Use of many high-toxicity chemicals dropped for the third consecutive year.

Department director Mary-Ann Warmerdam credits two initiatives for the decline. The department has streamlined registration of softer chemicals. The governor's budget also has revived a grant program that has provided nearly $600,000 to help fund projects aimed at reducing pesticide risks and use.

The top five counties in pesticide use—Fresno, Kern, Tulare, San Joaquin and Madera—remained unchanged from 2005 to 2006.

Pesticide use varies from year to year based on several factors, including types of crops, economics, acreage planted and weather conditions, department officials say.

Even under similar conditions, pest problems may vary. For example, cool wet spring weather often prompts increased use of sulfur and other fungicides, as was the case in 2005.

But similar weather conditions in 2006 did not produce as much vineyard disease in most areas, so winegrape growers actually used less sulfur. As a result, total pesticide use in winegrapes dropped by about 8.5 million pounds.)

Among other trends in 2006 compared with 2005 are:

  • Fumigant use decreased in poundage (down 1.7 million pounds), but increased in cumulative acreage (up 28,000 acres).
  • Use of oil pesticides increased by 6.4 million pounds and 472,000 acres. Most oils serve as an alternative to high-toxicity pesticides.
  • Use of insecticide organophosphate and carbamate chemicals—most of which are older compounds of high regulatory concern—continued to decline. For 2006, use declined by 635,000 pounds and 668,000 acres.
  • Chemicals classified as potential carcinogens declined by 1.8 million pounds and 288,000 acres.
  • Chemicals classified as reproductive toxins declined by 2 million pounds and 350,000 acres.
  • Chemicals classified as toxic air contaminants decreased by 1 million pounds and 106,000 acres. Groundwater-contaminant pesticides increased by 124,000, pounds, but acreage remained about the same.

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