Pesticide use declines statewide, Valleywide

December 06, 2001

Pesticide use in California during 2000 declined statewide for the second consecutive time and is at the lowest point since 1992, according to a report by the California Department of Pesticide Regulation.

The reported pesticide use in California dropped from 202 million pounds in 1999 to about 188 million pounds in 2000, down 27 million pounds since 1988.

While reduced-risk pesticide use increased, there was a decline in the amount of pounds of chemicals classified as potential carcinogens, reproductive toxins and toxic air contaminates. The use of methyl bromide and metam-sodium, two soil fumigants, dropped more than 8 million pounds from 1999 to 2000. The drop in methyl bromide use is due to a phase out of this chemical, resulting in limited supply and higher prices.

The highest use of a pesticide continues to be sulfur, a natural fungicide, acaricide (mite killers) and insecticide favored by both conventional and organic farmers. Sulfur is the most highly used pesticide both in acreage treated and total pounds used. While sulfur still accounts for a third of all pesticide use, there was a drop of 5.9 million pounds from 1999 to 2000.


Use of reduced-risk pesticides (products that pose little of no negative environmental impact and are non-toxic or relatively non-toxic to humans and mammals) increased by 50 percent measured by both pounds and acreage treated in 2000.

Further, many new pesticide registrations in recent years are reduced-risk pesticides. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and DPR have made efforts to expedite the registration of reduced-risk pesticides in recent years. As these new reduced-risk pesticides have gained market acceptance they have begun to replace the older higher-risk pesticides, especially those targeted for reduced usage of cancellation through the Food Quality Protection Act.

Imperial County ranks among several counties showing significant reductions in pesticide use during 2000. Imperial County pesticide use dropped 1.5 million pounds from 1999 to 2000.

Other counties with significant pesticide use reductions include Fresno (down 2.2 million pounds), Stanislaus (down 2.1 million pounds), Kern (down 1.6 million pounds), Solano (down 1.3 million pounds), Riverside (down 1.2 million pounds), Monterey (down 1.1 million pounds), and San Joaquin (down 1 million pounds),

Cumulative acreage treated is calculated as follows: 1 acre treated with a given pesticide five times during the year is counted as 5 acres treated. Cumulative acreage treated with organophosphate and carbamate chemicals, considered to be in the high-toxicity category, declined more than 740,000 acres from 1999; organophosphate and carbamate use declined by 624,00 pounds from 1999.

Cumulative acreage of potential carcinogens declined nearly 1.6 million acres and 3.6 million pounds from 1999 to 2000. The category of reproductive toxins declined nearly 3.9 million pounds from 1999 but cumulative acreage increased about 500,000 acres.

Potential groundwater contaminants increased by about 100,000 pounds and cumulative acreage increased about 36,000 acres. Reduced-risk pesticides increased by more than 850,000 cumulative acres and more than 185,000 pounds from 1999 to 2000.

The preliminary 2000 pesticide data summary is available online at

A final data summary will be posted when completed and the 1990 through 1999 pesticide data summaries are available on line. A 400-page summary may be ordered in hard copy ($10) or on diskette ($2.50). To order, send payment to: cashier, California Department of Pesticide Regulation, P.O. Box 4015, Sacramento, CA 95812-4015.

>> Eric T. Natwick is an entomologist at the University of California-Imperial County Cooperative Extension.

>>The Cooperative Extension serves all residents of the Imperial Valley.

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