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Less-toxic pest management principles provide for a healthier community

The Issue

The Fresno Metropolitan Flood Control District has a mandate to reduce pesticide applications by home gardeners to keep the San Joaquin River safe and healthy. The District discovered that after city-allowed watering days, the river had increased levels of toxic pest management chemicals. Toxic pest chemicals are broad-spectrum pest control chemicals which do not target one or a few pests but most insects they come into contact with, including beneficial insects.

What Has ANR Done?

UC Fresno County Master Gardener volunteers, through an ongoing partnership with the Fresno Metropolitan Flood Control District, have developed a community outreach program to reduce the use of toxic pest control products in home gardens and landscapes. The UCCE Master Gardener program built and maintained seven integrated pest management kiosks featuring less-toxic “quick tip” consumer cards at five local nurseries, one retail store and the Garden of the Sun, the UCCE Master Gardener demonstration garden. Staffing plant clinics at these locations and making presentations on less-toxic pest control methods has been the primary method used in the education process. Master Gardener volunteers have presented the less-toxic pest control message to school groups, garden clubs, businesses and societies. In addition, the Master Gardener program participated in a statewide IPM outreach campaign with Orchard Supply Hardware stores. The four local OSH stores have a “quick tip” card holder kiosk at the end of each pesticide aisle and “shelf talkers” identifying less-toxic products.

The Payoff

Master Gardeners provide less-toxic pest control message to Fresno-area residents

Homeowner education about these alternative methods by the UC Master Gardener program volunteers was invaluable in reducing chemical levels in the San Joaquin River. Through this credible community group, the District has been able to leverage its limited resources and create a continuous outreach campaign. In 2006, more than 10,000 home gardeners heard the IPM message during speaking engagements and Q&A plant clinic booths. Also over this time period, OSH reported a 12 percent increase in the sale of less-toxic products compared to the more-toxic alternatives. The most common less-toxic products being purchased were insecticial soaps, neem, horticultural oils, ant bait stations, iron phosphate snail bait, copper barriers, mulches and low-nitrogen fertilizers. As a result of these education efforts, event attendees reported changing their behavior to use more environmentally friendly products.


Supporting Unit: Fresno County

Leslie Feathers, Master Gardener Program Coordinator
UC Cooperative Extension
1720 South Maple Ave
Fresno, CA 93702
(559) 456-7224 Fax (559) 456-7575