June 2003, Issue No. 206

A monthly report on environmental and pesticide related issues

In This Issue

Green Manuring with Mustard: Improving an Old Technology

Upcoming Conferences/Announcements

Sprucing Up Your IPM Skills: Plan Now to Attack Spruce Aphids Next Year
Lake-Friendly Gardening: A Whatcom County Success Story
Food and Environmental Quality Laboratory Board Meets

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Green Manuring with Mustard

Improving an Old Technology

Andy McGuire, Agricultural Systems Educator, WSU

Green manuring is the tilling of fresh plant material into the soil to improve the soil and thus the growth of the following crop. It is an old technology, used by farmers since at least the 5th century BC. Immigrants brought the practice to the USA from Northern Europe and its use reached a peak in the early 1900s.

Over the past century, most farmers have replaced green manuring with the use of synthetic inorganic fertilizers. Recently, however, innovative farmers are giving this old technology a new look with mustard green manures (Figure 1). In contrast to the low input, low management green manures of the past, mustard green manures require fertilizer, irrigation, and intensive management. They require a current understanding of soil ecology, soil-borne pests, plant biochemistry, and breeding and screening techniques. And unlike synthetic fertilizers, they can improve the soil's physical, chemical, and biological qualities.


Above left: Oriental mustard (Brassica juncea). Above right: White mustard (Sinapis alba).

These multiple benefits are attracting an increasing number of farmers in the Columbia Basin of Washington (Figure 2). They are using mustard green manures, mainly before potatoes, to improve their soils and thereby manage soil-borne pests, control wind erosion, increase infiltration, improve crop yields, and they hope, increase profits.


Green Manure Research

Up through the 1940s, green manure research was focused on improving the soil's physical characteristics and ability to supply nutrients to crops. But as synthetic fertilizers predominated, green manure research faded. In the late 1980s, researchers in the Pacific Northwest began to look again at green manures, but now for soil-borne pest control. Nematodes (Mojtahedi et al. 1993), weeds (Boydston and Hang 1995), and soil-borne diseases (Davis et al. 1994, 1996) were all targets of this research, done mainly to improve potato production. Sudangrass, already used in Washington as a cover crop before potatoes, was evaluated, but so were less familiar crops like rapeseed, oilseed radish, and mustard.

Dale Gies' Cropping System

The use of mustard green manures by Columbia Basin farmers can be traced to sugarbeet research done in Idaho in the early 1990s. Several varieties of white mustard (Sinapis alba) and oilseed radish were imported for testing as trap crops of the sugarbeet cyst nematode. One of these mustard varieties, Martigena, made its way into the hands of several Columbia Basin farmers who were trying it out as a green manure in irrigated crop rotations. One of these farmers was Dale Gies.

Gies, who farms just south of Moses Lake, took several years to develop his unique cropping system, a profile of which is available on the Internet at http://grant-adams.wsu.edu/agriculture/covercrops/pubs/System_profile-Gies.pdf. This system is designed around a two-year rotation of wheat followed by potatoes, with a mustard green manure planted after wheat harvest and incorporated in late October (Figure 3). Reduced tillage, careful water use, and good nutrient management practices are also important system components.


Mustard green manure being chopped and disked in October.

Using this system, Gies found he could successfully grow potatoes every other year on the same field, which is no small feat. The Norkotah potatoes that he grows are very susceptible to the soil-borne pathogen Verticillium dahliae. This fungus causes potato early dying complex, which is normally controlled with longer rotations (at least three years between potato crops) and with soil fumigation before planting the potatoes. But Gies, in spite of his short rotation, was harvesting above-average yields. He also noticed improvements in his soil. In 1999, Gies began working with Washington State University (WSU) to understand these observations and refine these techniques.

In the past four years of on-farm research, we at WSU have measured improvements in soil quality and conducted fumigant replacement trials in Gies' fields. (Until 2001, he still fumigated before planting potatoes, but experimented with omitting the fumigant in parts of fields. In those areas he saw evidence that fumigation might not be necessary in his system). We have also worked to understand and improve the use of mustard green manures. The remainder of this article is a description of this work.

On-Farm Research

Improved soil quality. Soil quality is measured by specific attributes such as infiltration, soil respiration, bulk density, and aggregation; optimal levels of these attributes contribute to soil health. A healthy soil is one that will support crop growth without soil degradation or harm to the surrounding environment.

Infiltration is the process of water entering the soil. The rate of infiltration is important in irrigated agriculture, especially where center pivot irrigation is used. In these systems, the water application rate at the outside of the circles is often higher than the infiltration rate of the soil. This can result in runoff and ponding in low areas, which can lead to increased incidence of root-rot diseases. Where fertilizers and pesticides are being applied through the water (chemigation), high infiltration rates allow the chemicals to stay where they fall. Good infiltration is also correlated with good aeration, which also can reduce soil-borne disease problems.

Green manures can increase infiltration rates, but the effect is not direct. It begins, as with many green manure effects, with the addition of organic matter to the soil. As soil microorganisms digest this organic matter, they produce various substances called soil glues. These glues bond soil particles together into stable aggregates, or soil "crumbs," which allow water to move more quickly into the soil.

We have measured infiltration on adjacent fields having similar soil textures. One was managed under the Gies cropping system. The other was in a rotation more typical of the Columbia Basin, with no green manures.


Average infiltration rates after consecutive 1-inch applications of ponded water.
Point in Rotation
Average Infiltraton Rates* (in/min)
1st inch
2nd inch
3rd inch
After Wheat Harvest (MGM)† 1.39a 0.48a §
After Wheat Harvest (no MGM)  0.13b 0.18b  
NOVEMBER 2, 2000
After Potato Harvest (MGM) 0.20a 0.19a 0.16
After Sugarbeet Harvest (no MGM)  0.39a 0.05b  
MARCH 7, 2001
Potatoes/Winter (MGM) 0.57a 0.10a §
Sugarbeets/Winter (no MGM)  0.06b 0.05b  
MARCH 5, 2002
Potatoes/Winter (MGM) 0.14 0.09a 0.08
Fallow/Winter (no MGM) 0.10 0.05b  
* Mean separation (within date and inch applied) by PLSD at 0.01 level.
† MGM - Rotation with mustard green manures.
a,b Figures with the same letter are not statistically different.
§ Third inch not measured on neighboring field due to time constraints.

Infiltration rates (Table 1) were generally much greater under the Gies cropping system. One exception was after potato harvest on the Gies field and sugarbeet harvest on the adjacent field (2000). Infiltration rates on both fields were measured on soils that had been fluffed up during harvest. In this condition, the infiltration rate for the first inch of applied water was lower in the Gies field than in the adjacent field. However, the situation was reversed when a second inch of water was applied. We believe that the aggregates in the field not receiving green manures were not stable in water. After the first inch of water was applied, they broke down and sealed the soil. Infiltration in the Gies soil was stable, even when a third inch of water was applied. This difference in aggregate stability of the soils was confirmed in later measurements (Figure 4).


Reduced Wind Erosion. Another benefit of increased aggregation due to green manures is reduced wind erosion. Farmers in the Columbia Basin have observed this in fields receiving green manures. Research to confirm their observations is on-going; check for new research results at the WSU Cooperative Extension, Grant-Adams Area website: http://grant-adams.wsu.edu.

Improved Nutrient Cycling/Availability of Nutrients. Mustard green manures can improve nutrient cycling by taking up nutrients that might otherwise be lost to leaching. When a green manure is returned to the soil, much of the nitrogen that the mustard takes up, whether from fertilizer or residual from the previous crop, will become available to following crops. This is also true for other nutrients. As the saying goes, "feed the soil and the soil will feed the plants." A rule of thumb for green manures incorporated the same season as the following crop is that 50% of the nitrogen in the green manure will be available. The actual amount depends on the plant composition, soil temperature, soil moisture, and losses due to leaching.

Leaching of nutrients released during decomposition is a risk with mustard green manures because they are incorporated in the fall. This risk may be reduced when the mustard green manure is incorporated with a large amount of wheat straw, which will tend to tie up any available nitrogen in the soil. To do this, farmers must direct seed the mustard through standing wheat stubble. If, however, the wheat straw is incorporated before mustard planting, it will tie up nitrogen and more fertilizer will be required to grow the mustard.

Spring incorporation would lessen the risk of leaching, but farmers prefer to incorporate in the fall for several reasons. First, they do not want to have to deal with a green manure in the spring when there are many other things to do. Second, there is less risk of damage from any soil-borne pathogens that might have been stimulated by the green manure. Finally, because mustards will not always survive winters in this region, a spring incorporation of dead plants would not give them the green manure effects that are important for pest control (see Green Manure Effects, below).

Green manures can also increase nutrient availability through weathering of soil mineral components. This weathering may be caused by the production of acids by microorganisms during the decomposition of the green manure. Research on the nutrient cycling of mustard green manure crops is beginning this year.

Improved Management of Soil-Borne Pests. Much of the renewed interest in green manures is focused on their potential to help control soil-borne pests such as fungal pathogens and nematodes. Often, these pests cannot be controlled well with pesticides and when they can, as with soil fumigants, it is expensive to do so. Mustard green manures offer farmers a management tool for some of these pests.

The fumigant metam sodium is widely used in Columbia Basin potato production for the control of Verticillium dahliae, a major cause of potato early dying complex. Without such control, yield losses of up to 30% can be expected. We conducted fumigant replacement trials to see whether such losses would occur in the Gies wheat/mustard-potato rotation if we did not apply metam sodium.

Three trials were conducted over two years (1999 and 2000) on loamy sand and sandy loam soils. Mustard green manures were fall-incorporated and potatoes (cv. Russet Norkotah), with and without metam sodium, were planted the following spring. The results (Figure 5) show that the fumigant did not increase potato yields over those produced without fumigant. Gies could have saved the money spent on the fumigant and harvested the same amount of potatoes.


Although the replacement of fumigant with mustard works for Gies, his system is quite different from that of other potato farmers in Washington. While Gies grows a short-season potato (Norkotah) for the fresh market, 90% of Washington's potato farmers grow longer-season potatoes for processing. Processors require these farmers to grow crops other than potatoes for at least three years before growing potatoes, so the short two-year rotation that Gies uses is not feasible for them. Therefore, in 2001, we began to investigate whether we would find the same results with these longer-season potatoes in longer rotations.

Our first results (Figure 6) indicate that it is possible to replace metam sodium with mustard green manures in long-season potatoes. Specific gravity (referenced in the figure) is a measurement of the amount of solids in a potato. Processors want high specific gravities to improve their product quality.


While this first trial gave positive results, other fields (unreplicated plots) on the same farm showed lower yields where the fumigant had been omitted. We are now trying to determine whether these conflicting results are due to differences in initial disease pressure, soil properties, management of the mustard, or other factors.

Pest Control Mechanisms

The effects of mustard green manures are the result of multiple mechanisms. Because it is difficult to observe these mechanisms in the soil, our strategy has been to identify, as best we can, the primary mechanisms and the green manure attributes that enhance these mechanisms. We can then manage the mustard to produce those attributes.

In this strategy, we have focused on three groups of mechanisms that stem from different aspects of the mustard green manure:

  • crop rotation effects from growing the crop,
  • green manure effects from tilling fresh plant material into the soil, and
  • biofumigation effects from the chemicals in the green manure.

Crop Rotation Effects. Before advances in soil science and microbiology, many effects of green manures were assumed to be the result of simple crop rotation. Rotating diverse crops can reduce pest problems by changing the environmental conditions in the field. These changing conditions disrupt pest life cycles. In general, rotating crops with different planting dates (spring vs. fall), different growing habits (annual vs. perennial, tall vs. short, fibrous vs. tap rooted), or different susceptibility to pests (grasses vs. broadleaves) helps prevent any one pest from becoming a problem.

The Columbia root-knot nematode is a serious pest in potatoes that can be reduced by rotating non-host crops. Mustards, depending on the study, have been classified as non-hosts, poor hosts, or moderate hosts of this nematode. Although a mustard green manure is probably not grown long enough to reduce nematode number by this mechanism, a poor/non-host status would keep the nematode populations from increasing. These nematodes, however, can increase on weeds in the mustard. Therefore, some farmers choose to control volunteer wheat and other weeds in their mustard crop with selective herbicides.

One rotation-related concern of Columbia Basin farmers is that the mustard could cross-pollinate with existing Brassica seed crops. The August planting date of most mustard green manures limits this risk, but farmers growing mustard still have the responsibility to prevent cross-pollination by either incorporating or otherwise killing plants which survive in fields or field borders.

Green Manure Effects. Incorporating fresh, green plant material into soil changes the soil’s biology through a transfer of energy. Energy from the sun, stored in plants, is made available to soil microorganisms through green manuring. As these fungi and bacteria digest the plants, certain species (usually beneficial) increase in number because they are best suited to use this energy. The increased numbers of these beneficial species can then suppress pathogens through a number of potential mechanisms such as the interference of chemical signaling between the plant and pathogen, predation, parasitism, and competitive exclusion. Competitive exclusion is the mechanism that occurs when the increased number of beneficial microorganisms out-compete pathogens for location in the area just outside roots of the following potatoes.

There is evidence some green manures are better "food" for the soil than others. Certain Brassica green manures have been shown to increase the total fungal populations while reducing those of Pythium (Lazzeri and Manici 2001). In the same study, a non-Brassica green manure resulted in increases in both total fungal and Pythium populations. The differing results may be due to chemicals in the Brassica crops (see Biofumigation Effects, below)

One of the most beneficial green manure effects could be the building of suppressive soils. These are soils that should have a disease problem, but do not because certain microorganisms are suppressing the disease-causing agents, whether fungi, bacteria, or nematodes (Cook and Baker 1983). Suppressive soils can result from growing the same crop continuously for many years. Under this scenario, disease pressure increases at first, but eventually decreases and remains at low levels. Green manures may be a more practical way to build suppressive soils. Different green manure crops have been evaluated for their ability to produce soils suppressive to Verticillium, common scab, and other soil-borne diseases (L.L. Kinkel, data not yet published). Canola, sudangrass, and buckwheat were found to be better green manures than other crops in creating suppressive soils (mustard was not tested).

Although the effects of green manures usually favor beneficial microorganisms, there can be short-term increases in disease-causing Pythium, Fusarium, and other fungi immediately after incorporation. This increase does not usually last long, but farmers should wait from two to four weeks after incorporating a green manure before planting a crop.

Biofumigation Effects (Allelopathy). Biofumigation is the name coined by Kirkegaard and Sarwar (1998) to describe the effects of the chemicals produced by a Brassica green manure crop. It is one type of allelopathy, the chemical inhibition of one species by another.

Plants in the Brassica family, such as rapeseed, broccoli, cabbage, and mustard, produce compounds called glucosinolates in their roots and shoots. They also produce an enzyme called myrosinase, which is normally separated from the glucosinolates. When the plant cells are damaged, by an insect or by a farmer chopping a green manure crop, the glucosinolates and the myrosinase come together. A reaction takes place that produces a mixture of other compounds (Figure 7). Some of these resulting compounds are toxic to soil fungi, nematodes, and even weed seeds. These are the same chemicals that make your nose burn when you eat hot Chinese mustard.


One class of these compounds, called isothiocyanates, are very similar to synthetic fumigants, hence the name biofumigation. The active compound in the fumigant metam sodium is methyl-isothiocyanate.

However, biofumigation is not as simple as using metam sodium. There are over 100 different glucosinolates, which produce different degradation products that have different effects on specific soil-borne pests. Different mustard species produce different glucosinolates. Within a species, roots may produce different glucosinolates than shoots. Finally, glucosinolate concentrations differ according to plant part, age, health, and nutrition. Despite this complexity, the potential exists to reduce pest populations in the soil through this mechanism (Brown and Morra 1997).

Effects on Soil-Borne Pests

Verticillium and Other Soil-Borne Fungal Pests. As mentioned before, Verticillium is a serious pest in potatoes and controlling it with fumigants is expensive. In the 1990s, it was found that a sorghum-sudangrass green manure could suppress Verticillium as well as fumigants (Davis 1994). Later research showed that other grass green manures such as barley, wheat, and sweet corn also suppressed Verticillium. To achieve this effect, it was necessary to produce lots of plant material (four to five tons of dry matter per acre) and incorporate it green. The incorporation of dry crop residues, even of mustard residues, does not provide the same beneficial effects in terms of pathogen suppression as a green manure. This may be due to competitive exclusion, but whatever the mechanism, it is not unique to mustard green manures, and therefore is not due to biofumigation.

Other soil-borne fungal diseases such as silver scurf (Vaughn 1998) and white mold (Smolinska and Horbowicz 1999; Pung 2002) might also be suppressed through biofumigation or a combination of these mechanisms.

Nematodes. It is not clear which mechanism is responsible for reducing the populations of parasitic nematodes. Growing a poor or non-host crop will help, but biofumigation and the green manure effects are probably also involved. Whatever the mechanism, rapeseed, sorghum-sudangrass, and white mustard green manures have all been shown to reduce the numbers of Columbia root-knot nematode by up to 90% (Mojtehedi et al. 1993). Unfortunately, this supression is not sufficient to meet quality standards for processing potatoes. Therefore, in fields infested with the Columbia root-knot nematode, mustard green manures must be combined with fumigants or contact nematicides to obtain the necessary control.

Weeds. The rapid growth of mustard can shade weeds and reduce their growth. After incorporation, biofumigation is probably the mechanism that later suppresses germination of small weed seeds (Al-Khatib and Boydston 1999). Crops seeded too soon after the incorporation of a Brassica crop can also be damaged.

Mustard Management Strategies

Certain attributes of a mustard green manure enhance its effectiveness in improving soil quality and controlling pests. Farmers can manage the mustard to produce these attributes if they have the information they need to make good decisions. Table 2 shows these desired attributes, the mechanisms that they affect, the related management decisions, and the information available to help farmers make these decisions.


Desired Attributes Mechanisms Affected Related Management Decisions Information Available
High biomass production     Green manure effects, biofumigation, improved soil quality   Species/variety selection, planting date/method, seeding rate, production inputs  Green manure variety trial results
Mustard fact sheet
Planting date trial results
Mustard nitrogen response trials 
Incorporation of fresh biomass  Green manure effects, biofumigation Incorporation timing/methods  Mustard fact sheet
Using green manures in potato cropping systems
High conversion of glucosinolates at incorporation  Biofumigation  Incorporation timing/methods  Mustard fact sheet
Using green manures in potato cropping systems
Poor or non-host status to Columbia root-knot nematodes  Crop rotation  Species/variety selection  Mustard fact sheet
Green manure variety trial results
High glucosinolate concentration  Biofumigation  Species/variety selection, production inputs Green manure variety trial results 
Glucosinolates effective against targeted pests  Biofumigation  Species/variety selection  Green manure variety trial results
Mustard fact sheet


The cost of a mustard green manure, as grown on the Gies farm, is shown in Table 3. Because a green manure is used to improve the crop that follows, its cost should be viewed as part of the production costs for that crop. Increases in crop yield and quality and potential decreases in nitrogen or pesticide needs will all be factors in determining the worth of a green manure. In addition, the value of improved soil quality, in both the short and long term, though difficult to estimate, should be considered.

The calculation is more straightforward where the mustard green manure replaces a fumigant. Where this is possible, substantial savings can be realized.


Mustard Green Manure Crop Estimated Variable Costs 2002
Mustard Cost/Acre
Normal Cost/Acre*
Seed lb.
Planting acre
Fertilizer lb.
Herbicide acre
Irrigation Power acre-in
Chopping acre
Disking/Packing acre

Total: $114.62

Mustard cost over normal practice: $93.28
Mustard cost over normal practice, without fertilizer costs: $55.28
Fumigant (metam sodium) cost: $140.00+
Potential Savings of $47 - $85+ per acre
* Costs normally incurred following wheat harvest

Green Manures in Cropping Systems

Mustard green manuring is not an isolated practice. It must be integrated into a cropping system to produce the maximum benefits. Systems that reduce tillage, avoid compaction, rotate crops, and control erosion will help maintain soil quality gains that come through green manure use. Good management of water and soil fertility will ensure that gains in soil-borne pest control will not be lost to waterlogged soils or over-fertilization.

The Future of Green Manuring

The demand for food, and thus the need for quality soils, will only increase. Although improved synthetic fertilizers and pesticides will continue to be important, they, by themselves, do not build soil quality. It will be through green manuring and other practices that increase or conserve soil organic matter that we will maintain and build our soils, just as it has always been. What will change is the attention we pay to green manuring.

If we continue to improve this old technology by applying our growing knowledge of soil ecology, plant pathology, plant breeding, biochemistry, horticulture, and agronomy there are many possibilities:

  • Crops bred for green manure use.
  • Rotation of green manure crops.
  • Prescription green manure blends.
  • Genetically modified green manure crops.

Any or all of these could be the future of green manuring if we choose to pursue them.

In 1927, Pieters wrote in his book Green Manuring: Principles and Practice, "Much is known of what goes on in the soil when organic matter is added, but much still remains to be learned." While we have added much to our cumulative knowledge since then, the same could be said today. The soil still has secrets. There are still processes within plants that we do not understand. If we continue to increase our knowledge of both the soil and plants, green manuring could again become a common practice.

Andy McGuire is the Lauzier Agricultural Systems Educator for Washington State University Cooperative Extension and a member of the leadership team for the Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources. More information on mustard green manures is available at http://grant-adams.wsu.edu/agriculture/covercrops/green_manures/index.htm. Andy can be reached at amcguire@coopext.cahe.wsu.edu or (509) 754-2011.


I would like to thank the following for help in this work: Dale Gies, grower; Sally Hubbs, WSU, Conservation District Partnership; Gary Pelter, WSU; Dr. Ekaterini Riga, WSU; Dr. Matt Morra, University of Idaho; Dr. Hal Collins, USDA-ARS; and Dr. Luca Lazzeri, ISCI-Italy. And for their financial support: the Washington State Potato Commission, the Washington State Commission on Pesticide Registration, and the WSU Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources


Al-Khatib, K., and R. Boydston. 1999. Weed control with Brassica green manure crops, Chapter in Allelopathy Update, Volume 2, Basic and Applied Aspects, ed. S.S. Narwal. Oxford & IBH Publishing Co. Pvt. Ltd.

Boydston, R. A., and A. Hang. 1995. Rapeseed (Brassica napus) green manure crop suppresses weeds in potato (Solanum tuberosum). Weed Technology 9:669-675.

Brown, P. D., and M. J. Morra. 1997. Control of soil-borne plant pests using glucosinolate-containing plants. Advances in Agronomy 61:167-231.

Cook, R. J., and K. F. Baker. 1983. The Nature and Practice of Biological Control of Plant Pathogens. Am. Phytopathol. Soc., St. Paul, MN.

Davis, J. R., O. C. Huisman, D. T. Westermann, L. H. Sorensen, A. T. Schneider, and J. C. Stark. 1994. The influence of cover crops on the suppression of Verticillium wilt in potato. pp.332-341. In: Advances in Potato Pest Biology and Management, ed. G.W.Zehnder, et al. APS Press, 655 pp.

Davis, J. R., O. C. Huisman, D. T. Westermann, S. L. Hafez, D. O. Everson, L. H. Sorensen, and A. T. Schneider. 1996. Effects of green manures on Verticillium wilt of potato. Phytopathology 86(5): 444-453.

Kinkel, L.L. Department of Plant Pathology, University of Minnesota.

Kirkegaard J. A., and M. Sarwar. 1998. Biofumigation potential of Brassicas. Plant and Soil 201:91-101.

Lazzeri, L. and L. M. Manici. 2001. Allelopathic effect of glucosinolate containing plant green manure on Pythium sp. and total fungal population in soil. HortScience 36(7):1283-1289.

Mojtahedi, H., G. S. Santo, and J. H. Wilson. 1993. Managing Meloidogyne chitwoodi on potato with rapeseed as green manure. Plant Disease 77(1): 42-46.

Mojtahedi, H., G. S. Santo, and R. E. Ingham. 1993. Suppression of Meloidogyne chitwoodi with Sudangrass cultivars as green manure. Journal of Nematology 25(2):303-311.

Pieters, A. J. 1927. Green Manuring; Principles and Practice. John Wiley & Sons Inc., New York, NY.

Pung, H. 2002. Successful use of biofumigant green manure crops for soil-borne disease control. Biofumigation Update 16:2.

Smolinska, U., and M. Horbowicz. 1999. Fungicidal activity of volatiles from selected cruciferous plants against resting propagules of soil-borne fungal pathogens. Phytopathology 147:119-124.

Vaughn, S.F. 1998. Volatile compounds produced by plants in the Brassica or mustard family suppress growth of soil fungi that cause silver scurf and Verticillium wilt in potatoes. ARS Quarterly Report of Selected Research Projects, IPM/Biological Control. http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/qtr/q398/ipm398.htm.

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Sprucing Up Your IPM Skills

Plan Now to Attack Spruce Aphids Next Year

Todd Murray, Whatcom County IPM Project Manager, WSU

In spring, pest damage becomes evident to many people. The weather is pleasant and more attention is focused on the yard. Warm-weather pests can be observed and managed at this time of year, but cool-weather pests like silver-spotted tiger moths and green spruce aphids have already done their damage. Often people who see winter damage in the spring will try to use insecticides to solve their pest problem. Washington State University insect expert Dr. Art Antonelli refers to this as “revenge spraying”: it won’t solve your pest problem but might make you feel better.

At our clinic in Whatcom County, we try to educate people about the fundamentals of integrated pest management when dealing with these winter/spring pests. This is a great opportunity to teach people about the importance of monitoring and timing. In the case of the spruce aphid, monitoring and management activities occur in the winter, a season most people don’t associate with aphid problems.


Spruce aphids (Elatobium abietinum) are mostly wingless, 1 to 1.5 mm long (small), olive green to very dark in color, and pear-shaped. The head end can be yellowish green with reddish eyes. They have piercing/sucking mouthparts that are, as with all aphids, directed straight downward. The spruce aphid’s legs are long (well, long for a 1-mm insect…) and slender. During the nymph stage, they are lighter green in color. Eggs are yellow to reddish to dark brown or black. As the eggs are only about 0.6 mm long, scouting for them can be very difficult.

Spruce aphids on Sitka spruce.

Spruce aphids working their busy schedule on a Sitka spruce.

Life History

If you were to read the daily planner of a spruce aphid it would look like this: suck plant juice, squirt honeydew, drop egg, suck plant juice, squirt honeydew, give birth, and so on. That’s about all these aphids do, but they do these few activities with great proficiency. What makes them a little unusual is the timing of this busy schedule. The spruce aphid is also known as the winter aphid because its peak population growth occurs during the winter and it all but vanishes during the summer. Spruce aphid numbers start to build in October and continue through March, with peak numbers in late winter and early spring. There are several generations annually.

The spruce aphid is an exotic pest, meaning it is not native to the Pacific Northwest. She came to us from Europe and when she made the trip, she ditched her boyfriend; only female spruce aphids live here. They reproduce by means of a phenomenon called parthenogenesis, which basically results in a clone of the female.


Throughout the spring of 2003, our Whatcom County Cooperative Extension office received an ever-increasing number of spruce aphid samples and questions pertaining to this pest. Due to mild temperatures the past few winters, spruce aphids are a problem and are causing tree mortality. Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis), Norway spruce (Picea abies), blue spruce (Picea pungens), and other ornamental and commercial spruces are attacked by this pest on North America’s Pacific coast from Alaska to California. Damage may also occur, although rarely, on other conifers such as pines (Pinus spp.) and Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) (Forestry Canada, Forest Insect and Disease Survey, Forest Pest Leaflet No. 16, 4p).

Young Sitka spruce defoliated by aphids in a wetland restoration project.

Aphids feed on older needles and do not move to the new growth immediately (don’t worry, they will get to it by next fall). During feeding, needles may discolor and eventually turn yellow or brown. Most aphids are found on the lower end of branches toward the trunk and are usually concentrated low on the tree, but high infestations can occur everywhere. Needles die back and finally drop off the twig. After multiple years of defoliation, spruce may be seriously compromised or may perish. Mortality can happen quicker in young trees.


Damage is most noticeable in the month of June. Unfortunately, IT’S TOO LATE to really solve the problem. So if you’re worried about your spruce, mark your calendars and plan to get out there and start scouting early next year! How early? If you have a real problem, you might want to start as early as October. How do you scout for something so small? A good way is to get a stiff piece of white card stock and your hand lens, aka magnifying glass. Brush two branches together over the card stock and start squinting through your hand lens. The aphids will be knocked out of the branch and onto the card stock. If spruce aphids are present and you already see damage, get out your garden hose and spray down the areas with a high-pressured dose of water. This will knock the aphids off the branch, onto the ground where they will be left for dead. If you have a real problem, make this hose-down a weekly habit.

Spruce aphids on Sitka spruce.

Unfortunately, this aphid has taken the high road and avoided practically every natural enemy out there. We don’t have many aphid feeders active in the winter. Late season ladybugs and early season brown lacewings might make an impact, but probably not much of one.

Temperature and weather seem to regulate this aphid species. Temperatures below 15o F can be deadly for aphids, especially if prolonged. Hope for a few early frost periods next February.

According to the aforementioned Dr. Art Antonelli, a few spruce species are more resistant, including Serbian spruce (Picea omorika), Oriental spruce (P. orientalis), and Japanese/tiger tail spruce (P. polita). All these can live happily in our area. If you’re planting new spruce trees, consider these varieties.

Chemical control can be successful in managing the spruce aphid when its populations are particularly abundant and the timing is right. Consult the Pacific Northwest Insect Management Handbook (http://pnwpest.org/pnw/insects) or Hortsense (http://pep.wsu.edu/hortsense) for a specific recommendation. And listen to my word of warning, read the label carefully, especially if you plan on using horticultural oils or insecticidal soaps to control aphids. I didn’t do this and the blue spruce I was spraying didn’t look very blue after I got done with it…

Todd Murray (tamurray@coopext.cahe.wsu.edu) is the manager of Whatcom County’s Integrated Pest Management Project. The Whatcom County Extension Office can be reached by telephone at (360) 676-6736. For the Cooperative Extension office in your Washington State county, go to Internet URL http://ext.wsu.edu/locations/.

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Lake-Friendly Gardening

A Whatcom County Success Story

Todd Murray, Scarlet Tang, and Craig MacConnell, Whatcom County Cooperative Extension, WSU

In Whatcom County, we have a lot of rain. The natives here like it; they say it’s cleansing. The rest of us try our best to deal with the amount of rain and wait patiently for the two months of dry paradise this part of Washington State has to offer. The natives are half right; the rain is good at cleansing the land, but the rain also carries pollutants found on that land, which end up polluting lakes and streams. A study by the U.S. Geological Survey found multiple pesticide and fertilizer components in urban streams throughout the Puget Sound region (Bortleson and Davis 1997).

The stormwater pollution problem is especially troubling for Lake Whatcom, the drinking water source for over 85,000 Whatcom County residents (half of the county’s population). In addition, it is used recreationally by boaters, fishers, and swimmers. The neighborhoods surrounding the lake are highly desirable, offering beautiful views of the lake and its surrounding hills. About 70 percent of the lake’s watershed is forested, with much of it subject to commercial logging. The forest is, of course, part of the beauty, while logging can contribute to soil instability and erosion, increasing the runoff and stormwater pollution.

A1999 Washington State Department of Ecology report documented multiple urban pollutants, including pesticide components, in stormwater drains and tributaries within the Lake Whatcom watershed (Serdar and Davis 1999). Levels of various pesticides were low, but detectable. Chlorophenoxy herbicides and organophosphate insecticides were common in the samples. Additionally, phosphorus, a component of plant fertilizer, was found to be a major source of pollution in the watershed. The phosphorus loads going into Lake Whatcom are accelerating eutrophication, a natural maturing process of lakes that leads to decreased dissolved oxygen and changes in the water quality of the lake.

Also in 1999, the Lake Whatcom Management Program, a joint effort of the City of Bellingham, Whatcom County, and Water District #10, identified pesticides and nutrients as lake pollutants of greatest concern.

The types of pollutants identified by the Department of Ecology and the Lake Whatcom Management Program are symptoms of the lake area’s urbanization. Some of the pollutants found are associated with landscaping and gardening practices. Changing Lake Whatcom residents’ yard practices was clearly key to minimizing the effects of urbanization on the water quality of the lake.


Cooperative Extension in Whatcom County has a history of fostering changes in practices that affect water quality through education. The reports and pollution concerns identified in 1999 spurred us to begin thinking of ways to involve the public in water protection. Through close collaboration with the Water Resources Division of Whatcom County, we set out in 2000 to offer education on landscaping and gardening practices that could reduce surface water pollution. We worked under the assumption that adopting philosophies such as integrated pest management (IPM) and good plant care could and would reduce pesticide and fertilizer overuse and misuse. Working with Water Resources was appropriate as this county office is skilled at implementing work programs, managing studies, providing support to citizen committees, leading and participating in multi-agency teams, and creating informational materials addressing water issues in the county. They are also the lead county division on the Lake Whatcom Management Program.

Through two Whatcom County-supported programs, Watershed Education and Integrated Pest Management, resources were available to create an educational packet we named the "Lake-Friendly Gardening Kit". We wanted education that engaged Lake Whatcom residents. This education had to be attractive, personalized, and relevant. Working with Web designer Patrik Hertzog and graphic designer Greg Heffron of Midline Design, we created a Website and graphic theme, spearheaded by our own Scarlet Tang. To catch homeowners’ attention and spark their curiosity, the team set out to rewrite research-based extension materials in a tone that was easier to read and more engaging than standard extension bulletins. Our team, consisting primarily of Craig MacConnell, Scarlet Tang, Todd Murray, and Sarah Evans (see below), believed that education through entertainment would provide the reader with a comfortable learning environment without alienating them with guilt associated with pollution causing practices. Personalized education also empowers the reader to take ownership of both the problem and the solution.

Making the technical information found in extension materials entertaining is no easy task. Sarah Evans, our main writer, came to us with the perfect background. She was a local schoolteacher with degrees in science education who proved to be very competent in providing comprehensible, retainable information. More importantly, she came to us with wit and a sense of humor. Armed with extension materials, expert contacts and videotapes of Dragnet and Perry Mason, she interpreted technical information about landscaping and gardening practices into a humorous and readable format.

Our staff spent approximately 100 hours on this project. Our hired writer, who also conducted research, collected photographic images, and recruited participating retailers, worked half-time for four months (approximately 350 hours). Our graphic design cost about $2500, while production costs were just under $10,000. (No mystery there. As with so many projects, expenditures were limited by circumstances. Printing was underwritten by a county fund that required a formal RFP process for amounts over $10,000, and we needed to proceed more quickly than that so we could expend the funds in the 2001 budget.) Based on our available budget and our perceived number of target consumers, we produced 1000 kits. Mailing costs were about $2.50 per kit; some were mailed while others were distributed directly as explained below.


After technical review of our content, we produced a number of educational products addressing different aspects of integrated pest management for home gardeners. Each of these items became a modular component in our Lake-Friendly Gardening Kit.

Kit components were packaged in an attractive envelope and sent to new residents of the Lake Whatcom watershed and others who requested kits. From a local land title company, we acquired addresses of homeowners who had purchased property between March 2001 and March 2002, then mailed gardening kits to these homeowners. We also publicized the kits through community newsletters and the gardening calendar of the local newspaper, mailing them to interested parties upon request. Additional kits were provided to local garden centers, clubs, Master Gardeners, real estate agencies, and lake-friendly gardening workshop attendees. We had partnered with garden centers on past projects, so it was not difficult to involve several. We contacted all garden centers and nurseries listed in our local Yellow Pages by mail, then followed up with telephone calls, resulting in seven participating retailers. The following items were included in each kit.

Introductory Letter
A cover letter introduced the recipient to the contents of the kit and made the connection between home gardening practices and drinking-water quality.

Lakescaping: Buffers for Your Backyard
This component helped homeowners create buffers without compromising aesthetic landscape values. It also outlined the anticipated benefits to water quality from using these designs.

Soil: Don’t Treat It Like Dirt!
This component provided basic soil science and offered tips on building and conserving a healthy soil structure and ecosystem.

Lawn Care: Keeping Your Lawn and Lake Whatcom Healthy
The lawn care component provided guidance on lawn establishment and maintenance, as well as effective lawn care practices and ways to reduce unnecessary inputs such as excess fertilizer and water.

Turf Alternatives: Groundcovers for Whatcom County
This component recommended locally available ground covers that perform best in Whatcom County for different types of conditions.

The Ten Most Unwanted Pests
An introduction to integrated pest management around the home opened this component. The ten most important pests in Lake Whatcom yards were highlighted with IPM prescriptions provided for each pest.

Top Secret Agents: Fighting Lake Whatcom’s Most Unwanted Pests
A guide to commonly occurring beneficial organisms was provided in this component. The reader learned basic identification characteristics for each beneficial organism, information on how to conserve or attract that organism, and the fundamentals of conservation biological control.

Passive Aggressive Plants: Your Plants’ Natural Defenses
This pamphlet described the fundamentals of pest-resistant plants and the benefits of purchasing plants with these characters. The pamphlet folded out to display tables of pest-resistant varieties of roses and rhododendrons.

Lake-Friendly Products
A coupon sheet of “lake-friendly” products available at participating local garden centers was provided with the kit. This was done at no charge to the garden centers in a mutual exchange of goodwill.

Hand Lens
Recipients of the kit received a coupon for a 15x hand lens magnifier available at the Cooperative Extension office.


After distributing the educational materials for most of one garden season (March through August), we surveyed recipients of the lake-friendly garden kit for indicators of change in knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors. A survey was mailed to 243 garden kit recipients (all those whose addresses were traceable from either direct requests or the title company list). Ten days after the initial mailing, we sent a reminder and offered the option of filling out the survey on-line; this increased our response. Of the 243 people solicited, 68 people (28%) responded. The following is a brief look at how people responded when asked about their reaction to the lake-friendly gardening materials.

  • When asked how much of the material was read, 38% of the people read all of it. 48% of the people read half to most of the material.
  • 100% of the people agreed that the gardening kit was useful.
  • 98% of the people responded that the materials were easy to understand.
  • 86% felt that they learned how to make their lawn and garden more lake-friendly.
  • 56% changed their attitudes about pest management and 52% now manage pests differently.
  • 48% purchased plants resistant to pests because of the kit.
  • 52% changed their lawn care practices.
  • 48% shared what they learned with someone else.
  • 89% see the connection with their land use actions and water quality.
Overall, recipients of the lake-friendly gardening kit found it useful and helpful; they felt that it affected changes in their attitudes and behaviors. Changing people’s practices is a slow process and measuring the impacts of change is even slower. Fostering these changes is achievable, however, and we think the results we achieved show that programs like our lake-friendly gardening kit are well worth the effort.


The Lake-Friendly Gardening Kit can be viewed in its entirety at: http://lakewhatcom.wsu.edu/gardenkit. Todd Murray (tamurray@coopext.cahe.wsu.edu) is the manager of Whatcom County’s Integrated Pest Management Project. Scarlet Tang (stang@co.whatcom.wa.us) is the Watershed Educator for Whatcom County. Craig MacConnell (cbmac@wsu.edu) is the Horticulture Agent and County Chair. The county extension office can be reached by telephone at 360 676-6736.


Bortleson, G. C. and D. A. Davis. 1997. Pesticides in Selected Small Streams in the Puget Sound Basin, 1987-1995. U.S. Geological Survey, Washington State Department of Ecology.

Serdar, D. and D. Davis. 1999. Lake Whatcom Watershed Cooperative Drinking Water Protection Project: Results of 1998 Water, Sediment and Fish Tissue Sampling. Washington State Department of Ecology. Publication number 99-337. http://www.ecy.wa.gov/biblio/99337.html.

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Food and Environmental Quality Lab Board Meets

Dave Winckler, Chair, FEQL Advisory Board

The advisory board for the Food and Environmental Quality Laboratory (FEQL) at Washington State University (WSU) met Wednesday, April 23, 2003, on the Tri-Cities campus of WSU. Thirteen board members, seven WSU faculty and staff members, and two guests attended. Major topics included overviews of faculty programs and activities; presentations on organic food production, biopesticides, and reduced-risk pest management; discussion of the FEQL strategic plan; and an announcement that Agrichemical and Environmental News (AENews) plans to upgrade its content to include peer-reviewed articles.


The FEQL was mandated by the Washington State Legislature in 1991 to focus research and extension efforts on all aspects of crop protection technologies across the state. The need for such a WSU facility grew out of two concerns: potentially devastating losses of crop protection tools for the minor crops characteristic of Washington agriculture and the safety of these tools to human health and the environment. In accordance with the founding legislation, FEQL is advised by a board of stakeholders representing a number of distinct functions pertaining to Washington State agriculture. For example, food processing, health care, farm labor, and marketing are among the constituencies represented on the board.

I serve as the third elected chair of this advisory board. I work with the Washington Farm Bureau and fill the position of farm organization representative on the board. This meeting was to be my last as chair.

Board Composition and Leadership

Ann George, who served as vice chair over the past year, was nominated to serve as chair for the coming year. Randy Smith was nominated to serve as vice chair. Both were elected without contest. Ann George is Administrator of the Washington Hop Commission and holds the FEQL board position reserved for a board member of the Washington State Commission on Pesticide Registration. Randy Smith is with the Washington State Ag & Forestry Education Foundation and represents the marketing constituency.

The board is seeking a representative for two vacant positions: private analytical laboratory and environmental organization. Readers who represent either of these groups or who know of someone qualified and potentially interested in filling either of these positions are encouraged to contact WSU Department of Entomology Chair John Brown at brownjj@mail.wsu.edu or (509) 335-5505. Terms are three years in length and responsibilities include attending one or two all-day meetings annually and participating in decision-making affecting FEQL and its role as a research and information center for Washington State agriculture.

University Budget Report

Pete Jacoby, representing WSU administration, presented an update on the university’s budget. In short, the university is likely facing an overall 3% to 5% budget cut. This will mean, among other things, no salary increases for the coming year, however recruitment and hiring of faculty and staff is expected to continue. Legislative micromanagement of not only funding, but of many spending parameters, continues to hamper university operations. On the upside, WSU does have funding for several important capital (i.e., building construction) projects, including the $1.5 million precision agriculture/viticulture facility planned for Prosser.

State Agency Reports

When time permits, the FEQL Advisory Board uses part of its morning session to hear updates on some of the programs and agencies represented on the board.

Barbara Morrissey, FEQL Advisory Board member representing the state Department of Health, reported that the DOH has been focusing on SARS information and analysis of foreign substances suspected to be anthrax or other chemical weapons (to date, none have tested positive). The current Pesticide Incident and Reporting Tracking (PIRT) panel report is still underway; results were not yet available. DOH has also been reviewing the success of the pesticide notification and reporting system in place in schools and daycares.

Don Abbott, FEQL Advisory Board member representing the state Department of Ecology, reported that the agency’s lead arsenate task force is wrapping up its work and that Ecology is seeking strong candidates for ten paying internships available this summer.

Royal Schoen, FEQL Advisory Board member representing the Washington State Department of Agriculture, reported that WSDA anticipates a 4% to 8% budget cut from the state. Washington State Agricultural Statistics service is likely to be cut, resulting in dependence on the National Agriculture Statistics Service and less county level data availability. In the wake of the recent closure of the Washington State Apple Commission, rewording of legislation is underway that may help prevent other commodity commissions from suffering the same fate. The effect of such legislation would be that commissions would be more accountable to governmental regulatory agencies (e.g., WSDA), but would ideally retain separate budgets. (Commodity commissions in Washington State have been formed under approximately eight different enabling statutes. Some have more direct accountability to existing regulatory agencies than others.)

Faculty Accomplishment Reports

Catherine Daniels, FEQL faculty member and Director of the Washington State Pest Management Resource Service (WSPRS, formerly Pesticide Information Center, http://wsprs.wsu.edu), fielded questions regarding her program. She explained the three-tiered funding structure that provides most of WSPRS’ operating budget: the U.S. Department of Agriculture distributes funds to four regional centers around the nation; these regional centers in turn disburse funds to states. The overall purpose of these funds is two-way communication of integrated pest management information. In Washington’s case, we apply to the Western Region Integrated Pest Management Center at the University of California at Davis for a share of the funds they receive from USDA.

Dr. Daniels also explained a new role for WSPRS staff member Jane Thomas, who in September 2002 assumed an approximately half-time position funded by the Western Region Integrated Pest Management Center as a Comment Coordinator for the Pacific Northwest Coalition, a subset of states (Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Utah, and Washington) within the Western Region. When EPA and/or USDA requires feedback (or when the affected growers within the coalition states wish to communicate with the Federal government) on use patterns of a particular chemical, Thomas interviews affected users and user groups, collates the feedback, and provides it to the federal government. This process has been very well received by both the participating state representatives and by EPA and USDA. Comments have been submitted on methyl parathion and dimethoate, and a carbaryl survey is underway.

Allan Felsot reported on recent field work toward answering the question: can improved sprayer technologies enable reduced use of chemicals in tree fruit orchards? His slide presentation illustrated the differences between conventional airblast sprayers and a more targeted spray delivery system called Proptec. Some of the results of this preliminary research are discussed in the May 2003 issue of Agrichemical and Environmental News at Internet URL http://aenews.wsu.edu/May03AENews/May03AENews.htm#SprayerTech. The FEQL plans to continue refining this research in collaboration with the University of Washington.

Doug Walsh recapped his responsibilities with the Interregional Research Project #4 (IR-4) then presented some slides and visual aids about recent work he has been doing in spotted cutworm and redbacked cutworm management on grape vineyards. He explained that the traditional overall vineyard application of chlorpyrifos (Lorsban) is very disruptive to integrated pest management in that it kills beneficial predator insects as well as pest insects. Dr. Walsh’s staff has been researching barrier application of pyrethroids (Danitol) and organic hot pepper wax in a highly targeted fashion at the point where the vine contacts the ground. They have been realizing very effective control rates. Should this treatment prove commercially viable, it could save growers considerable money and be more IPM-compatible than traditional controls.

Dr. Walsh also reported on research his staff has been conducting on biological control of lygus bugs through conservation and augmentation of parasitic wasps. His buffer zone research continues (see related article at Internet URL http://www.aenews.wsu.edu/Nov99AENews/Nov99AENews.htm#anchor245346) and he is also working on biocontrol of volunteer potatoes by encouraging presence of Colorado potato beetles in concert with applying reduced rates of herbicide.

Vince Hebert praised his support staff for exceptionally high productivity in recent months. Since last fall, they have completed two projects assessing the behavior of pheromone dispensers, critical tools in orchard IPM in Washington State, as well as work on the atmospheric reactivity of codlemone (a pheromone compound). In collaboration with the University of Washington, Dr. Hebert and the FEQL lab staff, along with Dr. Felsot, completed a study on human exposure to drift from pesticides on potatoes. Projects underway for this summer and fall include more drift and monitoring studies and magnitude-of-residue studies under Interregional Research Project #4 (IR-4) for hexythiazox on potatoes and lambda cyhalothrin on asparagus.

Organic Food Production, Biopesticides and Reduced-Risk Materials

The FEQL Advisory Board typically reserves the afternoon portion of its meetings for presentations on a particular topic related to agriculture and the environment. The topic for today’s meeting was “organic food production, biopesticides, and reduced-risk materials.”
David Granatstein with WSU’s Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources (CSANR, http://csanr.wsu.edu/ ) was the featured guest speaker. His office is located in Wenatchee at the Tree Fruit Research and Extension Center (http://www.tfrec.wsu.edu/). The CSANR was created in 1991 by the same state legislation that enabled creation of the FEQL. David offered a primer on organics in the United States, including an abbreviated explanation of the National Organic Program. (An excellent article explaining the national standards is available at http://www.apsnet.org/online/feature/organic/).

FEQL faculty members Allan Felsot, Doug Walsh, and Vince Hebert made presentations on environmental, health, and efficacy aspects of biologically derived and certified organic pesticides and IR-4 involvement in biopesticides registration. They can be reached at afelsot@tricity.wsu.edu, dwalsh@tricity.wsu.edu, and vhebert@tricity.wsu.edu, respectively.

FEQL/WSPRS Strategic Plan

In keeping with university-wide and statewide emphasis on development of comprehensive strategic plans, the FEQL and WSPRS have been developing plans addressing their joint and independent missions. Advisory Board members provided input on development of this important document.

Changes for AENews

John Brown reported that Agrichemical and Environmental News is in the process of becoming a partially refereed journal. Setting this up requires assembling a panel of subject experts who will serve as subject editors to arrange for the peer review process. An average of one article per issue will be peer reviewed and identified as such in the journal. The peer-reviewed articles will be reviewed by the appropriate subject editor on the editorial board, who would also submit it for review to two other experts in the field. This new structure would increase the prestige of publishing in AENews, would provide publication credit for tenure-track faculty (not available with current AENews, non-refereed articles), and would facilitate procurement of even higher quality articles for this award-winning newsletter. It will also free Doug Walsh, Allan Felsot, and Vince Hebert from their editorial board duties. The subject-expert panel is being recruited at this time, and a tentative date of January 2004 has been set for the first issue with a peer-reviewed article.

Next Meeting

While the FEQL Advisory Board has typically met face-to-face twice per year (spring and fall), the fall meeting has presented logistic difficulties largely due to weather. The board and various task forces have been functioning effectively via email and small group meetings this past year, so it was suggested that business be conducted in this manner, perhaps adding teleconferences and videoconferences as necessary, for the coming year. The next board meeting was scheduled for April 21, 2004, in the Tri-Cities.

I want to thank WSU and the FEQL faculty and staff for a successful and informative year. I have enjoyed serving as chair of the Advisory Board and I look forward to continuing to serve as a board member in the year ahead. I extend my best wishes to Ann George and Randy Smith, incoming chair and vice chair, for the coming year.

Dave Winckler is the Marketing Specialist at the Washington Farm Bureau and outgoing chair of the FEQL Advisory Board. He can be reached at dwinckler@wsfb.com or (509) 899-1795. For information about the FEQL, contact Doria Monter-Rogers at monter@tricity.wsu.edu or (509) 372-7462.

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Announcements & Upcoming Conferences

Items in this section often appear in the words of the sponsoring organization or original news release. AENews editorial staff is not responsible for the accuracy of the content.

Employment Opportunity: IPM Associate

Extension Coordinator, WSU Puyallup Research and Extension Center, Washington State University, Puyallup, WA. Full-time, 9 or 12-month, one-year renewable, administrative professional position.

Responsibilities: Co-coordinate Washington urban pesticide pre-license and recertification programs, including assessing training needs, facility scheduling, program development, speaker arrangements, presentation development, presentations, course registrations, audio visual support, and course evaluation. Assist Pesticide Education Specialist and Community IPM Coordinator with production and revisions of pesticide education materials, i.e., manuals, video, multimedia, electronic documents and other distance educational materials. Assist with pesticide stewardship programs and other duties as required.

Requirements: Earned B.S. degree in entomology, weed science, plant pathology, integrated pest management (IPM), environmental science, or related field. Other degrees will be considered with qualifying experience in educational programs. Demonstrated ability to communicate effectively in oral and written English. Demonstrated human relation skills and ability to effectively interact with teams and with diverse populations. Working knowledge of computer software. Possession of valid driver's license and ability to engage in extensive and overnight travel, including during winter conditions.

Desired Qualifications: M.S. degree in entomology, weed science, plant pathology, IPM, environmental science, or related field. Experience in education or research in the following areas: urban or school IPM, integrated vegetation management, or pesticide registration, regulations, or stewardship programs. Demonstrated leadership qualities. Demonstrated grantsmanship and experience managing budgets. Experience with computer software, including desktop publishing and Microsoft Office Suite. Experience using and troubleshooting a wide variety of audiovisual equipment. Experience in producing video and multimedia presentation productions. Demonstrated time management skills. Demonstrated Spanish language skills: oral and written.

Work Conditions and Physical Requirements: Extensive overnight travel required. Must be able to drive for long periods, including during winter conditions. Must be able to physically pack and set up audiovisual equipment (projectors, speakers). Must be able to stand or sit for long periods.

Salary: Commensurate with training and experience, including health insurance and retirement benefits.

Application: Screening of applications begins June 27, 2003 and continues until filled. A complete application includes: 1) formal application letter, 2) a writing example: a fact sheet on a topic related to urban IPM (English and Spanish (if able), max 500 words), 3) resume, including phone number, fax number, and email address, and 4) three confidential letters of recommendation.

Send application to Dory Lohrey-Birch, Dept. of Entomology, Washington State University, Pullman, WA 99164-6382. Phone 509/335-5422 or fax 509/335-1009, entom@wsu.edu. For more information, contact Carrie Foss, Search Chair at 253/445-4577 or cfoss@wsu.edu.

Pesticide Advisory Board Reaches Out

Since it’s establishment in 1961, the Pesticide Advisory Board (PAB) has served Washington State by advising the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) director on a myriad of issues related to new laws, enforcement, education, and budget. Among other roles, the board encourages open communication between the user community, interested parties, WSDA staff, and PAB members. The Washington State Legislature established the PAB in RCW 17.21.250. In 2001, a charter was adopted that clearly defined board activities. The Pesticide Advisory Board Charter states the board’s mission is to advise and provide the WSDA director with recommendations on issues related to the registration, distribution, use and disposal of pesticides in the state. In accomplishing this mission, PAB is asked to:
1) Review, advise, and provide timely input to the agency director regarding any or all of the following issues:
  • Any new or proposed changes to the Washington Administrative Code, Revised Code of Washington, legislation or policies.
  • Any compliance, enforcement, education or registration issues.
  • Any proposed significant change to department compliance, enforcement or registration policies or programs.
  • Any proposed significant program and/or budget requests or changes.

2) Bring to the agency director any topics of concern or any proposals related to the use, distribution, and disposal of pesticides as well as pesticide education issues.

3) Conduct an efficient board process consisting of well-run meetings and comprehensive committee work.

The board meets on a quarterly basis or more often as needed. Meetings are open to the public and interested parties are encouraged to attend. For information on upcoming meeting schedules or meeting minutes, contact the WSDA at (360) 902-2012.

Click here for a list of current PAB members and their areas of specialty. Feel free to contact any member if you have general questions; concerns specific to a particular area should be directed to the most appropriate member or to the board chairman. If your issue is one with policy implications, it may either be brought to an existing ad-hoc committee, or to the full board for consideration and appropriate disposition.

Franklin County Man May Have WNV

The Washington State Department of Health announced Friday, May 30, that they are investigating the state's first suspected human case of West Nile virus (WNV). A Franklin County man is being evaluated for suspected WNV infection, based on the results of preliminary tests. The man became ill in mid-May, was treated as an outpatient and is now recovering. The state Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are running more tests, but if confirmed this would be the first human case of this mosquito-borne disease acquired in Washington state.

Franklin County and state officials stressed the importance of people protecting themselves from mosquito bites to prevent exposure to WNV. They further stressed the importance of mosquito control districts to help reduce the risk of mosquito transmitted disease.

Commercial tests for WNV are not specific, and can cross-react with other closely related mosquitoes-borne viruses. Although the patient’s preliminary test results are positive for a mosquito borne-illness, confirmation of West Nile virus infection by the CDC will take about two weeks.

The Department of Health West Nile virus Web site (http://www.doh.wa.gov/WNV) and toll-free telephone line (1-866-78VIRUS) provide information on avoiding the disease, including mosquito bite prevention and mosquito breeding habitat reduction strategies, as well as information for health care providers on recognition and reporting suspected human WNV infections.

UPDATE 6-6-03

After testing, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that the Pasco-area man most likely has St. Louis encephalitis rather than the West Nile virus. The last reported case of St. Louis encephalitis in Washington State was in 1972.

St. Louis encephalitis virus has many similarities to West Nile virus. The illness is transmitted by mosquitoes that become infected by feeding on infected birds. People cannot get the infection directly from birds or other animals.

No vaccine is available for West Nile virus or St. Louis encephalitis. With either disease, prevention of mosquito bites and mosquito habitat should be emphasized.

LSU Releases Mosquito Abatement Template

The Louisiana State University (LSU) AgCenter, under a grant from the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals and working in cooperation with them, the Louisiana Mosquito Control Association, and the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry, has developed a template for establishing and organizing Mosquito Abatement Districts. The template is called LaMAP: Louisiana Mosquito Abatement Plan. It is available on their Website at Internet URL http://www.lsuagcenter.com/subjects/mosquito/ .

The template contains all of the components that a good abatement district needs and centers around an Integrated Mosquito Management Plan developed by the Louisiana Mosquito Control Association. It includes budgets based on the budgets from the organized, in-house mosquito districts in Louisiana and ranges from 2 million to 500,000 dollars. Suggestions are given on where and how to scale down for smaller operations.

Ag Chem R&D Study Results Released

Results of a study commissioned by CropLife America and the European Crop Protection Association reveal that it takes more time, money, and molecules for synthetic crop protection chemical manufacturers to discover, develop, and register new products.
The study, by agricultural consultant firm Phillips McDougall, concludes that average discovery, development and registration costs increased from $152 million in 1995 to $184 million in 2000, a cost eight times higher than 20 years ago. Phillips McDougall attributes the increase primarily to the adoption of new technology, stricter regulatory standards instituted to ensure environmental and consumer protection and a rise in the amount of data required by regulatory authorities. The study also concludes that the development period for a new product – from first synthesis to commercialization – has increased from 8.3 years in 1995 to 9.1 years in 2000. Phillips McDougall said this is principally due to an increase in the complexity and volume of data required by regulatory authorities.

Additionally, the average number of molecules screened leading to the introduction of each new product increased from 52,500 in 1995 to more than 139,000 in 2000. Phillips McDougall believes this reflects the usage of rapid throughput synthesis and screening techniques and stricter standards applied in search of better solutions for crop protection.

The study data was obtained from a questionnaire sent to 10 agrochemical companies considered to have active conventional crop protection chemical discovery programs.
“Despite the increases, global expenditure on chemical crop protection R&D exceeds $2 billion annually, “ said Jay J. Vroom, president, CropLife America. “The crop protection industry clearly remains committed to the research and development of new, efficient crop protection solutions.”

Established in 1933, CropLife America (http://www.croplifeamerica.org, formerly the American Crop Protection Association) represents the developers, manufacturers, formulators and distributors of plant science solutions for agriculture and pest management in the United States. CropLife America member companies produce, sell and distribute virtually all the crop protection and biotechnology products used by American farmers.

For more information, contact Pat Getter, 202-872-3893 or pgetter@croplifeamerica.org.

For a PDF of the 24-page study, contact Debi Vaught, 202-872-3870 or dvaught@croplifeamerica.org.

Protect HVAC Systems from Ag Terrorism

NIOSH Report Can Help

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) on May 2, 2003, released an April 2003 report (No. 2003-136) titled: "Guidance for Filtration and Air-Cleaning Systems to Protect Building Environments from Airborne Chemical, Biological, or Radiological Attacks," which

" ...provides preventive measures that building owners and managers can implement to protect building air environments from a terrorist release of chemical, biological, or radiological contaminants. This document includes information about: Filtration and Air-Cleaning Principles; Specific recommendations; [and] Economic Considerations ... [The
document] discusses Air-Filtration and Air Cleaning Issues associated with protecting
building environments from an airborne chemical, biological, or radiological (CBR)
attack. It provides information about issues that should be considered when assessing, installing, and upgrading filtration systems along with the types of threats that can be addressed by air-filtration and air-cleaning systems. It is intended to provide guidance regarding measures that may be taken to prepare for a potential CBR attack, rather than in response to an actual CBR event. The complex issues regarding response and cleanup in
the aftermath of an actual CBR event are situation dependent and are beyond the scope of this guidance document. This is a companion document to the previously released NIOSH document titled "Guidance for Protecting Building Environments from Airborne Chemical, Biological, or Radiological Attacks." That document provided a broad array of recommendations for protecting buildings, including physical security, heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning (HVAC) system operation, maintenance and training, and filtration. This document gives specific and detailed guidance for one area of concern: filtration and air cleaning ... While no building can be fully protected from a determined group or individual intent on releasing a CBR agent, effective air filtration and air cleaning can help to limit the
number and extent of injuries or fatalities and make subsequent decontamination efforts easier ..."

The document is posted at


The intended audience includes those who are responsible for making the technical decisions to improve filtration in public, private,and governmental buildings, such as offices, retail facilities, schools, transportation terminals, and public venues.

The likelihood of a specific building being targeted for terrorist activity is difficult to predict. As such, there is no specific formula that will determine a certain building's level of risk. Those who own or manage buildings should seek appropriate assistance as described in this
document to decide how to reduce your building's risk from a CBR attack and how to mitigate the effects if such an attack should occur.

References on conducting a threat assessment can be found at the end of the NIOSH
document "Guidance for Protecting Building Environments from Airborne Chemical, Biological, or Radiological Attacks." After assessing your building's risk, you may wish to consider ways to enhance your filtration system. This document will help you make
informed decisions about selecting, installing, and maintaining enhanced air-filtration and air-cleaning systems.

Second International Precision Forestry Symposium

The University of Washington's Precision Forestry Cooperative presents the second International Precision Forestry Symposium

June 15 - 18, 2003
University of Washington, Seattle, WA

Major topics include "Precision Operations and Equipment," "Remote Sensing and Measurement of Forest Lands and Vegetation," "Terrestrial Sensing, Measurement and Monitoring," and "Design Tools and Decision Support Systems." Early registration at a substantial savings must occur before April 4, 2003.

For more information, see http://www.cfr.washington.edu/Outreach/PreFor/

Regional Ag Health & Safety Conference

Mark your calendar now for the September 7-9, 2003 regional conference on agricultural health and safety issues. This timely conference will be held at the Holiday Inn Gateway in San Francisco. The theme for this year is "Challenges in Agricultural Health and Safety." This important meeting for agricultural professionals is jointly sponsored by the Western Center for Agricultural Health and Safety at UC Davis and the Pacific Northwest Agricultural Safety and Health Center at the University of Washington, Seattle, along with the Center for Occupational and Environmental Health at UC Berkeley.

The program themes include sessions on injuries and ergonomics, illnesses and diseases (including respiratory diseases and pesticide illnesses), and health and safety challenges faced by farmworkers.

A special feature of this year's conference will be breakfast discussion tables focusing on specific issues. Here is a chance to join in lively and informal discussions on topics of particular interest to you and meet others with similar interests.

More information, including poster submission details as they become available, can be found at http://agcenter.ucdavis.edu/Announce/AgChallenges2003.php.

Plastic Pesticide Container Recycling

The Washington Pest Consultants Association (WaPCA) has been involved in recycling plastic pesticide containers since the early 1990s in Washington State. Northwest Ag Plastics, Inc. is contracted to operate the recycling program.

For information on the program and the parameters for disposal, see the WSU Pesticide Education Program's Web page on the subject at


For the 2003 collection schedules, see


or see the individual PDF file for the area and time period in which you are interested:

Eastern WAWestern WA Early SeasonWestern WA Late Season

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