The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP)* is working to reduce
the environmental impacts of agriculture and improve water quality through
the voluntary adoption of on-farm assessment and decision tools.
One of IATP's tools, the Pesticide Decision Tool (PDT) facilitates the use
of environmental information in the selection and management of pesticides
in arable crop production. It is designed for use by farmers and their
technical advisors, such as co-op agronomists, independent crop advisors,
and NRCS, SWCD, and Extension specialists.
The tool uses two approaches, Reference Tables and a screening tool for
water contamination potential.
We use a screening tool from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation
Service called the Windows Pesticide Screening Tool. By taking into
account the properties of both soils and pesticide active ingredients, one
can determine a rating for the relative likelihood of ground and surface
water contamination (to be more precise, percolation below root zone and
runoff beyond edge of field, respectively).
The Reference Tables are spreadsheets with environmental information and
other decision factors such as production cost, crop tolerance ratings,
persistence (carry over) ratings, and resistance risk ratings. For each
active ingredient (along with the trade names), the environmental
information includes water contamination potential ratings, long term
exposure toxicity ratings for aquatic organisms, a set of on-farm exposure
hazard ratings (signal word, acute toxicity, irritation), and a
carcinogenicity rating. More detailed tables are available for herbicides;
simplified tables are available for insecticides and fungicides.
More information about the Pesticide Decision Tool is available at
http://www.iatp.org/enviroag/pesticidesummary.htm. IATP is seeking
participants, collaborators, and sponsoring organizations for field
implementation, technical review, and improvement in 1999 and 2000. Efforts
will be focused in corn and soybeans in the Midwest, but other crops and
regions will be considered if sufficient resources are available.
IATP is interested in obtaining some farmer input on the materials with
respect to presentation/ appearance, readability, content, usefulness, and
barriers to using the materials or making decisions that reflect the
information in the PDT. The emphasis of the approach is on pesticide
management rather than product selection, per se. Thus, the materials can
be useful for the current field season even though most farmers will have
already have their production/farm plans in place and purchased most of the
crop protection products they expect to use this year.
For additional information or to obtain a set of Pesticide Decision Tool
materials, contact John Vickery, at IATP. Additional instructions and
advice on PDT use can be given over the phone. This is best done once the
prospective user has a copy to refer to. We would like to further expand
our outreach efforts in the Midwest for the 2000 crop season. We welcome
inquiries from agricultural professionals and opportunities to participate
in training sessions and workshops for groups. The PDT is best used in
conjunction with a more comprehensive program such as IPM/ICM, whole farm
planning, BMP/conservation practices implementation projects, EQIP, and the
There is no charge for materials, training, and advice.
The PDT materials will be available at a website later this year.
The software version of the pesticide screening tool (WinPST), along with
instructions for downloading and installation, is available, free of
charge, from an NRCS File Transfer Protocol site
Environment and Agriculture Program
Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy
2105 First Ave., S.
Minneapolis, MN 55404-2505,
*IATP was founded in 1986 by agricultural and environmental leaders who
recognized the need for an independent, non-profit research organization
dedicated to finding and promoting economically supportive and ecologically
balanced solutions to the challenges facing farmers and rural communities.
IATP's work includes programs in agriculture policy analysis, incentives
for sustainable agriculture, food safety, nutrient management, watershed
protection, and sustainable forestry certification. The PDT project is
part of IATP's Environment and Agriculture Program, directed by Bill
Vorley. For more information on the Environment and Agriculture Program,
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