New Restrictions Ahead For Common Vineyard Pesticides

Ξ November 24th, 2008 | → 2 Comments | ∇ A Day at a Time, Technology, Wine News, Wineries |

wfcb logoThe San Francisco Chronicle reported Friday, November 20, of the projected extinction of most native game fish by the end of the century. Their story is based on a recently released report, Salmon, Steelhead, and Trout in California, principally authored by Prof. Peter Moyle of UC Davis’ Dept. of Wildlife, Fish, and Conservation Biology. Prof Moyle lists the reasons for raising the alarm,
“Decades of lax controls on farming, logging, grazing, mining and road-building have filled and polluted streams…, while the removal of streamside vegetation on the North Coast, in Sierra creeks and on inland lagoons has warmed the water and harmed fish.”
NOAA logoThe S.F. Chron’s story follows upon a Nov. 18th press release from the non-profit, public interest law firm, EarthJustice detailing the partial resolution of a legal battle begun in 2002. In association with the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations (PCFFA), the Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides, and other salmon advocates,
“EarthJustice obtained a federal court order [in 2002] declaring that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency had violated the Endangered Species Act by failing to consult with NMFS [the National Marine Fisheries Service] on the impacts that certain pesticides have on salmon and steelhead in the Pacific Northwest and California. As a result of that lawsuit, EPA began consultations, but NMFS never issued biological opinions or identified the measures needed to protect salmon and steelhead from the pesticides.”
Indeed, very little happened. So it was in June of 2007 that EarthJustice sent NMFS a letter threatening further legal action. Progress was finally made.
“In 2007, the salmon advocates filed a second lawsuit and entered into a settlement agreement with NMFS that establishes a schedule for issuing the required biological opinions. The biological opinion released today [11/18] is the first of several decisions that will be released over the next three-and-a-half years and will assess a total of 37 pesticides.”
NMFS logoThis first biological opinion released by NOAA takes specific notice of three common pesticide ingredients, diazinon, malathion, and chlorpyrifos. All three are organophosphate insecticides. Some of the new rules proposed for use of the chemicals, submitted to the EPA for final approval, are the following:
• Buffer zones of 1,000 feet for aerial application and 500 feet for ground application between where the pesticides are applied and salmon streams.
• Strips of a minimum of 20 feet of grasses, bushes or other vegetation on agricultural sites adjacent to surface waters designed to absorb runoff from pesticide-treated fields.
• Restrictions on applying pesticides in windy conditions that could carry pesticides into nearby streams.
• A prohibition on applying pesticides when a storm is predicted that could cause pesticide run off into nearby streams.
“The new mitigation measures must be implemented within one year.” according to EarthJustice.
The measures are designed to keep these pesticides out of critical salmon habitats, the various rivers and streams of Idaho, Washington, Oregon and California. No small task. According to research gathered by EarthJustice, chlorpyrifos has been found at harmful levels in the Willamette, San Joachin, Tulare, and the Central Columbia basins.
Diazinon is found in all the above and also Puget Sound.
Harmful levels of malathion contamination were found, again, in the Willamette, San Joachin, Tulare, and Columbia basins. Add to this King County, Washington streams.
Leaving aside the practices of other states for a later post, the specific use of these pesticides in California vineyards is routinely recommended by UC Davis (certainly in the position papers linked in bold) for a number pests, particularly, but not limited to, the control of mealybug and their Argentine ant protectors. A good, early overview of the damage wrought by this pest and approaches to its control may be found in a summation published in Practical Winery and Vineyard, Nov./Dec. 2004.
Further, of the forward thinking organization Central Coast Vineyard Team, their Mission statement reads,
CCVT logo“The Central Coast Vineyard Team will identify and promote the most environmentally safe, viticulturally and economically sustainable farming methods, while maintaining or improving quality and flavor of wine grapes.”
Yet they recognize the daunting task facing pesticide reductions. A recent post reads,
“Winegrape growers apply chlorpyrifos to control ant and mealybug populations. From 2001 to 2003 chlorpyrifos usage in winegrapes has increased from 4,700 lbs. to over 14,000 lbs. in San Luis Obispo and Monterey Counties. The recent introduction of vine mealybug (Planoccocus ficus) in major winegrape growing areas poses a major economical threat to the industry. Recent registration of chlorpyrifos to control mealybugs and ant populations (associated with protecting mealybugs) has likely lead to this increased usage of OP’s [organophosphates].”
Their praiseworthy approach:
“Central Coast Vineyard Team’s (CCVT) project will implement and demonstrate a series of on farm management practices within Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo and Monterey counties. These on farm management practices will encourage monitoring to reduce the use of high risk chemicals. If treatment is necessary CCVT will encourage the use of low risk materials to control pest populations in an integrated program.”
PWVHowever, a similar program undertaken by UC Berkeley, has already met with mixed results. As first reported in the May/June issue of Practical Winery and Vineyard, Spring Mountain Vineyard attempted an assault on the mealybug with a complex blend of half a dozen parasitical/predatory insects, pheromone traps, and what they call the “judicious application of more target-specific insecticides”. Their conclusions were decidedly ambiguous. One researcher notes,
“that a key is to first suppress the mealybug densities with properly applied insecticides. The sustainable tools will not rapidly reduce large, damaging mealybug populations, but they have proven capable of maintaining low density populations below damaging levels.”
Another adds the echo,
“Any vineyard manager who has a large mealybug infestation should first knock it back with an insecticide.”
The larger point is not whether productive research in integrated pest management is underway, it is; but whether the first three of a total of 37 pesticides now under review by the National Marine Fisheries Service, chlorpyrifos, diazinon, and malathion, their destructive contribution to salmon and steelhead mortality now ratified, might just be the tip of the iceberg. Inasmuch as the SF Chron’s article cited above reports the growing threat of extinction to most native game fish, there is no reason to believe NMFS will confine its assays of a pesticide’s risks to salmon and steelhead mortality alone. Indeed, EarthJustice and other public-interest, environmentally-minded law firms may well understand better than most the political climate change the United States has recently undergone. One can easily anticipate further lawsuits in the near future to compel the EPA to expansively fulfill its Congressional mandate. And new legislation would hardly be a surprise.
Moreover, what might become of the very notion of ’sustainable’ vineyard practice, an amorphous concept arguably rudderless during the last 8 years of the environmentally hostile Bush Administration? What might happen should the new Obama administration actually take healthy rivers, lakes, and coastal waters seriously?
The writing is on the wall.


2 Responses to ' New Restrictions Ahead For Common Vineyard Pesticides '

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  1. Morton Leslie said,

    on November 25th, 2008 at 10:24 am

    I have taken an interest in a mountain stream that thirty years ago you could observe an occasional steelhead spawning. Today, the stream is barren of steelhead, but alive with crayfish, and several small species of fish. Though the stream is surrounded by vineyards the problem is not pesticide or herbacide drift or runoff, but the local municipality that has obstructed the steelhead migration with modifications to the stream bed. While farming can be a contributing factor, I think farmers are often just the easiest target. Especially likely to be targeted would be effective pesticides, while ignoring the approved “organic” pesticides that are just as dangerous to fish if misused in the watershed. But if you want to look at the biggest culprit in the decline of salmon and other migrating fish look at state, federal, and local governments who create havoc with their policies and make rules for everyone to follow except themselves. And if you want to see a wall of bureaucratic confusion and obstruction try to get any governmental entity to take on a fellow govt. entity to save a fish.

  2. Administrator said,

    on November 25th, 2008 at 12:01 pm

    Morton, the NOAA finding is the result of a lawsuit largely brought by the sport fishing community. They have witnessed first-hand the rapid decline of salmon and steelhead populations in Idaho, Washington, Oregon, and California. Multiple universities have done water way analyses over the past decades and have determined pesticides to be a major contributing factor.

    Of course, there are many other reasons for declining fish stocks; dams, water diversion projects, erosion due to logging and urban sprawl, cattle, and, indeed, the meddling of local municipalities, to name but a few negative inputs. Prof. Moyle’s massive paper linked in the post provides compelling detail.

    Whether farmers are “often the easiest targets”, I am not quite so sure. The lawsuit, after all, followed upon years of lax enforcement by the EPA precisely because of the strength of the farmer’s lobby in D.C. Moreover, the ‘farmer’ of today bears a very limited resemblance to the farmer of yesteryear.

    And as to whether organic pesticides are “just as dangerous” to fish, that point is not at issue, as such. The National Marine Fisheries Service has been legally compelled to review, within the next few years, a total of 37 pesticide ingredients originally identified in the lawsuit, a list by no means complete. Perhaps your unnamed ‘organic’ pesticide ingredients are among them.

    Lastly, I would agree with you that the biggest culprit in declining fish stocks is fed., state, and local govts. That is exactly why the lawsuit was required.

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