The U.S. Department of Agriculture signaled its support for a program aimed at protecting specialty crop growers — including those in the floral industry.
USDA Deputy Under Secretary Scott Hutchins recently announced that the National Institute of Food and Agriculture has invested $11 million in the Minor Crop Pest Management program (IR-4). The money will go toward developing safe, effective and efficient crop protection technology for minor uses, which includes floriculture crops.
The investment is vital to the floral industry, and the Society of American Florists has long advocated for reliable funding in support of floral crop production.
“The IR-4 program has always been very important to horticultural crops and to those who grow them,” said Marvin Miller, Ph.D., of Ball Horticultural Company in West Chicago, Illinois, who has been an advocate for many years with SAF, including during the association’s annual Congressional Action Days. “We have counted on the IR-4 program to help provide the research needed to get pest controls registered so that they can be used on what many might consider minor crops. Over the years, this has helped add products to our arsenal which are safe to use on the specialty crops our industry produces.”
Four universities will lead the regional IR-4 programs to collect additional data for registration of conventional and bio-based crop protection technology — a public-private collaboration that Hutchins said “will focus on applying innovative solutions to pest management problems that often are otherwise not available to specialty crop farmers. Practical and economic crop management solutions may make all the difference between thriving and just surviving financially during the growing season.”
Mary Westbrook is the editor in chief of Floral Management.