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EPA Funds Aim to Reduce Pesticides, Improve Bee Health

honeybeeThe EPA has awarded almost half a million in funding to three universities — Louisiana State University, University of Vermont and Pennsylvania State University  — for projects to reduce pesticide use and lower risks to honeybees.

The agricultural grants for Integrated Pest Management (IPM) practices also aim to control pests and save money, the agency says.

The Louisiana State University ($167,874) project aims to minimize impacts to bees from insecticides used in mosquito control. Practices and guidelines resulting from the project will be distributed to mosquito control districts and beekeepers throughout the US.

The University of Vermont project ($131,758) aims to reduce pesticide use and improve pest control while increasing crop yields on 75 acres of hops in the Northeast. The awardees will also develop and distribute outreach materials to help farmers adopt these practices. The project’s goal is to reduce herbicide and fungicide applications by 50 percent while decreasing downy mildew, a plant disease.

The Pennsylvania State University project ($159,632) aims to protect bees and crops by reducing reliance on neonicotinoid pesticide seed treatments and exploring the benefits of growing crops without them. IPM in no-till grain fields will be used to control slugs and other pests that damage corn and soybeans. Researchers will share their findings with mid-Atlantic growers and agricultural professionals.

The EPA says protection of bee populations is among its top priorities. Some of the factors that contribute to the decline in pollinators include: loss of habitat, parasites and disease, genetics, poor nutrition and pesticide exposure. The agency is working with beekeepers, growers, pesticide manufacturers, the US Department of Agriculture and states to apply technologies to reduce pesticide exposure to bees.

Last month the Pollinator Stewardship Council, the National Honey Bee Advisory Board, American Honey Producers Association, the American Beekeeping Federation and individual beekeepers sued the EPA over the agency’s approval of sulfoxaflor, a neonicotinoid pesticide made by Dow Chemical.

Monsanto, Bayer and Sygenta are among the agrichemical companies funding honeybee research in the US as scientists investigate pesticides as a potential cause of honeybee decline. Bayer and Syngenta, which produce neonicotinoids, a class of pesticides linked to bee decline, are helping fund research at Iowa State University and Ohio State University to study the affect of insecticidal seed treatment dust on bee losses.

Monsanto, which uses the pesticides to coat its seeds, hosted a June 2013 summit to discuss potential bee solutions and says it’s focusing its bee health research efforts on finding a way to control the varroa mite.

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