2019 Science Policy Experience brings National Spotlight to Successful Harrison County Pest Resistance Management Project

September 5, 2019

The Harrison County Pest Resistance Management Project (Harrison County Project), one of four pilot programs of the Iowa Pest Resistance Management Program (IPRMP), was the focus of attention for national researchers in pest management, sociology, farming, policymaking and the agriculture industry, at the 2019 Science Policy Experience.

 tour of field trials with john swalwell from the harrison county pest resistance management project
 Touring field trials with John Swalwell, Dekalb-Asgrow, from the Harrison County Pest Resistance Management Project.

Over 70 participants, specializing in a diverse range of academic and professional expertise from across the U.S., traveled to Logan, Iowa, on August 6, to meet the Harrison County Project team members, understand local pest resistance issues and learn about successes and challenges in launching the pilot program of the IPRMP.

The Harrison County Project team was selected as the destination for this national tour because of its diversity of stakeholders, which includes farmers and representatives from multiple cooperatives, pesticide companies, and lenders; as well as the measurable results that the group has been able to produce in slowing the development of pest resistance.

“[The Harrison team] are all equals, they are all in this together, and they are not in it for the glory,” said Dave Ervin, Portland State University economist, who helped organize the event. “They are there to make this work, and this is exceptionally hard.”

Pests and how pests are controlled are a major focal point in agricultural production. Agricultural pests include insects, weeds and fungi. If these pests are left uncontrolled, then it can result in greatly reduced yields and thus put pressure on the global food supply. Pest resistance is a natural occurrence in which a gene mutation allows some members of a pest population to survive a method of control. These individuals that survive pass the gene trait on to their offspring and eventually most of the pest population is resistant. When these resistant pests can move to neighbor’s fields (e.g., wind-blown seed), then a community effort, such as the one Harrison County has undertaken, is needed.

“Here in Harrison County, we know that resistance is an important issue,” said Larry Buss, Harrison Project Lead and local farmer.  “It was great to see national interest in this topic, and we were happy to share what the team has done in the past two years. We appreciate the feedback and support we received at this event, and we will continue our work to expand the project.”

The goal of the Science Policy Experience is to combine academic knowledge and real-world experience and discuss a wide array of solutions to the problem of pest resistance. This is the first year the Weed Science Society of America (WSSA), the Entomological Society of America (ESA), and the USDA Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service have collaborated on an event. The IPRMP was included since the program is so closely related to the topic selected by the sponsors for 2019: pest resistance. In addition to the diversity of the Harrison County Project team, participants of the Science Policy Experience were from a wide range of organizations.

“We know that the human element is critical for long-term success of any pest management program,” said Clint Pilcher, Global Biology Leader with Corteva Agriscience and ESA member. “Typically when scientists, regulators, and farmers get together, the conversations focus on fact sharing rather than identifying solutions. At this science policy experience, we explored reasons why this is the case and why the Harrison County project is working. It is because they listen to each other and recognize that all members of the local community share common values. Pest management communities that work have changed their conversation patterns to “Listen, Ask, Share” while avoiding “persuade, correct, and educate” types of dialogue.  What resonated most with attendees was the exchange of ideas that occurred among local, state, regional, and national stakeholder groups.”

One of the goals of the Harrison County Project has been to identify, establish and teach best management practices to slow the evolution of pest resistance. The overall goal of the IPRMP is to encourage the natural, community-guided adoption of these practices, through building connections within local ag retailers, researchers, investors and community members. From a national perspective, representatives from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), observed and evaluated regulatory issues that either hampered the project, or could make the project more effective.

“EPA was pleased to participate in this event highlighting the need to identify creative ways to address pesticide resistance,” said Kimberly Nesci, Acting Director of the Biological and Economic Analysis Division for the EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs. “Developing strategies to manage and minimize pesticide resistance, combined with alternative pest-management strategies and integrated pest management programs, is an important part of ensuring growers continue to have effective pest management tools.” 

Co-sponsors for this Iowa Science Policy Experience event included Corteva Agriscience, ESA, IPRMP, and a U.S. Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA-APHIS) grant (#AP18BRS00000G002) to the WSSA.

Over 70 stakeholders from ag-industry, academics, researchers and advocacy groups participated in the tour.
Over 70 stakeholders representing ag-industry, academics, research and advocacy groups participated in the tour.