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Published February 22, 2010, 07:43 AM

Pesticide use in N.D. set record in 2008

The number of acres in North Dakota treated with pesticides reached a record level in 2008, a recently released study shows. The study conducted by North Dakota State University and the federal Agriculture Department’s statistics service found that pesticide-treated acres in the state two years ago reached 32.6 million, up 45 percent from the previous study four years earlier.

MINOT (AP) — The number of acres in North Dakota treated with pesticides reached a record level in 2008, a recently released study shows.

The study conducted by North Dakota State University and the federal Agriculture Department’s statistics service found that pesticide-treated acres in the state two years ago reached 32.6 million, up 45 percent from the previous study four years earlier.

“With this study we try to demonstrate a reduction of pesticide use because we want to use more biological management practices, so when you see a big increase like this you really wonder,” said Marcia McMullen, a plant pathologist at NDSU who helped with the study.

In 2008, more than 40 percent of wheat in North Dakota received a fungicide application, up from 6 percent in 2000.

“The disease pressure for wheat (in 2008) wasn’t severe, but in 2007 we had a lot of leaf rot and tan spot, so I think farmers did preventative spraying to avoid getting burned,” McMullen said. “I also think some of the increase in 2008 could be because prices were high, so more farmers were willing to put money into pesticides and there were more registered fungicides available for wheat in 2008 than before.”

Insecticide applications in 2008 quadrupled from 2004, to 4 million acres. NDSU entomologist and study co-author Janet Knodel said wheat stem sawfly was bad in 2008, and soybean aphids and spider mites also threatened crops.

Farmers also used more insecticides on sunflower and barley crops that year because of growing populations of the banded sunflower moth and barley thrip, Knodel said.

More than 3,500 farms across the state took part in the study conducted in early 2009.

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