Organization: Department of Agriculture (USDA)

Research Title: Methyl Bromide Research

Funding Level (millions of dollars):

FY94 0.0
FY95 13.1
FY96 13.7

Committee on Environment and Natural Resources (CENR) Component:
(a) Subcommittee: Global Change Research Subcommittee (100%)
(b) Environmental Issue: Ozone and ultraviolet radiation: chemically induced changes, including stratospheric ozone depletion and ultraviolet radiation and global tropospheric ozone (100%).
(c) Research Activity: Environmental Technologies: R&D (100%)

Organizational Component:
ARS National Program Staff
Bldg. 005, BARC-W
Beltsville, MD 20705

Point of Contact:
Wilda Martinez
Phone: 301-504-6275

Research Goals:
To evaluate existing and develop alternatives for methyl bromide uses as a postharvest quarantine treatment, and as a pre-plant soil fumigant to control agricultural pests. Methyl bromide research directed towards soil fumigation was included as part of the global change research program in FY 1994. The postharvest efforts were included in FY 1995.

Research Description:
Methyl bromide is a broad spectrum pesticide used as a soil fumigant to control insects, weeds, and plant pathogens, and as a postharvest fumigant to control insect pests. Pursuant to the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments, EPA has ruled that there will be a complete phaseout of production and importation of the ozone depleting methyl bromide in the U.S. by the year 2001. The pending ban has led to an urgent need to find and develop effective alternatives to its use. For postharvest uses, an intensive effort is made to identify other chemicals that can serve as replacement fumigants at least for some uses of methyl bromide. Most quarantine protocols for export and import of fruits, vegetables and nuts utilize methyl bromide. Alternative non-chemical treatments involve modified atmospheres; pest free areas; physical treatments such as heat, cold and irradiation; biological control; insect growth regulators; and combination treatments being developed for critically affected commodity groups. In the short term, research will focus on evaluation of existing chemicals and non-methyl bromide soil fumigants to control soilborne pest, and evaluation of existing fruit and vegetable germplasm for resistance. Ultimate solutions to the loss of methyl bromide for soil fumigation must involve non-chemical integrated pest management strategies based upon improved host resistance through plant breeding, microbial biological control, cultural practices, physical methods, pest behavior modification and mating disruption. Improved methods for chemical control of pests are developed for use as part of an IPM approach. Research is focused on high-value fruit, vegetables, and nursery and ornamental crops that currently rely on the use of methyl bromide.

Program Interfaces:
The primary interfaces are with other programs within ARS, USEPA, DOE, USDA-SCS, and APHIS.

Program Milestones:
Alternatives to Methyl Bromide for Pre-Plant Soil Fumigation and Postharvest Commodity Treatment

Policy Payoffs: