The California Department of Pesticide Regulation has awarded two grants totaling nearly $400,000 to two entities to study pesticide alternatives.
* Farm Fuel Inc., Watsonville, will receive $247,850 to study alternatives to chemical fumigation, according to a news release.
The technique, known as anaerobic soil disinfestation, relies on anaerobic bacteria.
Four weeks before a crop is planted, carbon-containing compounds, such as rice brand and molasses, are mixed into the soil.
The soil is then irrigated and covered with a plastic tarp to prevent oxygen from entering.
The bacteria, which can only grow in the absence of oxygen, produce natural byproducts that are toxic to many soilborne pests.
The technique is expected to produce no volatile organic compounds and may be a replacement for soil fumigants. It also is comparably priced to chemical soil fumigants, according to the release.
The process has been used in Japan and the Netherlands and has been studied in the United States by University of California, Santa Cruz, researchers.
The company plans to conduct demonstrations at 22 locations in the state as well as hold educational events for berry growers in both Northern and Southern California.
* UC Cooperative Extension in Yolo County has received $123,015 to study how providing habitat along field edges can increase biodiversity, including wildlife and beneficial insects.
UC farm adviser Rachael Long will be the lead investigator.
A side benefit would be enhancing nectaries for honeybees.
The project will look at working with farmers and landowners to plant hedgerows of native perennial vegetation to help control weeds, plant diseases and insect pests.
As a result, herbicide use also is expected to be reduced, according to the release.
Currently, growers spray field edges with herbicides three to four times per year.
In addition, the hedgerows can act as buffers, helping filter sediments from field runoff before it enters nearby waterways.he California Department of Pesticide Regulation has awarded two grants totaling nearly $400,000 to two entities to study pesticide alternatives.