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50 Years of IPARC

Application Research and Training into the 21st century

The use of pesticides is undergoing change. New regulations in the EU, coupled with raised public awareness of issues such as GM crops and insect-borne disease scares, have heightened the profile of the science behind health, food safety and security. Amongst the scientific community, there is now an awareness of the need for truly integrated pest (crop) management and a strengthened research-training infrastructure based on Rational Pesticide Use. Besides promising biopesticide developments there are a number of "new chemistries" that have been developed in recent decades by agrochemical companies. However, innovation in methods of application has been very limited since the end of the "boom" years of the 1980s. Meanwhile, in many developing countries, a failure to engage with pesticide issues has had perverse consequences, with untrained farmers "squirting on" pesticides (inefficient dose-transfer), use of hazardous or even banned compounds, and poor pest control.

With their long and wide-ranging experience of pesticide application issues, IPARC staff are in a unique position to address many of the research and training needs in this multi-disciplinary subject.

From DDT to decline

IPARC began in September 1955 with a training course: on how to apply DDT and other new pesticides, for those working in Developing Countries, in the hope of overcoming many insect pest, disease and weed problems. WHO was also interested and supported IPARC to ensure equipment used in mosquito control was effective and durable. Over the years, the UK Government continued to support training alongside research that assisted manufacturers to improve knapsack sprayers, introduce rotary atomisers to small-scale farmers, assess electrostatic spraying and develop biopesticide application technology. IPARC has played a crucial role in both teaching and research on pesticide science at Imperial College, Silwood Park.

More recently support for application technology research has declined, which is surprising in view of much greater interest in the environmental impact of pesticides and the need for greater accuracy of application. Contrary to common belief, development of GM crops resistant to certain insect pests and herbicides, does not eliminate pesticide use, but rather increases the need for greater precision in their application, with demands to preserve biodiversity. Meanwhile in developing countries pesticide application and vector control are sadly not much better than 60 years ago, due to continuing low incomes and a lack of both knowledge and investment. Until recently, most interest on a few export crops where maximum residue levels need to be observed. The infrastructure for evaluating new chemical products on crops is diminishing rapidly: a trend that must be reversed.

new initiatives for International development

Increasing concern for farmer health has led to FAO minimum requirements for equipment in an effort to reduce leakages. IPARC has participated in writing these specifications and in a FAO/AU project to implement equipment criteria in the law of African countries and training, starting in Cameroon. This is the Yaounde Initiative: a Foundation for improving health and well-being of communities in Africa, through the control of insect vectors of human diseases and improved agricultural production. A pocket-book for farmers is one outcome now available from FAO. Further work is in progress to improve targeting of sprays on specific crops, such as cocoa and vegetables, and to implement integrated vector management alongside agricultural pest management in developing countries.

IPARC staff have played a crucial role in application techniques such as CDA and biopesticide development; they now provides cutting edge support for a range of activities in pest management. Our 50th anniversary was marked with another workshop: this time about delivery systems for microbial control agents.

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(updated: 10/10/2016)