University of Calgary

University moves away from relying on pesticides

UToday HomeJuly 31, 2013

Under the new Integrated Pest Management plan, ground crews start with less risky methods of pest control and turn to broadcast spraying only as a last resort. Photo courtesy Suat Eman, FreeDigitalPhotos.netUnder the new Integrated Pest Management plan, ground crews start with less risky methods of pest control and turn to broadcast spraying only as a last resort. Photo courtesy Suat Eman, FreeDigitalPhotos.netIt used to be that any sort of pest — an unwanted bug, rodent, weed or bacteria — was obliterated with a liberal dose of pesticides.

But with more and more evidence stacking up that the toxins and poisons in pesticides may be killing more than just the pest, there have been huge advancements in finding safer and effective ways to get rid of various unwanted organisms.

The university is implementing a new Integrated Pest Management (IMP) process that employs “common sense” practices. The IMP is a decision-making process that emphasizes prevention of pests (for example, selecting grass and sod that is more pest resistant), knowledge of their biology and using the least disruptive methods to get rid of them. These days, pesticides are only hauled out if absolutely nothing else works, says Neil Webb, manager of municipal services for Facilities Management.

Instead, grounds crews start with less risky methods such as using pheromones to disrupt mating, or trapping or weeding. If that doesn’t work, then they may employ targeted spraying of a pesticide, but broadcast spraying would only be used as a last resort and in that case crews would use the least hazardous material available.

In each case, the pest management strategy will be guided by the type of pest and the threat they pose to people, property and the environment. “There are different approaches to deal with these things and we want to step back and say, ‘OK, if we have a weed problem, how can we tackle it?’ ” says Webb.

“If it’s something with our buildings, can we use better door sweeps or plug up holes or do we go with a different method. Sometimes, there can be many answers to a problem, not just one, it can be a combination and each has to be looked at individually. It’s not one solution for all.”

Webb says while they are “constantly learning” about new products and other pest control methods, university grounds crews have been employing other environmentally friendly practices for some time.

“Some of these things, like weed pulling by hand instead of using a pesticide, we’ve been doing for a number of years,” he says. “A lot of these simpler things are not new to us, we’ve actually been doing it without recognizing it. As it gets more complicated in terms of the pests, we need to look at it and maybe hand picking isn’t the ideal thing if we have a widespread problem. We’re always asking, ‘How do we deal with it in a different way, in an effective way?’ ”

Webb says the university isn’t alone in adopting an IPM process. “We’re not the only ones, the City of Calgary also has a very good program along similar lines to what we do as well as different rural municipalities around Alberta. It’s not just a matter of putting on your favourite poison or pesticide anymore.”

 

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