Pesticide Use on Rise in California

Spraying for bugs, mold, and other nasties hit a high mark in 2010.

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    Get out the Raid -- California farmers did.

    More vegetables, more pesticides.

    Pesticide use is on the rise in California after four straight years of less spraying for bugs, fungus, mold and other crop-killers, according to reports.

    A good 173 million pounds of sprays and other chemicals were dumped on California crops in 2010, a 10 percent increase from 2009. That's an extra 15 million pounds, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

    The most spraying was done in Fresno County, followed by Kern, Tulare, San Joaquin and Madera counties.

    There were several reasons why 2010 was a spray-heavy year: a cool, wet winter meant mildew was on the rise, requiring more fungicide use. Add a cool summer and fall, and you have more insect damage to crops, and additional treatments to combat the late harvest.

    The types of crops planted as well as the amount of water allocated to farmers also affects pesticide use. In this case, farmers in San Joaquin County planted more cotton, and farmers near Fresno were allocated more water. More water means more crops, which means more pesticides. Ditto with cotton -- and crops like wine grapes, carrots, almonds and table and raisin grapes also require more pesticides, the newspaper reported.

    Sulfur is the most widely-used bug-killer, accounting for 27 percent of all pesticide use, though some environmentalists are most worried about fumigants, which contaminate groundwater and can lead to cancer.