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Bringing integrated pest management to schools

The Issue

Since the enactment of the Healthy Schools Act (HSA) in 2001, both UC Cooperative Extension (UCCE) and the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) have been working with school districts in California to provide information about integrated pest management (IPM). The strategies employed in an IPM program include modifying horticultural practices, such as changing mowing heights and managing irrigation appropriately. These practices can reduce the amount of pesticides used on school grounds to help schools to meet the standards of the HSA and provide a safe and healthy environment for students, teachers and staff. DPR has coordinated numerous workshops for school districts covering general landscape and building IPM topics. However, attendees requested more detailed training about turf IPM since they manage turf areas like playgrounds and sports fields. UCCE has extensive experience in this area and was called upon to help schools implement this policy.

What Has ANR Done?

Working closely with DPR, UCCE advisors and specialists conducted hands-on training for school landscape staff throughout California in 2012-2013. Trainers included UCCE specialists Mary Louise Flint and Loren Oki (UC Davis), along with UCCE IPM advisor Andrew Sutherland (San Francisco Bay region) and UCCE advisors Ali Harivandi (Alameda), Steve Tjosvold (Santa Cruz), John Karlik (Kern), Dan Munk (Fresno), Darren Haver (Orange) and Janet Hartin (San Bernardino). Cheryl Wilen, UCCE IPM advisor (Southern California) coordinated the workshops and was also a trainer.

At each workshop, school staff were provided UC ANR resources to assist them in implementing IPM at their schools. Trainers helped the participants interpret the results of their soil tests, discussed identification and management of weeds and other pests, and conducted irrigation evaluations. Most of the training involved hands-on involvement by the participants at school fields such as measuring irrigation output, soil sampling, and weed identification and management.

The Payoff

School landscape staff improves turf management skills to reduce pesticides and runoff

Seventy-five public school staff members across the state were trained. Post-training evaluation revealed that there was a strong improvement in knowledge related to IPM in turf. Most significantly, the trainees recognized that many turf problems could be ameliorated through appropriate turf culture such as managing irrigation, mowing and fertilization rather than the use of pesticides. Additionally, by demonstrating how to evaluate and improve irrigation systems, the trainees also learned about the impact of appropriately managing water to avoid runoff and improve water quality. The program was such a success that DPR is continuing their partnership with UCCE and expanding the School Turf IPM training to additional areas in the state.

Clientele Testimonial

Attendees said they will make changes in their activities including modifying watering time/schedule, keeping yard clippings and fertilizer out of storm drains, preventing run-off, paying more attention to fertilizing, taking a more proactive approach to turf management and keep learning about IPM.

“The school IPM turf grass workshops were very successful. Feedback from participants indicated that training in irrigation and soil management was especially useful.” - Natalya Eagan, Pesticide Programs Division, DPR.


Supporting Unit: Statewide IPM Program

Cheryl Wilen, cawilen@ucanr.edu