RALEIGH, N.C. – The National Science Foundation Center for Integrated Pest Management, located on North Carolina State University's Centennial Campus, has received a four-year, $4.3 million grant to serve as USDA’s Southern Region Integrated Pest Management Center.

Ronald Stinner, NC State professor of entomology, director of the NSF Center and USDA Regional Center, and the primary investigator for the grant, says that, although the 12-state regional center will not conduct research, it will focus on developing priorities for pest management research for crops and commodities produced in the South, and fund research and extensions projects throughout the region.

In addition, the regional center will manage several regional USDA grant programs in integrated pest management and maintain an information network between the Southern states and the federal government.

"In the South, we must be responsive to both urban and agricultural bases, and develop integrated pest management priorities that fit the region's diversity," Stinner says.

Integrated pest management is almost as much a philosophy as it is a science, he notes. That philosophy calls for managing pests in a way that provides economic benefits to farmers while using environmentally sound and sustainable methods that are acceptable to people and the environment.

"There's no quick fix in pest management," Stinner says. "There's no perfect answer, so we're looking for balance in science that allows us to control pests without threatening our children, our water or our wildlife."

Stinner says the four USDA regional centers provide critical information to federal agencies.

"For example, if the Environmental Protection Agency decides to do away with a pesticide, the USDA has two or three months to respond," he says. "USDA will contact the regional centers to see how the people dealing with this type of issue feel about the particular pesticide. So the regional center really serves as a network that can respond to particular issues."

Regional centers also host Web sites with regionally relevant crop profiles and other information on crops and plants. N.C. State's Southern Region IPM Center serves as the host for the database containing all four regions' information, on everything from crop profiles to pests.

"It's got everything you ever wanted to know about IPM, but were afraid to ask," Stinner says with a smile.

The Southern Region IPM Center will also be on the frontline in responding to new problems.

"We know new pests are coming, so when one of our regional network partners tells us about a problem, we have to come up with a solution," Stinner says. "Problems that are new today, like bioterrorism threats or new invasive pests or plants, may be things we deal with on a regular basis tomorrow."

Regional centers also have funds for research and extension efforts to implement IPM in various settings. The Southern Region IPM Center will shortly solicit requests for grant applications so it can begin to fund regional needs.

An advisory council and steering committee consisting of a wide range of stakeholders representing growers, agricultural industries, and government and nonprofit organizations that deal with agricultural issues manage regional centers.

"These groups must work together to safeguard American agriculture," Stinner says. "We can't answer all of the problems, but we must agree on priorities and those issues that are most critical for the region."

For more information on regional IPM centers, visit the Web at www.ipmcenters.org.

e-mail: flaws@primediabusiness.com