The IR-4 Project and Indiana Growers – Facts for Fancy Fruit

The IR-4 Project and Indiana Growers

Did you know that almost half of the food we consume every day comes from crops the USDA categorizes as “minor” or “specialty” crops? Compared to the acreage of corn and soybean in the Midwest, fruit and vegetable crops are only a small percentage of crops grown. Not surprisingly, agrochemical companies focus their effort on the large acreage crops where they can get a return on their investment for the products they sell. With the development and registration of fungicides averaging about $256M dollars, there simply isn’t an incentive to invest in the data required by the EPA to register a pesticide when the crop value is ‘only’ a few million dollars.

The IR4 Project was created to address this gap, and generate the data required to register a pesticide for use on specialty crops. The Project has evolved and also includes activities in pollinator protection, pesticide regulation, environmental horticulture, organic and biorationale products, and animal and plant health.

IR-4 Projects chosen by a nomination process. This process begins when crop management issues are submitted by researchers and growers looking for potential products, or by industry representatives requesting trials to evaluate a new pesticide. Projects are then voted on to identify which research priorities are addressed. In this way, IR-4 has assisted in the registration of nearly 50,000 additional crops uses, allowing specialty crop growers to improve pest management, reduce crop damage, and minimize food waste.

The 2020 priority-setting meeting concluded with 422 project requests, with a resulting 59 funded projects for 2021. Through this process, Tristand Tucker and I, along with colleagues from NCSU and UGA were provided funds to evaluate the efficacy and timing of SDHI fungicides to improve bitter rot management in apples. Our trial in Indiana in 2020, was cut short because of the freeze, but we will be repeating our work here in 2021. Later this season, I’ll share the results of my colleagues, Drs. Phil Brannen and Sara Villani.

Grower input is very important to this process. The 2021 Food Use Workshop will take place virtually on September 13 – 16.  Please consider getting involved to get your voice heard, and or by becoming a member of the Commodity Liaison Committee (CLC). This group of volunteers works to educate policy advisors, industry, and IR- 4 personnel, about the specific needs of your commodity group. In the last two years, actions of the CLC have resulted in a potential increase in funding for IR-4, which has remained flat at approximately $12M annually for the last decade. Competing budget proposals now before Congress will, hopefully add 3 – 7 million dollars per year to the IR- 4 budget, which will enable the organization to expand the number of tools available to growers. If you want to find out more about the IR-4 and its work, see


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