Replacing pesticides: Expected chlorpyrifos ban spurs development of more sustainable insecticides

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Credit: Mike Lewis/UC Riverside

A broad-spectrum insecticide that kills all arthropods in its path, chlorpyrifos was used for decades throughout the US …. But use has declined steadily since a 1996 law raised safety standards to protect children against possible neurodevelopmental effects.

A full US ban may be coming, depending on the outcome of a lawsuit and the upcoming presidential election. Sales of chlorpyrifos ceased in the European Union at the end of January 2020. Citing low demand, Corteva Agriscience, the largest manufacturer of chlorpyrifos, announced in early February that it will phase out production of the chemical this year.

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Mark Hoddle, a biological-control specialist and principal investigator at the University of California, Riverside …. and colleagues are testing biodegradable hydrogel beads …. containing 25% sucrose and a small amount (0.0001%) of a water-soluble insecticide …. The ants feed the insecticide-laced sugar water to the queens and other workers, poisoning the colony. The advantage of the hydrogel beads is that they degrade into the soil after 2–3 days …. You just put out another batch a couple of weeks later, [Hoddle] says.

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Growers may grumble at the forced change from a familiar broad-spectrum insecticide to new products that are more targeted, but in the long term it may be for the good. “Many of these newer chemistries are safer or easier to work with,” [Ohio State University entomologist Kelley] Tilmon says.

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