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Pesticide Case Studies

A collection of case studies (mostly) from Virginia and elsewhere used to teach pesticide applicators and students the history and outcomes of pesticide misuse and the importance of regulatory compliance and commonsense. Our hope is that by sharing real life situations we can contribute to reduced events such as these and help the public understand the dynamics, which create these situations. These include: pesticide related incidents, public debates, local issues, and other scenarios related to the use of pesticides or concerns over pesticide use.

Concerns over Aerial Application in the City of Independence, VA

In 2007, a Christmas tree grower employed the use of aerial spray application to solve a pest and nutrient problem in a plantation within the city of Independence, Virginia. This resulted in a controversy erupting over application of pesticides in the Christmas tree plantations in the area.

The Mount Rogers region of southwest Virginia and northwest North Carolina has become a prominent growing area for Christmas tree plantations. The region lends itself well to the culture of frasier fir in particular. As a result, Christmas tree plantations have taken over many lands in the region where cattle farms were once dominent. Many landowners resent the increased land values associated with more lands being bought up by Christmas tree growers and others moving into the region.


When a Christmas tree grower hired an aerial applicator to spray his operation within the city of Independence, this became the spark to light a controversy that had been brewing over land values and new faces in the community.  A debate started and continues today. The city council tried to address the citizen's concerns by considering a ban on aerial pesticide application in the city limits.  The Dillon Act (part of Virginia code) forbids local governments from circumventing state authority including pesticide regulation. As a result, the city then tried to limit air space within the city limits - a rule that would have interfered with FAA authority in the area. 


State government officials (Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and Virginia Cooperative Extension) recommended that the city use the tools that the state already had available for pesticide control to address future concerns. The town and its citizens merely needed to contact state officials and voice a complaint to initiate an investigation and inspection of application in the region. Council members and most local citizens were satisfied with using this solution.  However, some local citizens continued to voice their concerns through the local newspaper.


Virginia Tech continued to work with growers in the region after the initial meeting in 2007 to establish a set of IPM Elements (best management practices to promote integrated pest management) in Christmas tree plantations. This document has been adopted by many growers in the region and Extension agents in the region continue to promote adoption of the plan for growers and for a new pine seedling orchard being established in the area.  By operating under this set of operating protocols growers can standardize their operations and enhance the acceptability of their crop in the market. The IPM Elements for Christmas Trees and other IPM Documents for Christmas tree growers are listed under the IPM tab on this website.

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