The Regional Integrated Pest Management competitive grants program, which ran from 1996 to 2013, created tools, models, training information and publications that have been a tremendous benefit to growers and agriculture in the West.

That’s the finding of a retrospective of the program just released by the Western Integrated Pest Management Center, a USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture-funded program tasked with promoting IPM adoption in the West.

The Regional IPM competitive grant program, known as RIPM, promoted scientific advances in integrated pest management to reduce risks of pest and pest management practices. From 2003 to 2013, the Western IPM Center organized the grant review panel, which selected projects based in part on regional priority needs. The program was discontinued in 2014 and its funding combined into a new program administered nationally.

“We wanted to look back on the 66 Western RIPM research and extension projects completed since 2003 and go beyond the usual end-of-project reports to see if we could document short-, medium- and long-term impacts,” explained Jim Farrar, director of the Western IPM Center. “Even we were surprised by the incredible reach some of these projects had.”

For instance, researchers at Oregon State University used Regional IPM grant money to help develop and expand, a weather-based decision-support tool that lets growers access data from thousands of weather stations and run dozens of pest- and disease-development models to be able to time their pesticide applications more precisely. In 2013 alone, growers and pest managers used the website an average of more than 400 times a day.

In all, RIPM funding created 57 pest-management tools and models, 149 scientific papers, nearly 500 extension and training publications, 316 presentations and grower trainings attended by 8,000 people, and four new pest-management products on the market or in development.

“It’s only after looking beyond those direct project creations that you really start to see the full benefit of the RIPM grants,” Farrar said. “For instance, those 149 scientific papers RIPM researchers published in peer-reviewed journals have since been cited in other journal articles nearly 2,300 times. They created new scientific knowledge others are now building on to continue to benefit American agriculture.”

Another highlight: In Arizona cotton, RIPM funding helped develop an area-wide IPM approach to pest management that drastically reduced growers’ need to spray for insect pests. The University of Arizona researchers documented a $451 million direct savings in grower pest-control costs, and a reduction in pesticide use of 21 million pounds – just in that one crop.

Overall, the report documents new or expanded use of integrated pest management in cotton, eggs, caneberries, chiles, grapes, hops, lettuce, pear, poplar, spinach seed, timothy grass hay and wheat as a result of RIPM-funded projects. RIPM projects also generated $8.2 million in additional funding aimed at the West’s problem pests.

The Western IPM Center’s report documents the impacts of 66 research and extension projects funded from 2003 to 2012. They involved 83 project directors and 107 collaborators in 15 universities across all 13 Western states. (Six projects in 2012 and 2013 are ongoing and not included in the report.)

“Overall, looking back at the RIPM program, it’s clear that the program did reduce the risks from pests and pest-management practices in the West,” Farrar said. “It was a good investment that benefitted the American people. We think it’s also a good model for future programs to focus on regional priorities and regional needs.”