News Release

Rutgers scientist speaks on IR-4 crop protection program

Peer-Reviewed Publication

Rutgers University

NEW BRUNSWICK/PISCATAWAY, N.J. – Associate Research Scientist Michael Braverman of Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, manages a program that promotes the development of new biopesticides, many of which can be used in organic food production. Braverman described the Interregional Research Project No. 4, or IR-4 as it is commonly known, to a symposium in New Orleans today at the 225th American Chemical Society (ACS) national meeting.

“While most ACS talks discuss basic chemistry, this presentation involves the successful partnerships among scientists, industry and government to transform ideas into usable products,” said Braverman. “There is a wealth of new and exciting products being developed throughout the country, and this project builds a bridge between the inventors and regulators.”

IR-4, a publicly funded, nationwide regulatory assistance and grant program, is supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and state land grant institutions, such as Cook College at Rutgers, where IR-4 is headquartered. The program focuses primarily on natural microbial products and plant extracts for application to specialty crops, including vegetables, fruits, herbs, spices, nursery and landscape plants, and flowers. IR-4 has funded more than $2 million in research grants directed at providing effective alternatives to traditional pest control tools.

In addition to product research and development, IR-4 also provides help to many small biopesticide companies with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) pesticide registration, a required approval process that must be followed prior to marketing and using the product. IR-4 predominantly works with those who do not have the regulatory expertise to prepare the data packages necessary for the EPA.

“Just because a product is natural doesn’t mean it is safe. In addition to human health risks, there needs to be assurances that animals and other nontarget plants are not adversely affected by pest control products,” said Braverman. “The overall goal of the IR-4 Project is to help bring newer reduced-risk products to market so that we can have effective crop protection tools that benefit farmers, homeowners and consumers.”

IR-4 goes beyond promoting research and development, and facilitating the regulatory process. Through small grants, it funds a variety of demonstration projects that test the effectiveness of promising products in the real world. “In New Jersey, we are currently funding a project involving the use of insect sex pheromones that disrupt the mating process in blueberry insect pests,” said Braverman. “IR-4 has also assisted Engelhard Corp. of Iselin, in the registration of a white clay product that smothers and provides a barrier to insect pests.”

Braverman further explained that IR-4 fulfills a real need where specialty crops are concerned. He pointed out that these crops are grown on low acreage compared to corn, wheat, soybeans and cotton. Consequently, they require far smaller quantities of pesticides.

“Even though they make up 40 percent of the total value of all U.S. crops – they’re worth $40 billion – their low pesticide needs do not provide enough economic incentive for companies to pursue new, specialized pest control products,” he said. “This is where IR-4 can step in and offer valuable assistance.”


Braverman recently completed a sabbatical at the Biopesticides and Pollution Prevention Division of the EPA in Arlington, Va.

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