NCSU Transition Team for Methyl Bromide helps growers maintain yields while improving the ozone layer

A group of extension specialists at NC State University have helped growers use integrated pest management to transition away from a toxic fumigant while maintaining their yields. Decreased use of the fumigant has had positive environmental consequences as well: the decreased use has led to lower bromine levels in the atmosphere, accounting for one-third of the measured decrease in ozone depleting halogens above the Antarctica.

The transition away from the pesticide methyl bromide began in 2005, in response to scientific data linking it to decreasing ozone levels in the atmosphere. Developed countries banned methyl bromide under the Montreal Protocol, an international treaty signed in 1987 to protect the stratospheric ozone layer. In the United States, the USDA National Institute for Food and Agriculture devised a funding mechanism to help scientists gradually wean farmers away from methyl bromide use. Each year, scientists would apply for “critical use exemptions” to specify how much methyl bromide they felt farmers in their state would need while they searched for alternatives. The funding mechanism was called the “Methyl Bromide Alternatives Program.” Continue reading