A public notice was issued regarding upcoming potential pesticide use on campus on March 1, with the program expected to run until Dec. 31, 2011.
Lyle Morin, assistant manager of Grounds and General Services, said in order to have the option to use pesticides, the university is legally obliged to publically advertise the program under the Pesticides and Fertilizers Control Act, regardless of whether or not pesticides are applied.
Morin explained that the university is taking part in an integrated pest management (IPM) program, which looks at the reduction of the reliance on pesticides by attempting to find ways to deal with the pest problem on campus that aren’t based on chemicals.
One of the non-chemical alternatives being sampled this year is a biological control pesticide developed at McGill University.
Morin said that the university is looking into using a cabbage fungus to kill weeds, though it is very expensive.
“ [ . . . ] We’re going to do a small sample this year. [ . . . ] We are always looking at ways that we can go without chemicals,” Morin explained.
Kristina Hunter, an instructor in environmental sciences at the U of M, feels that while the university’s progress is admirable, she fears potential latency period in chemicals could have adverse affects on health of students and faculty members.
“I think the best thing would to be to move away from these harmful chemicals; we have kids on campus, little kids that are very vulnerable; we have people who are chemically sensitive. [ . . . ] There’s good data that related to the harmful effects of chemicals, so how important is it that we don’t have a dandelion on campus?” said Hunter.
“There is some work going on here in Manitoba to look at an outright ban [of pesticides and herbicides] at the city level or even at a provincial level, but it sure would be great if the campus would get on board with that and be a real leader, I think, in implementing some of these ideas.”
However, Morin explained that there is a large portion of the campus community who are concerned about allergic reactions set off when the dandelions go to seed.
“As much as we get complaints about us using chemicals, we do get complaints about us not using chemicals,” he said.
Annemieke Farenhorst, professor in the U of M soil sciences department, explained that while pesticide use on campus might at times be cosmetic, the high costs incurred with pesticides tend to work as a deterrent from using pesticides needlessly.
“Some chemicals may be in the environment for only a couple of days, while others may be in the environment for a much longer period of time. [ . . . ] The chemicals that we use nowadays are less persistent than the older chemicals we used to use,” said Farenhorst.
“But still, we do a lot of research on pesticide residue, like in rainfall and in air and in surface waters, and we tend to find fairly low levels of pesticide residue, but nonetheless we do find typically a range of pesticides in the environment.”
Morin said that while there is concern over the aesthetic appeal of the campus, the goal of the IPM program was to exercise all possible options before reverting to chemical use.
“If we do have an outbreak of whatever disease or weeds, we do need to monitor or get under control, when all other options are exhausted, then we will turn to pesticide use.”