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ARS Facility Cuts Pesticide Use by 75 PercentBy Don Comis
October 6, 2003
One of the Agricultural Research Service's largest research facilities has reduced pesticide use by 75 percent over the past decade by applying ARS sustainable agriculture research to its farm operations. At about 7,000 acres, the Henry A. Wallace Beltsville (Md.) Agricultural Research Center (BARC) is the agency's second-largest field location.
BARC land joins other federal properties to form a heavily forested area of more than 30,000 acres near the nation's capital.
Sustainable agriculture techniques in use at BARC include a combination of practices, such as weed-smothering cover crops and increased use of beneficial insects. Since 1997, the center also has produced its own compost from plant residue and manure. The compost facility is surrounded by a 20-foot-wide grass buffer strip, as are 80 percent of BARC fields. The strips filter out possible pollutants before they reach streams that feed into the Anacostia River, which flows into the Potomac River and then to the Chesapeake Bay.
A pair of nesting bald eagles overlooking a swamp created by beavers is a telling symbol of BARC's environmental stewardship. Beaver Dam Creek flows below the eagles' nest, which is in an oak tree at the swamp's edge, upstream from the composting center. The streams at BARC are now clean enough to support brown trout.
Read more about BARC's environmentalism in the October issue of Agricultural Research magazine.
ARS is the U.S. Department of Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.