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Specialty Crops and the IR-4 Project

Disclaimer: The IR-4 Project supports research for all specialty crop growers, including organic and conventional. While the IR-4 Project hosts the Biopesticides and Organic Support Program, not all research is focused on organic production. Furthermore, not all biopesticides are approved for use in organic production.

According to the USDA, crops grown on less than 300,000 acres are considered specialty crops. These include fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, ornamental nursery crops (including floriculture) and most other horticultural crops. In contrast to field crops, which are extensively cultivated, specialty crops are intensively cultivated. Many growers in New Jersey produce specialty crops. (Considering land values in our state, and grower access to direct markets, this is economically a wise decision.)

Headquartered at Rutgers, the IR-4 Project (Interregional Research Project Number 4) operates as a partnership between the land-grant university system and the USDA and supports research on pest management tools for specialty crop growers. Primarily funded through the USDA, IR-4 started at Rutgers University in 1963. There are four regional centers: Western, located at University of California at Davis; Southern, at University of Florida at Gainesville; North Central at Michigan State University at East Lansing; and North East, at Cornell University at Geneva.  

One part of IR-4 is the Biopesticides and Organic Support Program, initiated in 1982. This program provides grants for biopesticide research and offers assistance during the EPA registration process. Biopesticides include such materials as plant extracts and microorganisms. Many biopesticide manufacturers are small companies and benefit greatly from IR-4 assistance. Since the program’s inception, more than 100 biopesticides have been registered.   
Additionally, IR-4 provides funds for biopesticide and organic materials research in specialty crop production. Rutgers NJAES research projects with IR-4 Biopesticides and Organic Support Grant Program funding include

  • Control of basil downy mildew, Andy Wyenandt.
  • Control of peach diseases rusty spot and brown rot, Norm Lalancette.
  • Control of brown marmorated stink bug in peaches, George Hamilton and Anne Nielsen.

On the Biopesticides and Organic Support Program webpage are searchable databases. The Project Database lists previously funded research projects, such as those listed above. The Label Database lists biopesticides and organic materials and is searchable by crop, pest problem, and state, with the option to limit responses to organic products.