Integrated Solutions

The Integrated Solutions (IS) platform evaluates diverse pest management strategies and technologies that specialty crop growers can incorporate into existing crop protection programs to meet their complex needs.

The Integrated Solutions Platform

Specialty crop growers need effective tools to manage pests so they can preserve the quality, value and yield of the crops they produce. Pests like weeds, diseases, arthropods and nematodes can be difficult to manage, especially in the face of a changing climate and a shifting regulatory landscape. 

For many specialty crop growers, existing pest management tools are insufficient. Challenges like pesticide resistance, tough-to-manage pests, gaps in organic solutions, and residue mitigation often necessitate novel approaches.

To address these challenges, IR-4 created the Integrated Solutions (IS) platform in 2018. Integrated Solutions evaluates diverse pest management strategies and technologies that specialty crop growers can incorporate into existing crop protection programs to meet their complex needs. 

Integrated Solutions explores the synergistic use of various products, practices and technologies to better equip growers’ pest management toolboxes. Aligned with the principles of Integrated Pest Management, the IS platform is designed to generate innovative answers to problems that may not have a single, simple solution. When effective strategies are identified by IS research, IR-4 pursues registrations of new products, uses or applications.

The science of pest management is evolving, the climate is changing, and the regulation of pesticides is growing increasingly complex. Integrated Solutions is designed to embrace innovation and meet growers with options that work for them. 

Strategies and Technologies Evaluated

Potential technologies evaluated by IS include conventional pesticides, bio-based pesticides, organic solutions, and other management tools such as plant growth regulators, pheromones, traps, baits and more. 

As of 2023, the IS purview has expanded to include testing of biostimulants, precision agriculture technologies (drone or bee-enabled pesticide applications, etc.), biocontrol strategies, cultural methods (cultivar resistance, cover crops, etc.) and any other reduced-risk pest management options.

Research Areas

Integrated Solutions collaborates with academia, commodity groups and industry partners to help specialty crop growers in the following research areas:

Pest Problem Without Solutions (PPWS) 

Specialty crop growers often lack effective tools against chronic or emerging pests. The IS platform screens and identifies potential strategies for managing these pests.

Pest Resistance Management (RESIS)

An increasing number of pests are developing resistance to pesticides currently available on the market. The IS platform evaluates products—either as solo treatments, or rotationally with other existing or novel pesticides/technologies—with the goal of identifying reliable methods to control resistant pests.

Organic Food Production (ORGNC)

Organic growers are required by the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Organic Program (NOP) to meet certain standards in order for their crops to be certified organic. The IS platform assesses existing and emerging organic pest management products, as well as alternative control measures, that may fit NOP specifications.

Residue Mitigation (MITIG)

Maximum Residue Limits (MRLs) are the highest concentration of pesticide residue that are legally allowed on a crop to enter trade. Sometimes, the MRL for a pesticide may be lowered by an importing country. When this happens, the IS platform assesses ways to reduce residues and explores lower-risk alternatives to allow American growers to continue exporting their products. 

The Role of Integrated Solutions at IR-4

IR-4’s other Food Crop Program research platform, Residue and Product Performance, looks at the safety and effectiveness of particular pest management products and explores whether acceptable levels of residue remain at harvest time. Integrated Solutions takes a broader view, searching for novel approaches to strengthen and diversify existing growing systems. The platforms often work together; if a product performs well in Integrated Solutions, it may be evaluated in Residue and Product Performance for label expansion purposes. Similarly, products studied under Residue and Product Performance may be included in an IS study as part of a more comprehensive pest management approach. 

Submitting a Project Clearance Request 

If you have a specialty crop pest problem in mind that fits one or more of the research areas above, and you would like IR-4 to evaluate potential solutions, please submit a Project Clearance Request form.

In this form, describe your pest or problem and why solutions are critical for specialty crop stakeholders (regionally or nationally). You may also propose that IR-4 test a particular pesticide, technology or strategy. If you don’t have a potential solution in mind, just inform us of your needs and IR-4 will work with experts to identify options for research.  

Anyone may submit a Project Request (except for employees of the proposed product’s registrant). Requests are received year-round and reviewed by specialty crop stakeholders at the regional and national level. Requests that are selected as the most critical ones by at least one of the IR-4 regions are further reviewed annually at the Food Use Workshop—a national event attended by growers, academics, commodity groups, federal regulators, and crop protection industry liaisons. Requests with the greatest potential for benefit are prioritized for funding and IR-4 engages researchers across the United States to conduct field trials. Projects that are important but less urgent can re-enter the nomination cycle in the following year.