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Winnipeg Free Press
Group targets pesticide usage
Fri, Nov 24, 2000
By Bradley Bird

MINTO -- A group dedicated to developing pesticide-free methods of farm production has sprouted in Manitoba.

Pesticide Free Production Canada, which came into being last spring, is composed of Manitoba farmers working closely with University of Manitoba researchers and others. This summer they produced 2,500 bushels of pesticide-free grains.

"It's a Manitoba idea, but we don't want to keep this strictly within the province,'' said Scott Day, Boissevain's agricultural representative.

Day was one of about 80 farmers and researchers at a workshop here this week that looked at various aspects of pesticide-free production, or PFP as it's called.

"People don't like pesticides,'' said Martin Entz, a professor of plant science at the University of Manitoba and one of the project founders. "Every water body in Western Canada has some level of pesticides in it'' and the chemicals are linked to cancer, he said.

The group was formed partly in response to consumer demand for healthier foods and sustainable agriculture, but another reason was economic.

Goodlands farmer Bill Morningstar was one of 37 across southern Manitoba who tried to grow PFP crops last summer. He said pesticides are of limited value anyway, and by not using them on his 1,750 acres of cultivated land he would slice $22 per acre from his input costs of $93 per acre, and save $ 38,500 a year.

A four-year $400,000 project, funded by the Manitoba Rural Adaptation Council, began this summer and had a 75 per cent success rate among producers who tried to grow PFP crops, said U of M researcher Orla Nazarko.

Under PFP production, herbicides may be applied before the crop emerges to control weeds. Chemicals can also be applied on the land in other years in the crop rotation. For these reasons, PFP crops will likely contain chemical residues, the meeting was told. Even some organic produce is known to contain these residues.

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