Development of Best Management Practices

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Research, demonstrations, field trials, regular inspections and monitoring are effective tools to develop project-specific best practices. These activities also train the user groups and help establish acceptance and adoption of new or proven innovative ideas, products and services.

Real-world examples are key to creating a consensus for adoption of new pest management practices within the County. This strategy has been effective in increasing employee and stakeholder awareness and participation in the IPM program.

      Invasive pests, primarily weeds, on approximately 51,000 acres of County-owned or managed lands are managed by the Natural Resource Management group under the Department of Parks.

      Most invasive weed management projects use non-chemical or bio-rational approaches such as hand removal, torching, prescribed burns, grazing, solarization, shading, use of biological agents, mowing, seed head cutting and re-vegetation of desired plant species. The Parks department continuously explores/adopts updated, target-specific techniques while promoting interagency participation to create sustainable solutions to invasive pest management.

      While a slight increase or decrease in acreage under chemical management from year to year is cyclic and need-based, chemical intervention in invasive weed management projects throughout the parks system continues to be maintained at a very low level. The emphasis is on using non-chemical alternatives throughout recreational areas of the parks.

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      Carefully managed selective grazing in County parks is used to manage and promote perennial native grasses and wildflower stands. Grazing is used to reduce non-native invasive species such as yellow star-thistle, Italian thistle, other broadleaf weed infestations and annual non-native grasses which compete with native annual wildflowers and grasses.

      Grazing is also used to reduce fire fuel loads and minimize wildfire risks from invasive weeds, such plants as coyote brush, chamise or greasewood and California sage, encroaching into grasslands.

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      Goats are used to reduce or eradicate invasive plants in areas where cattle cannot roam, or to eat plants that cattle avoid. Goats are used at Ed Levin Park to clear poison hemlock, teasel, and coyote brush, plus grasses on the dam face at Sandy Wool Lake.

      Goats are used at Grant Lake (26 acres) to clear poison hemlock, yellow star-thistle, and teasel near the creek corridor and grasses around old buildings, protecting these properties from wildfire. Goats along the Coyote Creek Trail (up to 63 acres) eat primarily yellow star-thistle in fields where Santa Clara County has serious infestations.

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      Prescribed burns are conducted with the guidance and assistance of CalFire, San Jose Fire Department, and other fire districts. At Santa Teresa County Park, a training burn in an area infested with coyote brush, teasel, milk thistle and annual grasses occurs during most years. At Grant Park, burns are used to control medusahead, yellow star-thistle, coyote brush, and annual grasses.

          In 2014, the County Department of Parks and Recreation took a giant step forward in pesticide reduction and environmental health by opting for organic farming as the preferred choice for farm operations at Martial Cottle Park.

          The former Martial Cottle Family Ranch is now an urban park and working farm (covering 180 acres), and provides a rare opportunity to bring fresh fruits and vegetables to the community directly from "field to fork."

          The park also is a showcase for advances in sustainable farming techniques and water conservation. It is a center for innovation and learning about organic farming, conservation, and food production, and an ongoing community education center through cooperative partners such as UC Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners, 4H, Our City Forest, and City of San Jose Community Organic Gardens.

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          Organic farming does not involve the use of conventional pesticides and synthetic fertilizers. IPM practices are applied based on principles of resistance, exclusion, prevention/protection and eradication.

          Resistance

          • The use of cultivars known to be genetically resistant to several or specific pests.
          • The use of methods to trigger innate protective responses of a crop to pests

          Exclusion

          • Pre-plant inspection of transplants for pests
          • Use of certified stock or seed
          • Weeding of pathogen hosts
          • Hedgerows used as trap crops for arthropod pests and as bankers
          • Mass trapping of pests
          • Bird netting and repellent ribbon
          • Insect sticky traps

          Protection/Prevention

          • Sanitation of tools, equipment, clothing, soil and application of pest-free amendments
          • Insect vector control: virus vectoring thrips and tomato spotted wilt virus
          • Selection of planting dates to reduce the incidence of the germination of pathogens
          • Canopy management for humidity
          • Soil moisture management for soil-borne pathogens
          • Preventative Organic Materials Review Institute approved fungicides
          • Management of soil fertility for proper growth rate
          • Soil disinfestation to reduce weed seed bank and pathogens

          Eradication

          • Pruning of diseased or infested tissue hand weeding and cultivation
          • Compost and compost tea application
          • Biological Control: releases of arthropod natural enemies.
          • Planting of banker plants to increase and retain populations of native and introduced natural enemies
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          As previously mentioned, an organic farm eco-system is managed by maintaining and enhancing soil fertility and promoting optimal biological activity within the soil by building the soils with natural inputs like compost, cover crops, worms, and healthy fungi to promote rich soils that encourage strong root growth. The result is healthy plants that produce nutritious fruit and abundant flavors. Crop selection and rotation and plant and animal residue recycling is used to manage nutrient cycling. Water management and the augmentation of beneficial insects encourage a balanced predator–prey relationship and promote biological diversity and ecologically-based pest management.

          Santa Clara Valley public agency lands offer many opportunities to promote and expand agriculture for both health and heritage. Organic farming by the County helps expand agriculture within the County’s natural resource management areas and prevents environmental problems caused by land development or poor management. The IPM Program helps to foster these sustainable landscaping practices by providing resources and information that yield progressive qualitative and quantitative results.

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              County Roads, Parks and Facilities & Fleet departments have traditionally used herbicides, along with mechanical means such as mowing and grading, to manage vegetation along roadsides, highways, airport taxiways and park trails. This practice is known as right-of-way integrated vegetation management.

              Under this project, approximately 3500 right-of-way acres are managed by the Department of Roads and Airports. Historically, herbicide use has been focused on areas directly adjacent to pavement, typically to maintain a vegetation-free two or four-foot strip. Maintenance involves annual herbicide applications or alternative non-chemical maintenance practices. Vegetation-free zones help preserve pavement, allow storm water drainage and increase safety along roadsides.

              Integrated vegetation management decision making prioritizes need for vegetation-free areas, and considers cost effectiveness, safety and appropriateness of any alternatives based on specific situations. There is no single method for control of vegetation; what appears to work best is implemented as a series of control techniques. These may include both chemical and non-chemical alternatives such as biological agents, mechanical removal, hand removal, mulching, and grading.

              Herbicides continue to be utilized when no feasible alternative exists and exemptions are considered on a case-specific basis. However, the departments are committed to continued assessment of IPM alternatives and strategies. Department-specific review and analysis of both needs and emerging alternatives continues to be an important area of development for the IPM Program.

              Even after identification of workable, IPM-friendly alternatives, implementation will be a function of feasibility from a resource perspective and continues to be subject of dialog. The goal is the most rapid achievement of implementation that is consistent with operational necessities.

              The Department of Roads and Airports completed application of wood mulch in the median/intersections of County expressways. The ongoing annual program was to excavate existing dirt and weeds and apply mulch to reduce herbicide spraying. The project is under currently under re-evaluation, seeking opportunities through grant funds. Use of certified compost and re-vegetation on right-of-ways and other landscapes remains under consideration.

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              The County has invested in pesticide volume reduction technologies such as WeedSeeker. The patented WeedSeeker technology uses advanced optics and computer circuitry to sense if a weed is present. When a weed enters the 12-inch-wide field of view of the sensor, it signals a spray nozzle to deliver a precise amount of herbicide. The WeedSeeker sprays only weeds, not bare ground, and is effective where weeds occur intermittently. This technology can be used along roadsides, along irrigation canals and roadbeds and on railroad rights-of-way. Other potential uses include airport runways, golf courses, paved parking lots with medians, dirt and gravel parking lots, parks and hiking trails.

              The County's Department of Roads and Airports had adopted this technology on one spray rig for right-of-way vegetation management program. This had contributed to 70-85% herbicide use reduction annually on rights-of-way.

              The use of this technology is now discontinued due to issues related to operational design of the spray boom and its ability to maneuver around obstacles like guard rails and road signage. Future use of this technology will require additional research and investments in boom technology that can overcome this challenge.

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                  Proactive and preventive facility maintenance is critical to mitigation of chronic pest problems. Examples of common pest problems are cockroaches, ants, bed bugs, flies, fleas, spiders, fungus gnats, feral honey bees, wasps, yellowjacket, mice, and rats.

                  Control measures such as sanitation, and building maintenance and modifications are strong elements in structural IPM project. Pest issues are addressed by eliminating or reducing sources of food, water, and harborage that are available to pests, and limiting pest access into and throughout buildings. Control methods include use of traps, vacuum, steam, heat, dehumidifiers, refrigeration, precision baiting techniques, Bio-enzymes and reduced risk-pesticides.

                  Since 2003, regular pest control inspection and monitoring service has been provided by a structural pest control contractor. In 2009, the program started using mobile-based software, barcode scanners and web-based applications to conduct inspections.

                  The County IPM manager closely monitors the efficacy of control strategies to ensure that a pest-free environment is maintained for building occupants. The County IPM manager also conducts site-specific inspections, addressing issues related to sanitation, housekeeping, and building and landscape maintenance to mitigate pest problems.

                  Facility managers and department IPM coordinators also review and follow up on the inspection reports and recommendations on pest activity and related sanitation, housekeeping and maintenance issues. "IPM Guide for Facility Managers" is available as a reference document throughout the County, providing a sampling of techniques and procedures to illustrate facilities management approaches to pest control. All the methods cited in this manual have been tried previously and proven successful in real-world situations.

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                  When we see a bug, it bugs us. It creates anxiety, panic, and brings out stories of our lifetime experiences with bugs. We call it a "Rat of a size of Cat" and sometime "Delusory Parasitosis." Since 2002, prompt attention followed by proper identification of hundreds of such pest sightings, and subsequent outreach to County employees has helped defuse several such bug encounters thus averting unwarranted pesticide use. "Paper mites" is the most common one. We appreciate the candid eyes of the County staff; altering pest issues at an early stage, helping IPM solve the "Bug" problem when it's not a bug.

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                  The County owns or manages approximately 180 structural facilities. These structures are prone to termite attack. Termite control and management requires many special skills, including a working knowledge of building construction and an understanding of termite biology and identification. Management techniques vary depending on the species causing an infestation. Multiple colonies of the same species of termite or more than one species of termite can infest a building. Any of these variables will influence control approach. Subterranean, and less frequently, dampwood termites can have nests at or near ground level, so control methods for these can be similar. However, drywood termites nest above ground; therefore the approach for eliminating them is unique.

                  For many years, the standard treatment for control of drywood termites has been fumigation with Vikane (Active Ingredient - Sulfuryl fluoride) and for control of subterranean termites is soil and barrier treatment using conventional insecticides (e.g., Premise: Active Ingredient - Imidacloprid).

                  While termite baiting is a very complex subject, baits have become an important tool for controlling subterranean termites, which are the most common type of termites found in the United States. Structural IPM projects have replaced damaged wood and used application of reduced risk pesticides (e.g., borates, termite baits); heat treatment has also been considered in some cases. Bait is an appealing approach to termite control because it does not require extensive site preparation (drilling or trenching) or extensive application of insecticide to the soil or structure. Research is still ongoing to develop the most effective baits and delivery systems. Because subterranean termites in California vary in their foraging and in the times that they will take baits, the placement of bait stations and the time of installation is a crucial component in a successful baiting program. Once a termite infestation is controlled, it is essential that the bait stations continue to be monitored monthly.

                  No Countywide structural termite control system has yet been established. Therefore, alternative technologies, which are still in approach and can only, be used on case-by-case basis. Transition from the conventional approach to adoption of reduced risk alternatives will continue to require development of effective and affordable products.

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                  The County Contractor also successfully demonstrated application of heat to eradicate drywood termites at the ranger office at Ed Levin Park. This is an alternative form of pest control that involves safely raising the temperature of an affected area to a level no pest can survive. Aside from being an effective non-toxic pest control method, heat is unique in that it can be used to treat specific areas as well as entire structures.

                  In another trial, we successfully completed drywood termite control using reduced risk borate treatment (reduced risk pesticide) at the historic barn at Ed Levin Park and heat treatment at a large historical building in Sanborn park. These trails have demonstrated that these low impact treatments can be successfully applied and help to have less reliance on Sulfuryl Fluoride fumigations and other conventional approaches to termite control.

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                      Because of its great diversity of habitat types, Santa Clara County is home to many wildlife species. Some of examples of urban nuisance wildlife in Santa Clara County include California ground squirrels, rabbits, pocket gophers, pigeons, sparrows, swallows, bats, feral pigs, feral cats, and snakes.

                      Most of the urban wildlife conflicts under Santa Clara County's IPM program are resolved through prevention such as animal/vermin of proofing buildings, or sanitation improvement, improved housekeeping physical removal and trapping. For example, bird populations at all facilities are managed through seasonal trapping and installation of bird barriers. California ground squirrel populations at regional airports, parks, and correctional facilities are primarily managed through seasonal trapping and burrow destruction to prevent re-infestation. Feral pigs are controlled using archery and traps. Feral cat populations are managed through trapping, spay-neuter, and release. Geese are managed using vegetation barriers, lasers to herd geese, egg addling and sometime capturing and removing non-native geese and use of dog chasers.

                      Since 2003, no rodenticide is used in open space of 27 regional parks. Vertebrate control (e.g., ground squirrels, pocket gophers, feral pigs) throughout park system is managed non-chemically. A reason for chemical use would be to prevent transmission of vector borne and zoonotic diseases. The Agriculture Department is currently exploring opportunities of non-chemical methods such as trapping in combination with collapsing rodent burrows.

                      Control of wildlife including gophers and ground squirrels at parklands, correctional facilities, and roads and airports needs a strategic approach and investments. The IPM Program is closely working with the Departments and contractors on need assessment. The project will require funds soon at the department as well as IPM Program level for consulting, developing protocols, and implementing controls.

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