Cilantro is an herb grown in several states in the United States. Illegal insecticide residues were detected on cilantro in routine monitoring data from the USDA Pesticide Data Program.
Cilantro has a relatively short growing season and may be grown in close proximity to other vegetable and herb crops. Growers have a very limited number of labeled pesticides that can be used in cilantro production. In many areas, cilantro is grown in rotation with crops that have a different set of pesticides registered. Also, cilantro is a close relative of parsley, which may lead to inadvertent incorrect applications. These and other factors can contribute to illegal pesticide residues in cilantro.
Traces of pesticide residue are normal and even expected after pesticides are applied to food crops, but by the time produce is ready to be sold, purchased, and consumed, residues are usually far below the legal limit.
In its latest report from 2014, the California Department of Pesticide Regulation reported that there was little or no detectable pesticide residue in 93.43 percent of all California-grown produce. This demonstrates a strong pesticide regulation program and pesticide applicators that apply pesticides safely and legally. However, there have been instances where a pesticide not registered for a specific crop has been used unintentionally, resulting in illegal residues and eventually crop loss and destruction.
Pesticide Safety Education Coordinator Lisa Blecker, Area IPM Advisor Shimat Joseph, UC IPM Affiliated and UCCE Entomology Advisor Surendra Dara and UCCE Farm Advisors Richard Smith, Oleg Daugovish, and Eric Natwick educated cilantro growers in an effort to prevent illegal pesticide residues. The proposed work supported targeted outreach in California and Texas where the highest detections of illegal residues occurred.
Blecker, Joseph, and Dara, with the local extension experts, delivered local educational programs to cilantro growers and consultants. They and UC IPM staff—Jodi Azulai, Petr Kosina, Tunyalee Martin, and Cheryl Reynolds—collaborated and developed the Cilantro and Parsley Pest Management Guidelines, an online course, and a card set Understanding Pesticide Labels for Making Pesticide Applications.
The Cilantro and Parsley Pest Management Guidelines covers four insects and six diseases, plus nematode and weed pests. The Guidelines are the University of California’s guidelines for managing agricultural pests, and the primary extension publication for growers and pest control advisers, extending the most current pest management science.
The very popular Understanding Pesticide Labels for Making Pesticide Applications card set is available for download as a PDF. The printed card set was distributed to UCCE farm advisors for their clientele upon request. The card sets have been given out at IPM classes and pesticide application workshops.