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Heavy Methyl Bromide Use in California

Heavy Methyl Bromide Use Near California Schools: Heavy Methyl Bromide Use in California

February 8, 1996

A minor percentage of methyl bromide use in California is for structural fumigation and post harvest quarantine fumigation of fruits and nuts. The majority of use in California and elsewhere is for soil fumigation to control nematodes and other soil borne pests.

Methyl bromide use in California is heavily concentrated on a small number of farms that produce high value crops like strawberries and flowers. Strawberries are the major users applying about 4.5 million pounds of methyl bromide to fields each year. Total methyl bromide use in California ranges from 15 to 20 million pounds per year.

The strawberry industry is dominated by a small number of large agribusiness-style growers who enjoy profits in an average year of $12,000 - $15,000 per acre. Just 124 strawberry operations (20%), control 76 percent of the California acreage and produce 83 and 66 percent of the California and national strawberry crop respectively (USDA 1993). These same 124 farms use at least 3.4 million pounds of methyl bromide annually, about 20 percent of statewide use for all purposes. Other high use crops include grapes, flowers, seedbeds and greenhouses. Much of this heavy agricultural methyl bromide use takes place in relatively urbanized areas such as Orange, San Diego, Alameda and Ventura counties. From 35-60% of the methyl bromide used for soil fumigation drifts into the air around the field, regardless of measures taken to keep it in place, such as tarpaulins placed over treated fields (UNEP 1992).