Pesticide Alternatives Laboratory
288 Farm Lane Road, Room 235
East Lansing, MI 48824
See a list of Mark Whalon's publications on Google Scholar.
Dr. Whalon has personally educated key leaders within the MI legislature, commodity organizations, processors, exporters and grower boards as to the scope and details of the Maximum Residue Limit (MRL) crisis. MRLs are regulations that define the maximum amount of a pesticide allowed on specific products. MRLs are established and maintained by individual countries and, in recent years, by various domestic companies. The US establishes its own MRLs, and pre-harvest intervals (PHIs) are set to ensure that the residues of the applied pesticide degrade to levels below the US MRL at harvest. However, US MRLs are often significantly higher than some other countries’ MRLs, or in some instances, even domestic companies’ MRLs. This creates an extremely stressful situation for growers, because if residues are detected above an MRL, the entire crop and its income could be lost.
Since 2013, the Whalon Lab has put great effort into delivering MI’s tree fruit industry vital information that they need to reduce the risk and prevention of MRL violations while combatting these invasive species: Spotted Wing Drosophila (Drosophila suzukii) and Brown Marmorated Stink Bug (Halyomorpha halys). A team of individuals within MSU’s IPM specialists, extension service, IR-4 staff, grower organizations, pesticide industry leaders, key cooperating producer-leaders, processors, outlying MSU research facilities and trained analytical support have been focused to determine MRL boundaries for these industries in order to prevent catastrophic economic loss for affected growers.
Current assignment: Teaching 40% | Research 40% | Extension 20%
Professor Whalon taught the ISB Course: Insects, Globalization, and Sustainability during the Fall 2016. There were 164 students enrolled.
This course focused broadly upon the relationship between insects, human society, and the environment with an emphasis on ecological and evolutionary processes which are critical in the evaluation of current regional and global environmental and sustainable issues.
Dr. Whalon runs the Pesticide Alternative Lab which seeks to promote the use of conventional and non-conventional pest control tactics as a means to safer, higher quality and more abundant fresh and processed products for Michigan’s market places. The Whalon laboratory’s priorities are to evaluate biopesticides, assess conventional pesticide residue degradation and provide vital risk information to producers regarding late-season pesticide use impacts on Michigan’s tree fruit markets. These efforts have significantly changed grower behavior and thereby, reduced the risk of MRL violations in Upper Midwest fresh and processed tree fruit markets. This effort has generated conventional and biopesticide field-based application recommendations along with an industry-wide awareness of MRL market issues. These studies have also supplied producers with safe, pre-harvest pesticide application intervals for both conventional and bio-pesticides tools.
Along with calibrating late-season pesticide applications, the Whalon Lab is investigating late-season strategies that dramatically reduce MRL violation risks by utilizing biopesticides near harvest. Biopesticide residues are not monitored in domestic or foreign ports; moreover, they have little to no negative effect on humans or non-target organisms! Yet, as relatively new tools and strategies, biopesticides remain an ‘ideal option’ for the future of Michigan’s apple and cherry industries.
The Arthropod Pesticide Resistance Database (APRD), conceived and sustained for 23 years by the Whalon Lab, tracks the history of one of the most negative impacts of human development on earth: the evolution of pest resistance to pesticides. This database is a global resource of resistance history, current status, and helps with remediation of human impacts on earth. Worldwide there are over 14,422 cases of arthropod resistance recorded in the database, and more are being added daily! These case studies document the occurrence of resistance in 608 different arthropod species! What is more, resistance has occurred in over 386 different active ingredients! Therefore globally, this database may have more impact than perhaps any other MSU initiative when one considers the overuse of pesticides resulting from resistance in the developing world! The APRD is supported by donations from growers, government agencies and the Insecticide Resistance Action Committee (IRAC). In 2017 the APRD will transition from the Whalon Laboratory with Dr. Mark Whalon as leader to Drs. David Mota-Sanchez and John Wise as lead supervisors.
These research results and resistance management strategies are presented at numerous grower meetings and other communication events throughout Michigan, the US and internationally. An online decision support tool (mrl.msu.edu) was also developed for growers to access these MRL research data and apply them to grower’s pesticide application practices essentially anytime and anywhere on earth. Posters containing this information have also been distributed throughout tree fruit communities globally, and they are updated and redistributed routinely as new data are available. Dr. Whalon also spends extensive time and energy meeting one-on-one with growers in the field to discuss this research and its implications for improving grower practices from planting to harvest.