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March 24, 2009

University of California adds second course to free, online pesticide training for retail employees

Steve Dreistadt and Jodi Azulai discussing a pesticide product.

A free, online pesticide training course can help garden center staff advise their customers about pesticides and alternative options for managing pests.
Photo by Cheryl Reynolds.

The University of California (UC) Statewide Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Program  has released a second course in its free, online pesticide training series for retail employees at https://www.ipm.ucanr.edu/training/. These courses were created to increase consumer awareness about pesticides and alternative options for managing pests in homes and gardens. 

Home gardeners often look to their local garden center for information to help solve their pest problems. Surveys by UC IPM confirm that many consumers do not know how to choose, use, or dispose of pesticides properly and are not always aware of safer alternatives.

The first course in the series, Introduction to Pesticides for Retail Employees, was introduced in 2008. Employees learned about the types of pesticides, how to direct customers to least-toxic products, how to use the pesticide label to answer questions, and how to advise customers about safely using and storing pesticides or cleaning up spills. 

"The online course organizes a lot of information that can be very confusing and dangerous, if misunderstood," said Rosanne Mignosa of Redwood Barn Nursery in Davis, who completed the first course. "Having worked at our nursery for a number of years, I knew a lot already, but I think the course would be extremely useful for any new employees. It would be a good thing for all of us at the nursery to do once a year to keep our information fresh and up-to-date."

Dennis Milliken, a grower for Hoboken Gardens in Rockport, Maine, also completed the first course along with some of his staff. "The course was quite good, especially for employees who do not have their pesticide license but sell retail. Now they have some exposure to selling different pesticides—what to use where, when and how."

The second course, Moving Beyond Pesticides, includes a basic overview of IPM and how to diagnose and manage pest problems. The course features low-toxicity tools and products sold in most garden centers. Participants will have the opportunity to learn about resistant varieties, mulches, and pruning and irrigation tools, types of hoes and cultivators, and types of pest traps. The course also includes tips for identifying, protecting and encouraging the use of beneficial insects and installing fabric mulch. The program ends with specific examples of IPM programs featuring garden center products for managing snails and slugs, weeds, rats and mice, and aphids. 

More than 400 people have taken the pesticide course with several garden centers requiring all their sales staff take it. Next year, the UC IPM Program plans to look for ways to help retailers integrate the course into their existing training programs.


Stephanie Klunk, Communications Specialist
UC Statewide IPM Program
(530) 754-6724

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