For nearly 30 years, Virginia Tech Professor of Entomology Michael J. Weaver has worked to ensure the safe use of pesticides and other toxic chemicals across the commonwealth -- and beyond.

The coordinator of pesticide programming for Virginia Cooperative Extension, Weaver directs Virginia Tech Pesticide Programs, providing information, education, and support not only to those who use pesticides as a significant part of their livelihood, but also to consumers, students, and government regulators and legislators.

Weaver (center) shows students an atomizer nozzle.
At Summit Helicopters in Cloverdale, Va., Weaver (center) shows his agricultural technology students an atomizer nozzle used on a helicopter to apply pesticides.

Long committed to reducing the risks of pesticide use, protecting our health and our food, and increasing profitability, Weaver has secured more than $5 million in funding to develop pesticide safety education courses and online content, to advance pest management through regulatory changes, and to sponsor instruction for inspectors and Extension faculty.

A consummate educator, Weaver created one of the first pest management expert systems and was the first in his field to use eLearning, training more than 16,000 pesticide applicators nationwide in 1988. Also the first to develop an interactive video laserdisc series for training pesticide applicators -- since converted into video and Web-based media -- Weaver received more than $81,000 from the Virginia Tech Center for Innovative Technology to create multi-use content that now serves as the core of the pesticide program's series of online and Web-supported courses.

Weaver (left) shows a helicopter boom to students
Weaver shows his students a helicopter boom with its unique spray-nozzle configuration.

Under Weaver’s leadership, the Virginia Tech Pesticide Programs currently offers two regional online courses for regulatory inspectors and Extension agents, a statewide online pesticide safety course for master gardeners, a national online course for more than 480 pesticide inspectors and U.S. Department of Agriculture record-keepers, and an online undergraduate lecture series on chemical application. 

In the works is a course for Virginia’s registered technicians to guide them through basic pesticide safety education and provide online exams in preparation for the state certification exam. In addition, a CD-ROM instructional course -- funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and distributed nationwide -- was developed for farmers who must comply with federal pesticide record-keeping laws. 

Offering Intranet-based training resources to support the more than 200 workshops annually sponsored by Extension, the university's pesticide program enables 21,439 certified pesticide applicators, including agricultural producers and pest managers, to maintain 29,194 certification licenses in 27 categories of private and commercial certified pesticide applicators in Virginia.

Besides coordinating and leading the training of Extension agents and specialists statewide, Weaver is developing systems to disseminate pesticide information worldwide. In order to better share resources, he created the National Pesticide Media Database that features royalty-free photography for use in pesticide safety education.

Weaver, who has published widely, continues to examine the impact of lead arsenate residue in Virginia soil and to explore computer-based multimedia and distance-learning technologies. His other recent work involves the development of a pest management information network, pesticide management programs, crop pest management profiles, pest management strategic plans, best management practices for growers, and pesticide applicator training manuals.

In 1993, Weaver was among the charter officers of the American Association of Pesticide Safety Educators and provides leadership as its webmaster, listserv manager, and editor-in-chief of the Journal of Pesticide Safety Education, now in its 10th year of publication as an academic peer-reviewed journal.

Citing his steadfast leadership and commitment to service and the university, Virginia Tech recognized Weaver with the 2007 Alumni Award for Excellence in Extension.

  • For more information on this topic, contact Juliet Crichton at (540) 231-8538.

Pesticide safety and education

TeeJet nozzle
A TeeJet nozzle head is used to demonstrate spray patterns to students.

Weaver essentially rebuilt Virginia Tech's pesticide safety education program, which is now one of only two mandatory programs for all Extension agricultural agents.

In 1977, Weaver, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Plant Pathology, Physiology, and Weed Science, became the program’s first graduate assistant, working with Professor Norman Lau. After Lau’s untimely death in 1980, Weaver was named the Virginia Tech Pesticide Programs' coordinator and completed his Ph.D. in 1982 while working full-time.

Employing technology

Art Sanford shows Courtney Hall (left) how to conduct precision application of pesticides
Pilot Art Sanford shows Courtney Hall how spray helicopters use GPS to conduct precision application of pesticides and fertilizers.
Hipkins (second from left) and students with spray nozzles
Pat Hipkins of Virginia Tech Pesticide Programs shows agricultural technology students how spray nozzles form patterns.


The work done by the Virginia Tech Pesticide Programs has been funded by companies, organizations, higher education institutions, and governmental agencies.