July 26, 2012 - Landowners and farm managers are busy spraying for weeds and insects.
Even for chemicals that do not require a license to purchase or apply, applicators should remember that the label acts as the law and serves to protect applicators (and the public) from safety risks and legal action.
"I know lots of people get caught up in the verbiage of it but the pesticide label is approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), it is an extension of federal law," said James Locke Soil and Crops Consultant for the Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation.
A violation of a chemical label is a violation of federal law and can create potential risk to the applicator, as well as the people around them, and it can lead financial loss and legal action.
"Either monetary costs, fines for using a pesticide inconsistently with its label or illegal residues on a crop or food crop or something like that, it could potentially lead to that crop being condemned from the market," Locke said. "All of those things, if you follow the pesticide labels you are guaranteed that it is safe and most likely affective application of that product."
Some of the most common complaints that are received are due to chemical drift. This is something that can occur even with chemicals bought off of the shelf at the farm store that do not require a license.
"Any place where there is a lot of row crop production type activities, you will tend to see a lot more drift issues," Locke explained. "A lot of that has to do with if you have pasture land intermixed with cropland. Most of our herbicides are extremely toxic to our broadleaf row crops such as cotton, soybeans, alfalfa and stuff like that. So, you have got crops that are sensitive to those pasture herbicides is where we run into a lot of issues."
Texas Department of Agriculture Director of Communications Bryan Black also said that misapplication due to drift is one of the more common problems.
"Sometimes our inspectors receive pesticide drift complaints," he said. "This is where an applicator ignored the wind direction and applied pesticides that drift on to another landowner's vegetation, such as gardens or ornamental trees. When this occurs, the applicator may be assessed an administrative penalty for the damage. It is critical that an applicator ensures weather conditions are favorable before applying pesticides."
In fact, this problem is so common that Locke said certain chemicals are banned from use during certain periods of time, in specific areas, due to the possibility of drift.
"Those 2-4-D-based chemicals are particularly tough on cotton," Locke said. "That is the reason why in Texas and Oklahoma, we have restricted-use counties where those hormone type herbicides are only available for use in cotton-growing counties in part of the year, whenever they are trying to minimize those risk issues."
Texas AgriLife Extension and the Noble Foundation routinely hold educational seminars to keep land managers abreast of current issues related to pesticide application.
"People like me, your consultants, Extension educators, state specialists our job is to be up to date on what is new uses or new chemicals that are coming out or have come out and are available for use by either producers or just your small land owner or what not," Locke explained. "You don't want to as a landowner have to search through all of that stuff on your own. Going to those meetings is the place where you can get that kind of information on proper use of crop production products and what not."
According to some of Locke's research he found that in Texas there are 842 herbicides labeled, 459 insecticides, 399 fungicides and 90 plant growth regulators.
"Most people don't have nearly the amount of time it takes to go through that kind of a list of products to look at," he said. "If you go to one of these meetings you are going to have that list paired down to a list of products that you actually need for the area you are at."
Having proper knowledge of application safety and know the conditions that are best suited to apply chemicals, whether they require a license or not, is extremely important for anyone applying a chemical herbicide or pesticide.
"Whether or not you are a licensed applicator or not is irrelevant as far as your duty or responsibility as a pesticide applicator, you are responsible for doing it right," Locke said. "In order to get those results that you want and for your safety and the safety of the people around you."
To find a chemical applicator training course visit the area's County Texas AgriLife Extension website http://agrilifeextension.tamu.edu/.
Ag pesticide application safety tips provided by Bryan Black of TDA:
• Applicator must be knowledgeable on how to operate the equipment, application techniques and equipment safety.
• Make sure application equipment is in good working condition.
• Read and understand all pesticide label directions.
• Wear all required personal protective equipment (PPE).
• Make sure weather conditions are favorable for the application.
• Consider all surrounding areas of the application site and avoid applying pesticides when the wind is blowing towards sensitive areas.
• When the application is complete, applicator must decontaminate PPE, shower and put on clean clothes.