Farmers heading to the fields this spring need to check the labels before applying pesticides, because directions for use and precautions may have changed since last year.
That's advice from Mike Murray, who heads up pesticide certification and licensing at the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.
"We know that farmers have passed certification exams to apply restricted use pesticides such as those containing atrazine," Murray says. "Yet producers only take a certification test once every five years, and pesticide product labels may change at any time. The application rate, pre-harvest interval, and other provisions on the label may have changed since last year. Be aware that label changes also impact general use pesticides, such as glyphosate, that you can buy without being certified."
Murray says, "The label is the law, so read it to be sure you're within the limits. And it's not just a legality – label changes are made to protect human health, livestock, the environment and your farming operation. For example, planting a crop too soon after making a weed control application may prevent the crop seeds from germinating."
He notes that the Environmental Protection Agency has recently changed labeling for chlorpyrifos pesticides such as Lorsban, which are used as insecticides in agriculture. Many chlorpyrifos pesticides have been relabeled with new restrictions on where and when they can be applied, including buffer zones from aquatic areas. After talking to your distributor, read the product label to make sure the pesticides you purchase fit your cropping system.
"Labeling changes for many reasons, including new science, new uses, and sometimes court action," Murray says. "Make sure you get the outcome you're expecting, keep it safe, and stay in the bounds of the law."