Farming requires pesticides to control weeds, insects and diseases, and fertilizers to boost yields. At the end of a production year, farmers may find themselves with leftover chemicals.
"We recommend that farmers not carry over large stocks of pesticides from year to year to avoid problems such as storage," says Ples Spradley, pesticide assessment coordinator for the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service.
Spradley says farmers should follow extension guidelines if they have to store chemicals.
"Make sure you have a secure storage area," he says. "The area should be locked, with a sign alerting people that there are pesticides inside. You should always have an inventory list of what you've stored in case of a fire. It can help fire fighters determine what they're up against."
It's important to have a place where stored chemicals won't freeze. Ideally, you should have a locked room dedicated to chemical storage that's insulated or heated, according to Spradley.
You shouldn't store chemicals in your house, next to your house or in a storage closet next to a water heater. Avoid storing near any kind of ignition source or gasoline.
One of the most important tips Spradley offers is to keep pesticides from freezing.
"If some products freeze, they'll lose their effectiveness," he explains. "The cold can affect the formulation. It may cause liquid compounds to separate, and no amount of shaking will restore the chemical to its former state."
Spradley said pesticides should be kept in sealed, airtight containers away from moisture. "Moisture will affect everything from labels to containers to the product."
Containers should be kept in good shape. Most containers are plastic, so they're not going to be affected by sitting directly on the floor. In the past, extension recommended that farmers keep metal or glass containers off the floor to protect them from breakage or rust.
Farmers should try to use up a pesticide in a leaky container during the year to keep from having a storage problem. Spradley doesn't recommend transferring the pesticide to another container for storage. If you have a leaky container, he said, contact your county extension agent for advice.
Spradley said storage measures are listed on the labels of product packages. The labels also list measures to take in case of a chemical spill.
"Basically, what you do is stop what's leaking; put the cap back on the container or plug the hole and clean up the spill. If it's dry material, you can sweep it up. If it's liquid, put an absorbent material on it such as kitty litter or oil soak and then sweep it up and properly dispose of it. Never wash down the area with water. You'll just increase the size of the contamination."
The label will usually list protective gear to wear in an emergency, but you should have at least the minimum protective gear such as waterproof gloves, long-sleeve shirts, long pants, shoes and socks, Spradley said. The label may call for more protective gear such as a respirator and coveralls.
Because of the threat of terrorism, he added, farmers should report any suspicious activities around their farms or pesticide storage area to authorities.