Eddie Wheeler

A pest is an organism that causes damage to desirable plants, animals, humans and structures. Pests include insects, mites, plant pathogens, weeds, mollusks, birds and mammals.

We often use pesticides around the home and farm to manage and control these pests. A pesticide, as defined by The Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), is "... any substance or mixture of substances intended for preventing, destroying, repelling, or mitigating any insect, rodent, nematode, fungus, weed or any other forms of life declared to be pests."

Pesticides can be hazardous and require cautious handling, however, when they are used properly they can be beneficial. Pesticides should be a last resort when controlling pests. If the decision is made to use pesticides, remember to read and follow the label directions.

Labels are legal documents providing directions on how to mix, apply, store and dispose of a pesticide product. The label is the manufacturer’s main way to give the user information about the product.

The label provides a wealth of information about the product. The directions for use will include rate of application, the crop, animal or location the product is intended to protect, medical information, mixing instructions, as well as other valuable information. Do not use higher rates than indicated. If a little does the job, a lot will not do better. If too little pesticide is applied, the crop may not be effectively protected. If the pesticide is over applied, the residue may last longer than expected.

Several pesticides have a waiting period before harvesting the crop. It is important to follow these instructions to avoid eating a potentially contaminated crop.

The label helps the user get the maximum benefit at minimum risk. Read it before buying the pesticide and again before using the pesticides. Using pesticides inconsistent to the label directions is illegal. More importantly going against the instructions may also make the product ineffective and even worse, hazardous. Federal law strictly defines what information manufacturers must put on pesticide labels.

The pesticide label will contain a signal word that will tell the user the toxicity of the product. There are three signal words: CAUTION, WARNING or DANGER.

Signal words will usually be in capital letters. Slightly toxic products carry the signal word CAUTION. Products with the signal word WARNING on the label are moderately toxic. The highly toxic pesticides have the signal word DANGER on their labels. Always remember to read and follow the six most important words on the label: "KEEP OUT OF REACH OF CHILDREN."

READ and follow the label directions exactly. Remember, pesticides can be safe and beneficial if they are used properly.

(Eddie Wheeler is the Marshall County Extension coordinator, based out of an office on the ground floor of the Courthouse. He can be reached at 256-582-2009.)

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