In this blog post, I’ll be discussing PESTICIDES. I’ve referred to pesticides at various times throughout this blog. But, I’ve never really gotten in depth on the topic. Using pesticides is widespread in the landscaping and agriculture worlds. Without pesticides, our landscapes and crops would be seriously damaged or at least in a great deal of trouble. The incorrect use of pesticides can be harmful to people, plants, animals and the environment. If you are going to use a pesticide, as a turfgrass warrior, you need to know some of the characteristics, precautions and procedures regarding pesticides. There are professionals out there; use them if you can. Just going to the garden center and applying a bunch of stuff off the shelf can be dangerous and harmful. Here’s some background information on pesticides.
Any life form that interferes with the comfort, health or productivity of people is considered a pest. Pests are either weeds, insects (or insect-like), disease causing pathogens or vertebrates. (Like moles – you can read what I said about moles in the blog topic “Lawns we are working on…”) The first step in proper pest control is proper identification. Misidentification is the number one cause of mission failure.
There are really three strategies for pest control. They are: prevention, suppression and eradication. Prevention is used when the occurrence of a pest can be predicted – usually based on seasonal activity or climate based activity or some other cycle. Suppression is when the pest is already present and you want to minimize or mitigate its effects. Eradication means total annihilation of the enemy….I mean pest. Remember the end of the movie Caddy Shack? I think Carl Spackler (Bill Murray) was going for eradication. Eliminating the pest is usually not feasible or economically practical. But, in a high quality stand of turf (Like Bushwood Country Club), eradication may be the only acceptable objective.
There are six methods of pest management: host resistance, biological control, cultural control, mechanical control, sanitation and chemical control. Host resistance is the plant’s natural or in bred ability to fight the pest. Biological control uses the pests natural enemies, like a parasite or predator. Cultural control takes in to account your management practices like mowing or irrigation. Mechanical control uses machines or traps to control the pest. A bug zapper in your backyard is an example of mechanical control. Sanitation involves the removal of resources needed by the pest for survival. Reading your seed bags and using weed-free seed or washing equipment between sites are examples of sanitation practices. Chemical control is what we all think of when we think of pesticides. Sometimes it is the last resort, but chemical control may be the only way to accomplish the mission.
FIFRA – the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act – defines a pesticides as, “…any substance or mixture of substances intended for preventing, destroying, repelling, or mitigating any insects, rodents, nematodes, fungi, or weeds, or any other forms of life declared to be pests, and any substance or mixture of substances intended for the use as a plant regulator, defoliant, or desiccant.” The pesticide can be natural or manmade. They are usually classified by function – like; guess what a rodenticide kills? Correct; rodents.
Pesticides are formulated a few different ways. The ACTIVE INGREDIENT (AI) in the formula is the chemical that kills the pest. Most are diluted in some way to make them safer to handle. The material used to dilute the formula is called INERT or INACTIVE INGREDIENT. Although it is usually water, the inert ingredient may be some solvent or wetting agent. Both active and inactive ingredients together are called the PESTICIDE FORMULATION.
Liquid formulations are Emulsifiable Concentrates (EC), Wettable Powders (WP), Flowables (FL), Soluble Powders (SP), Soluble Liquids (SL) and Ultra-Low-Volume (ULV) Formulations. ECs are not soluble in water but they are oil-soluble. The active ingredient is dissolved in an oil based solvent. When added to water they become milky or an emulsion forms. (An emulsion is a mixture of two or more liquids that are normally immiscible; nonmixable or unblendable.) These are very effective because they contain high concentrations of active ingredients. But, they are easily absorbed through the skin (dermal adsorption) of people or animals. WP combines the active ingredient with a dry carrier like mineral clay or talc. They look like dust or baking flour. WP will not dissolve in water. That’s why you got to keep shaking or stirring (agitating) the tank. Be careful not to inhale the powder. A new development is dissolvable bags that are dropped directly into the tank. WP can easily clog filters and nozzles. FL is a finely ground solid that is mixed with a liquid and an emulsifier to make a suspension (A suspension is a heterogeneous mixture containing solid particles. A dispersion of solid particles in a liquid.) So, FL needs regular agitation as well. FL are easier to handle and do not clog as easily. SPs are similar to WP except they completely dissolve in water. No agitation needed. Since most pesticides do not dissolve in water, there aren’t that many available in this formulation. ULV contains 80 to 100 percent of the AI. In some cases, they are distributed and sold “as is” – without solvents - or very little – or you do not have to add anything. ULV needs special equipment and is not really an option for the average homeowner. ULV can be very dangerous to your health without that equipment.
Then you have dry formulations. These are: Dusts (D), Granules (G), Baits and Fumigants. D are finely ground pesticides combined with carriers like chalk, talc,or clay. They are usually ready to use. But, the AI is usually between 0.5 to 10 percent. Dusts are applied dry so they are very prone to drift and inhalation. G also consists of an AI and a carrier – usually clay, vermiculite (which is like a 2:1 clay), corn cobs, fertilizer granules, etc. This is the formulation with which most homeowners are familiar. We usually spread G with seeders and spreaders. GrubEx is a granular pesticide. The AI for G is @ 1 to 15%. The granule usually needs to be activated by moisture.
Baits are usually mixed with some sort of desirable food for the pest and placed in areas where the pest will easily find it. Baits are great for fire ants and mole crickets. Fumigants are poisonous gases. They start in solid or liquid form but enter a gaseous state after application. These gases can get in to very small spaces. I briefly mentioned fumigants in my “WEEDS” blog post. Fumigants are usually put under some sort of tarp. I said in my blog post, “You want to try to put a huge tarp over your entire lawn and pump a carcinogen and a reproductive toxin under it?” Yeah; fumigants are tough to control, they can drift and can be very harmful to humans, animals and other plants. Fumigants are not a tool for the average turfgrass warrior.
Before you use a pesticide, you WILL (That’s an order.) read the label. Of course, my troops always follow the directions. But, you need to know what’s on the label with this stuff. The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) requires all pesticides to have an EPA approved label. The label is a legal document that provides information and data regarding the laws and regulations. Users may be held legally liable if the pesticide is used incorrectly or anything bad happens.
Here’s what you will find on a pesticide label:
Formulation – remember the descriptions AND the acronyms I used earlier; EC, WP, etc.
Registration and Establishment Numbers – very important in case of poisoning or other liability claims.
Signal Words – like CAUTION, DANGER, WARNING
Precautionary Statements – hazards to people and animals, hazards to the environment and hazards that involve physical or chemical properties – like something could catch fire or explode.
Statement of practical treatment – first aid
Pesticide Classification – classified by the EPA as “general use” or “restricted use.” General use pesticides can be bought and applied by any turfgrass warrior. Restricted use pesticides may only be bought and applied by turfgrass warriors (like me) with a special permit or license. If the label does not say restricted use – it is for general use.
Directions for use – READ AND UNDERSTAND THIS! This is not advice. This is not a recommendation. This is the law; violators are subject to criminal prosecution!
Misuse statement – stresses the need to follow the directions.
Re-entry statement – When can someone go back into the treated area without protective equipment?
Directions for storage and disposal – good safety information.
I say again (Turfgrass warriors never say REPEAT! – That means fire again at the same data!) – do not take this lightly. Whether it is a pesticide, a fertilizer or a bag of grass seed - READ THE LABELS and COMPLY! We need to live to fight another day. Good copy?