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A man reading the label on a container of pesticides.

Pesticides can be important management tools in crop production. It is important to use pesticides correctly to manage the pest, protect the environment, and to keep the applicator safe.

On a pesticide label users will find the Pre-Harvest Interval (PHI). The PHI is the minimum number of days that should pass between the last application of pesticide and harvest. Under the “Direction For Use” section of a label there will be a list of crops/sites on which the pesticide can be legally applied. The PHI will be listed for each crop. The same pesticide may have different pre-harvest intervals for different crops.

Common Name and Active Ingredient Importance

Looking at the common name of a product and the percent of the active ingredient before purchasing a product can be helpful. The trade name may be in large letters on the label, but the active ingredient, often referred to as the common name, is in tiny letters on the label. Often times a company will change the active ingredient but keep the trade name the same. An applicator must read the label to find out if the product they are purchasing is actually the one that is needed.

Worker Safety After Application

The Restricted-Entry Interval, or REI, is the amount of time that must pass from application until an unprotected farm worker reenters the field. Even if the worker is not harvesting a crop, the worker must not enter the field until the REI time has passed—unless they are wearing the proper personal protective equipment.

Record Keeping

Record keeping is an important step in pest management that is sometimes overlooked. Commercial applicators and farmers with a private pesticide applicator permit applying restricted-use pesticides are required to keep records for a minimum of three years. These records include things such as date of application, amount of product applied, chemical used, etc. Record keeping is a good idea for any applicator even if it is not required. Record keeping can help evaluate the effectiveness of an application or help an applicator decide what chemical to use next when rotating chemicals. When trying to determine why a chemical may have failed, an Extension agent will always ask when the application was made, what chemical was used, the rate at which the chemical used, and the amount of water applied per acre. Oftentimes, the answers to these questions will help determine why a chemical did or did not work.

Old or Illegal Pesticide Use

What should an applicator do with an old pesticide that was purchased many years ago and was never used? It is illegal to throw it away in the trash. If the product still has the label and it is still legal to use, it can be applied to any site listed on the label at the rate listed on the label. The product may or may not work, but this would be a legal way of getting rid of the product.

What if you found a product that had no label, was illegal to use, or you had no intention of ever using? Pesticide amnesty days are set up by the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries (ADAI) for cases such as this. During these events, farmers or home gardeners can bring their unwanted pesticides to a certain location. Professionals will take the pesticides at no cost and dispose of them in a legal manner.  The Alabama Cooperative Extension System partners with ADAI on these events, so applicators can contact ADAI or the local Extension Office for more information on pesticide amnesty days.