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Think safety first
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Pesticides are commonly used in lawns and gardens, but do we stop and take time to think about safety?


Like medicines, pesticides can have tremendous benefits, but misuse can have serious consequences.


To use pesticides safely, you need to know the correct pesticide to use, the proper amount to apply, the correct formulation to choose, and the appropriate method of application. Some general guidelines in their use in landscapes and gardens are:


1. Read the pesticide label before you purchase it. The label will provide you the information to use the pesticide safely, effectively and correctly. Remember, it is illegal to apply a pesticide unless you follow all of the label directions. 


Look for the following items of information on the label:


Read the directions for use section first: This section tells where the pesticide can be used. Never use a pesticide on a site that is not listed in this section. It is illegal and dangerous to do so. The use section also contains a list of pests that the pesticide is intended to control. The directions also tell how and when to apply the pesticide. It is illegal and dangerous to use more pesticide than the label directs.


Review the Pesticide Risks to see if you can use the pesticide safely. The words danger, warning and caution are signal words to indicate how dangerous a single dose of the pesticide can be to people and other animals.


Danger indicates that the pesticide can kill in small amounts (less than one teaspoon).


Warning indicates the pesticide has moderate toxicity to humans and other animals. 


Caution is the least dangerous group of pesticides when used according to the label directions.


Precautionary statements provide more detailed information about the potential hazards of the pesticide including hazards to humans and domestic animals, statement of practical treatment or first aid and environmental hazards.


The formulation of the pesticide is also listed on the label. These are dusts (D), granules (G), baits (B), wettable powders (WP) and emulsifiable concentrates (EC).  Many pesticides are premixed and packaged as aerosols or pump sprays for the homeowner market.


The label also lists the active ingredients of the pesticide. These are usually common names for the pesticide, like carbaryl rather than Sevin.


2. Select the pesticide and its formulation based upon the target pest, the plants you wish to protect, the application equipment available, potential hazards of the pesticide, and the degree of experience of the applicator with pesticides. No single herbicide, insecticide or fungicide is appropriate for all landscape and vegetable pest problems.


Your local county extension office is an excellent source of assistance in this choice.


We should not forget that chemical pesticides may not always be the answer to our pest problems.



Clark Beusse is the Dawson County extension agent. For more information, call (706) 265-2442.