|ODA offers advice to homeowners using pesticide products
Spring officially arrives this weekend and, with any kind of break in the weather, Oregonians will be migrating outdoors to work on their lawns and gardens after a winter of neglect. This is the time of year the Oregon Department of Agriculture would like to remind homeowners of the right way to use pesticide products.
"Home-use pesticides are important and often necessary in the battle against unwanted plant pests and diseases," says Dale Mitchell, assistant administrator of ODA's Pesticides Division. "There is nothing wrong with using pesticide products as long as they are handled properly."
ODA licenses commercial pesticide applicators, requiring them to take a test to show their knowledge of how to use pesticides safely. However, even unlicensed users of pesticides, like homeowners, are expected to use pesticides properly. By taking several simple precautions, homeowners can prevent most problems associated with pesticides. That's where ODA's outreach and education efforts come in this time of year.
The overriding message is to read the label instructions on the product. When in doubt, the label will provide the information needed to use pesticide products safely and wisely. Reading the pesticide product label offers instructions for homeowners prior to purchase, before it is applied, and after it is applied. Just as important as reading the label is following its instructions.
"It's important to read that label several times, the first time even before you purchase the product," says Roland Maynard of the Pesticides Division. "You want to make sure you purchase the correct product. Part of doing that is reading the label at the store after you do your homework and identify the problem you want to address."
Information on the type of plant pest or disease you are dealing with is available at the local garden center, county extension office, ODA, and the internet. Those resources not only identify the problem, they can point to specific pesticide products most effective in treating the problem. Whether you are applying weed killer, slug bait, or bug spray, the information is out there.
The label also gives the homeowner useful information about what kind of site the product should be applied.
"A good example is moss killer," says Maynard. "Some moss killers are to be used on roofs while others are specifically used on lawns. The roof moss killer could be very harmful if used on lawns. The label will specify where the product should be used."
Homeowners should also have a good idea of how much product to purchase. Knowing the area dimensions to be treated is helpful before the purchase.
"A common mistake a lot of consumers make is to purchase too much product, often because the larger container may be less expensive per ounce than the smaller container," says Maynard. "What happens is consumers wind up storing these products or having a large amount of excess pesticide that they have to figure out what to do with for months, if not years, after purchase."
After the purchase comes the application. The product label gives the correct method of handling the pesticide, including how to mix the product. Some products may be already mixed but many need to be diluted before application. The label also tells you when to apply the product. Some pesticides require dry conditions, others do fine even if it rains afterwards. The label emphasizes keeping children and pets away from the material during mixing and application.
No matter what problem is being addressed or how large it is, using more of a pesticide product is not necessarily better.
"When you apply too much pesticide product, it's usually not more effective," says Maynard. "In fact, too much can kill things you don't want to kill, like your lawn. There is also the potential of having excess product running off and causing environmental hazards."
When applying a pesticide product, be mindful of neighbors. ODA often receives complaints from people after a next door neighbor has made an application of pesticides. There are steps a homeowner can take to diffuse a potential problem. Pesticide products should not be allowed to drift or be applied anywhere outside the intended target. A good neighbor policy- including giving your neighbor a heads up that you will be applying pesticides- can avert a number of problems.
Once again, the label provides instructions on storage and disposal. Leftover pesticides should be kept in a secure place that isn't easily accessed by kids or pets.
"Never put pesticides in a food container or anything other than the original container it came in," says Maynard. "It's very easy for someone to mistake a soda can that you filled with pesticides for an actual soda."
The best storage and disposal solution is to not have a problem in the first place. Once again, purchase the right amount of product needed for the job. Another good option is to look for ways to treat problems without using pesticides. Pulling weeds by hand may be a better if the weed infestation is not too severe.
Nonetheless, pesticides are often a necessary and useful tool for yard and garden care. Whether the user of pesticides is on a farm, in a forest, or at home, the product must be used according to the label. It's the law.
For more information, contact Roland Maynard at (503) 986-4731.
Story of the Week pdf version
Audio Story of the Week