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FarmWhether you have a prized backyard garden or acres of row crops, chances are you’ll need some help fighting off invasive weeds, hungry insects and pesky diseases at some point, but pesticides should be used as a last resort. Correctly identifying the pest causing the problem is key to selecting the most appropriate and least toxic pesticide to do the job. If you are unsure of what is causing the problem, your local Clemson Cooperative Extension office may be able to help. 

When purchasing pesticides, look for products with “CAUTION” on the label which is a way to identify pesticides with the least toxic ingredients. A label with “WARNING” indicates medium toxicity and “DANGER” represents highly hazardous products. Other things to look for and to follow exactly as directed on the label include the following: where the pesticide may be used; the pest you wish to control; equipment and protective clothing needed; what to do in case of accidental poisoning or contact; and how to properly dispose of or store any unused product. 

Not all pesticides are intended for use by homeowners. Such “Restricted Use Pesticides” can only be purchased and used by a certified and licensed pesticide applicator. 

For agriculture operations using pesticides, controlling spray drift has become a growing concern. Applicators may be responsible for sprays drifting off-target which can cause significant damage to crops, animals and human health. The first safety step to pesticide application is confirming you and any third parties spraying on your behalf are adequately insured. Farm Bureau Insurance offers several options to limit the risks associated with pesticide application. An endorsement for Agriculture Drift Liability Coverage can be added to farm liability and Ag Promise policies. The endorsement provides coverage for physical injury to animals and crops that may result from a ground application of pesticide. Ag Promise policies can also be endorsed to provide limited pollution coverage, which can provide additional protection. Talk with your local Farm Bureau Insurance agent to learn about these optional coverages.

To limit the risk of spray drift, here are other risk management recommendations to consider:

  • Alert your neighbors. Take it a step further by reminding your neighbors to stay indoors during the spray if possible, in addition to closing their windows, covering outdoor grills and taking clothing off nearby clotheslines.
  • Watch for temperature inversion. Past pesticide tips suggested spraying on windless days, but a study in 2017 by the University of Missouri found the worst time to spray is clear, windless evenings because of temperature inversion. Temperature inversion occurs when warm air rises and cool air settles near the ground. Typically, temperature inversions start at dusk and break up with the sunrise because of vertical air mixing. Spraying during an inversion is not recommended.
  • Have a spotter. Always have someone watching to check for people, animals and cars when spraying.

For more information about pesticide safety, visit our article on Pesticide Safety. The Clemson Cooperative Extension also offers a library of valuable information on pesticide safety which can be found at www.clemson.edu/extension/publications.

Your Farm Bureau Insurance agent can help you understand available coverage options to protect your home and farm. Find a local agent near you or reach a customer service representative at 1-800-799-7500.