It is scary, but true. Pesticides are abused.
All too often, pesticides affect livestock, pets, wildlife and people. They are often used without a thought given to environmental consequences. And since a majority of pesticides need never be applied, they can be a danger to the very plants that they are supposed to protect.
To ensure that these chemicals cause the least harm, you should thoroughly read label directions before purchase and again before application. Even products labeled as organic can be hazardous if applied incorrectly.
The first step to proper use is gaining an understanding of pesticide terminology. Texas A&M horticulturist Doug Welsh’s Texas Garden Almanac provides the following easy to understand overview:
Products are available in eight general formulations that include:
1. Concentrated liquids, which are to be diluted with water prior to application.
2. Ready-to-use liquids, which are premixed with water. These mixes help minimize accidental spills and thus reduce environmental and human contamination.
3. Powders, which are designed to be mixed with water prior to application.
4. Aerosols, which are premixed with a propellant and are ready for application.
5. Dusts, which are combined with a talcum powder-like substance and simply sprinkled on plants.
6. Granules, which are combined with inert material, such as clay, to create a coarse particle product ready for application.
7. Baits, which are laced with an insecticide and designed to be eaten by insects, such as grasshoppers.
8. Oils, which may be botanical or petroleum based. When applied to plant foliage, oils smother insect pests. Some oils also reduce disease.
Pesticides work in one or two of many different ways. Some kill pests on contact. Others sicken the pests when they are swallowed. A systemic is taken into plant tissue. When pests feed upon the plant treated with a systemic product, they die. A selective pesticide kills only certain insects. A nonselective pesticide kills any insect that comes in contact with it.
To apply, pesticides are sprayed, broadcast or used to drench or spot-treat areas. Product labels typically contain information about the pesticide’s formulation, active ingredients, inactive ingredients and toxicity. Pesticides can definitely harm or kill humans and animals.
Resources: Environmental Protection Agency, Texas Garden Almanac
For horticulture questions, call 817-579-3280 and ask to speak to a Master Gardener or visit the website at hoodcountymastergardeners.org.