Effective Pesticide Application

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The weather is warming up and folks are returning back outside to their lawns and gardens. As outdoor maintenance picks up, so do the questions we receive at Cooperative Extension about controlling unwanted pests in the landscape.

Usually when controlling an unwanted pest a pesticide is used. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) designates a pesticide as “any substance or mixture of substances intended for preventing, destroying, repelling, or mitigating any pest”.

Pesticides are used by a variety of applicators that include farmers, homeowners and lawn care professionals. Knowing how to effectively and properly utilize pesticides is paramount so that: you don’t waste your time and money; you are always following best safety practices; and you do not unintentionally damage desirable plants. The most important part of using a pesticide is following the guidelines that are presented on a pesticide label. A common thing you will hear is ‘the label is the law’. You must apply pesticides according to the label. Before diving into a few recommendations here are some facts about pesticides. ‘Pesticides’ is the term that covers multiple substances meant to control a pest. The term covers insecticides, herbicides and fungicides. There are a few others but these are the three most commonly used pesticides. Insecticides control insects, herbicides control plants and fungicides control fungi. Here are a few general recommendations to follow before making a pesticide application.

1. Properly identify what you are spraying. Knowing what the weed is and what herbicide it is susceptible to will make sure you are not applying a herbicide that is ineffective against the weed at hand.

2. Spray weeds when they are less than 2 inches tall. This is when the weed is most susceptible to a herbicide application.

3. Apply at the recommended rate. On the label it will tell you the amount you can apply and how it can be applied. If you apply too little of a pesticide it gives the pest a chance to survive and possibly become resistant to that pesticide in the future.

4. Apply at the correct temperature. On the label it will tell you what weather conditions are optimal for a pesticide application.

These are just a few things to think about before you spend your hard-earned money on a pesticide application. If you are planning on making an application and need help determining what will be the most effective treatment, please call North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Lee County at 919-775-5624.

Jared Butler is the Agriculture Agent, Field Crops and Livestock for North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Lee County.