AMES, Iowa – Understanding how to use pesticides appropriately and when it is best to use them can save time and money and limit their environmental impact. Whether in a residential yard or commercial setting, proper pesticide use, safety and storage are important to keeping plants healthy and looking their best.
A trio of publications available through Iowa State University Extension and Outreach offers instruction for using pesticides to homeowners and commercial greenhouse employees alike.
“When pesticides are purchased at a department or home improvement store, there isn’t a document that goes into the buyer’s hand to explain the best way to use and store pesticides,” said Mark Shour, entomology program specialist with ISU Extension and Outreach. “These publications are designed to be short and to the point on how to choose, use and store pesticides safely. They can also help users understand what information is on a pesticide label and how to know what pesticide to use in a given situation.”
“Understanding Pesticide Labels” (PSEP 0058), written by Shour and Donald Lewis, professor and extension entomologist at Iowa State, breaks down what information is included on a pesticide label and how to understand each section.
“Home and Garden Pesticide Guidelines” (PSEP 0059), by Shour and Lewis, discusses when to use a pesticide, which pesticide is best and how to apply, store and dispose of the pesticide safely.
“Personal Safety in the Greenhouse” (PSEP 0043) by Shour and Betsy Buffington, program specialist with ISU Extension and Outreach, provides information about pesticide safety and personal protective equipment to be used in a commercial greenhouse.
While these publications are helpful once a pesticide is in use, Shour cautions that there is an important step to take before purchasing a product – figuring out what the pest is and if it is even necessary to spray.
“The first step in any pest management program is to learn the identity of the pest and if it is enough of a problem to use a pesticide on it,” Shour said. “Many pests can be dealt with in different ways, and until the identity of the pest is determined it’s hard to develop a proper management plan.”
The Plant and Insect Diagnostic Clinic at Iowa State can help identify a pest and at what stage it is vulnerable to be controlled. Only then can an informed management plan be created and carried out. If using a pesticide is part of that plan, understanding how to use, store and dispose of the pesticide becomes critical.
“Knowing if a pesticide is needed, learning when it should be applied, and applying it properly will give the best results and help keep people and the environment safe,” Shour said.