Pesticides

photo of application to fieldThe public is becoming increasingly concerned about the harmful effects of pesticides on the environment. Protecting water and the environment is a key element of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension Pesticide Safety Education Program (PSEP). It is essential that pesticide applicators understand all aspects of the pesticides they use in order to properly manage them. Whether you want to learn more about protecting human health, the environment, becoming certified and licensed, or improving your bottom line –¦ UNL Extension PSEP can help!

What is a pesticide? A pesticide is any substance that is intended to kill, repel or otherwise control a pest, including weeds, insects, rodents, bacteria and fungi. A pest can be defined as any organism that injures or competes with the growth and development of crops, trees, lawns and other plants. Plant injury is caused by such pests as insects, mites, fungi, bacteria, and viruses. When weeds compete with desirable plants for water, nutrients and sunlight, they are a pest. A pest also sometimes damages property or threatens human health and comfort.

If a pesticide is used to control an insect, it is called an insecticide. Herbicides are used to control weeds, rodenticides to control rodents such as rats and mice, and fungicides to control fungi that cause certain plant diseases.

Integrated Pest Management

pesticide applicationIntegrated Pest Management, or IPM, is a long-standing, science-based, decision-making process that identifies and reduces risks from pests and pesticides. It coordinates the use of pest biology, environmental information and available technology to prevent unacceptable levels of pest damage by the most economical means, while posing the least possible risk to people, property, resources and the environment. IPM provides an effective strategy for managing pests in all areas from developed residential and public areas to crop and wild lands.

IPM is an approach that has been around for several decades, but has received more attention recently. In the last 10 years, effective, low-toxic controls have been developed that are much safer to humans than many older pesticides. Many of these low-toxic controls are now available for pests in cropping systems and in many other situations as well. Any person who works in pest management should consider using IPM and these low-toxic controls whenever possible.

The use of pesticides is an important and valid part of IPM. Any use of pesticides should be based on the presence of pests that are causing damage that is likely to result in economic injury. It is best to exhaust all available control options before resorting to the use of pesticides whenever possible. However, in some situations pesticides are the only effective option available to prevent economic injury.

>> Chemical/physical characteristics of pesticides

>> Pesticide runoff/leaching management

>> Pesticide drift reduction/prevention

Reducing Off-Site Movement of Atrazine and Pesticides

Video: Reducing off-site movement of atrazine and pesticides (15 minutes; opens in same window)

The US Environmental Protection Agency is conducting an intermediate reassessment of atrazine label certification to ensure the safety of atrazine found in streams for aquatic life and human health.
As part of this effort Syngenta was required to set up 40 monitoring stations in potential runoff sites across the Midwest.

  • 31 of the 40 sites were below trigger levels of concern; 2 of these were in Nebraska.
  • 6 of the 40 sites exceeded the trigger level during one year; 3 of these were in Nebraska.
  • 3 sites exceeded the trigger level during both years; 1 of these was in Nebraska.

Syngenta proposed the next steps in the Watershed Management Program to include:

  • In 2010 continue monitoring atrazine runoff in Nebraska.
  • Continue to characterize atrazine use, conservation, and corn/milo acres.
  • Conduct stakeholder meetings to share monitoring information, raise awareness, and encourage stewardship practices to reduce runoff.
    EPA says scientific research data will be used in final decisions about further label adjustments.

Sensitive Crop Locater Website from Nebr. Dept. of Agriculture
This site is intended to identify locations within the state that grow sensitive crops such as grapes and organic. After the sites are identified, a pesticide applicator can locate those sites near them and take appropriate action to avoid injuring the crop with herbicide drift, etc.


Information presented within the crop production-Pesticides section of this Water Web site has been reviewed by University of Nebraska - Lincoln Cropping Systems Team members Richard Ferguson and Clyde Ogg.