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Before You Spray

Dan Citrus, Education, Field Crops, General, Nursery Crops, Pest/Pest Control, Specialty Crops, Vegetables

We often think about pesticide safety and best management practices when we are in the field spraying. You’re outside, you’re potentially exposed to the pesticide, and a gust of wind in the wrong direction could send it flying back into your face. However, your first interaction with pesticides on spray day takes place well before you step foot in the field.

There are several things you can do before spraying to help ensure a safe and efficient application. This article will cover a few of them, including identifying the target pest, ensuring your pesticide label is up to date, calibrating equipment, wearing the proper personal protective equipment (PPE) during mixing and loading, and testing product compatibility.

PROPERLY IDENTIFY PESTS
The first step in a proper integrated pest management strategy is to identify the target pest.

Did you ever see Point Break? In this movie, Keanu Reeves plays Johnny Utah, a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agent tasked with identifying, infiltrating and dismantling a gang of surfing bank robbers. Special Agent Utah makes the critical mistake of not correctly identifying the target pest. Instead, on an uninformed instinct, he authorizes a raid of an unrelated group of surfers led by the lead singer of the Red Hot Chili Peppers that, while certainly pests, had not met the threshold to control and were under observation. The botched raid cost the FBI time and manpower while destroying a multi-year Food and Drug Administration investigation. Meanwhile, the actual target pests — led by Patrick Swayze as the iconic Bodhi — continued to do considerable damage until they were finally properly identified and controlled.

There is no magic bullet pesticide that kills every pest and spares every crop. To properly control pests in the field, proper identification of pests is needed to select the correct product to treat them with.

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ENSURE THE LABEL IS CURRENT
While the label is the law, the label is not always consistent. This is especially true with pesticides that have been approved under a Section 18 emergency-use authorization. When a new pest strikes an area where no pesticides are registered, a state regulatory body can lobby the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to authorize applicators to use pesticides that may control the new target pest but are not labeled for that use.

If granted, the state pesticide regulatory agency, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) in Florida’s case, prescribes application rates, safety precautions and other information for applicator and environmental safety. While Section 18 authorizations resemble normal pesticide labels, they are not technically labels or labeling because the product has not been registered with the EPA.

Section 18 emergency exemptions authorize pesticides for a limited time and special use. However, a pesticide authorized under a Section 18 exemption may be granted a Section 3 (normal) registration and become authorized for normal use. When this happens, the rules and regulations for applying the pesticide may change. A recent example of this is FireWall 50 WP.

FireWall 50 WP, developed by AgroSource, is a streptomycin-based bactericide/fungicide which was granted an EPA Section 18 emergency exemption several years ago to suppress HLB in Florida citrus and to aid in controlling citrus canker in Florida grapefruit. FireWall 50 WP received a Section 3 label on April 23, 2021. The application rules are nearly the same in the Section 3 label as the old Section 18 exemption, except that the preharvest interval has increased from 40 to 60 days. This change is especially important for growers planning to apply FireWall 50 WP close to harvest. It is also a good reminder to ensure you are up to date on changes to your pesticide’s label.

CALIBRATE EQUIPMENT
Calibrating equipment is something very few people like to do and is often the most challenging part of the pesticide exam. However, it is a critical step in proper pesticide application. Calibration is the process of learning and adjusting your equipment’s output rate to ensure you are applying an even and accurate dosage.

A properly calibrated sprayer saves time and money. If, for example, a sprayer is producing more output than it should, plants will receive excessive chemicals that may cause phytotoxicity. The applicator will have to make more return trips to the mixing-loading station, costing both time and money in the form of excess chemical concentrate. An excessive application may also change the pesticide exposure levels for applicators and workers.

You can spray with confidence once you’ve calibrated your equipment. However, do not assume …..

Learn, and read, more about Before You Spray on the Citrus Industry Website.