Risk Management Strategies for Herbicide Applicators
Applicators can take several steps to reduce their risk in mixing, storage, and application of agricultural herbicides. There are conditions applicators should note that can impact the effectiveness of the application, including the environment before and after spraying, pesticide mix, spray patterns, and leaf characteristics. Applicators can manage their risk through training, gathering information and documenting the process. When an issue emerges, these actions can help answer questions, track down probable causes, and assist in designing a testing strategy to determine the problem or impact to the crop or environment.
Training of employees on the proper processes for the storage, mixing, application and documentation of chemicals should be completed at least yearly. Utilizing Pesticide Applicator License training with specific company procedures will help standardize each load process. A checklist is helpful for employees with heavy workloads during the busy seasons to ensure critical steps are completed in each application or process. A logbook should be used to record information such as the lot number of the herbicide, sprayer and settings used for the application, when and who mixed the chemical, when and who applied the chemical, the location of the application and filed application notes or comments. This information should be supplemented with weather and field information prior to and following the herbicide application. All of these details will assist in answering questions if an issue arises.
Prior to the season, equipment should be monitored and cleaned thoroughly. For commercial applicators, a retained sample of the chemical mix (2 to 4 ounces) or each sprayer load (16 ounces) could be saved for the season in case there are any issues with the application.
Herbicide drift is the most common cause of crop damage, followed by soil carryover, misapplications, and product contamination. When an issue arises, details recorded in the applicator’s logbook will help piece together a testing strategy. A sampling strategy may involve taking one sample from the affected area, two samples if there are non-affected and affected areas within a field, or three samples if a drift pattern gradient appears in the field. For suspected drift problems, plant tissue samples are used to diagnose the problem, whereas soil carryover issues utilize soil for the test substance.
In March of this year, SGS presented a webinar, “Herbicide Residue Risk Management” for applicators and operators who utilize herbicides for agricultural crops,. If you are interested in viewing a copy, please contact us. SGS provides an herbicide residue sampling guide to assist the producer, crop consultant and/ or claim specialist in attaining the best sample for the laboratory to test. Rose Neal, Pesticide Residue Scientist at the Brookings, SD laboratory, has over 20 years of experience in residue analysis and can assist clients in determining a testing plan for individual situations. Standard turnaround time is 5-10 days, although during the busiest season of July through September turnaround time may increase.
SGS tests for pesticide residues in soil, plant material and water. Additional herbicides have been added in 2013 to our screen packages which include plant growth regulators, neutral herbicides, sulfonylureas, imidazoles, and clethodim. Individual analysis for glyphosate, glufosinate, flumioxazin, aminopyralid, pyroxsulam, florasulam, cloransulam, flumetsulam, and isoxaflutole is available. Other pesticide tests may be available, so please inquire. SGS Brookings has the capabilities to assist producers in their soil and plant fertility, plant and seed diseases, as well as contaminants in soil, plant, grains, or feeds.