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Causes and treatment of pesticide drift

Audrey Kittrell Updated: 06/27/2011 @ 2:43pm Editorial Intern for Successful Farming magazine and Agriculture Online

What goes around comes around—especially this time of year.  Applying pesticides to crops is inevitable to keep insects, weeds and disease at bay.  But pesticide drift is not so predictable, as factors like temperature, wind conditions and pesticide droplet size can all contribute to particles drifting from their target. And if you think chemical drift will only affect your crop yield, you are wrong. 

Both pesticide applicators and their neighbors are at risk for a slew of negative effects of pesticide drift. According to Michelle Wiesbrook, University of Illinois pesticide safety educator, this is the most important time of year to form good relationships with your neighbor.  

The UI Plant Clinic diagnosticians have taken in an above average number of chemically injured plants this season, a trend that can be offset by simple neighborly communication. Whether you are an applicator, a grower or a neighbor of either, the UI Extension Department of Agriculture suggests thinking about pesticide drift from the other’s viewpoint. 

“Growers don’t want their pesticide products to land on your plants any more than you do,” Wiesbrook says. 

Risks to Pesticide Applicators 

As an applicator, the obvious side effect of pesticide drift is a potential decrease in yield due to your crop not getting the full amount of pesticide it requires. But a secondary risk has a more blatant price tag: some instances of pesticide drift that severely damage neighbor’s property can be legally filed.  Penalties for a violation of pesticide application range from warning letters to monetary fines of $750 to $10,000, higher insurance premiums, a damaged reputation in the business and revocation of the applicator’s license.

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