Pesticide Safety

bee on flower; photo by Edwin Remsberg

Selected Readings and Content


Master Gardener Volunteer Training

Core Competencies

At the end of these sessions you will be able to articulate and explain:

  • The different types of pesticides and how they work;
    • Insecticides, fungicides, herbicides, rodenticides, etc.
  • The terms “natural”, “organic”, “biological”, “synthetic” do not imply how safe or toxic a product is.
  • The different pesticide formulations, and which formulations pose the least risk of exposure to the user;
    • Ready to use (RTU) solutions, granules, baits,
    • Emulsifiable concentrates,
    • Wettable powders, aerosols, dusts, etc.
  • How to read, understand and follow a pesticide label;
    • Active ingredient,
    • Level of toxicity (LD50, signal word),
    • Type of PPE to use
    • How to mix and apply
    • Site and pest on which it can be used,
    • Reentry interval / days to harvest,
    • Environmental hazards, emergency procedures, etc.
    • LABEL IS THE LAW
    • Application is restricted to only crops listed on label
  • How to assess the risks vs. the benefits of pesticide use;
    • Potential risks: non-target species affected, off-site exposure, accumulation in the environment, reduction in natural predators, etc.
    • Potential benefits: better yield, reduced natural toxins in crops, less crop damage, aesthetic, public health improvements, etc.
  • Principles of Integrated Pest Management (IPM);
    • Identify the problem – Is the problem caused by a pest?
    • Assess the level of damage
    • Determine if a control is needed (threshold)
    • Apply a control: use least toxic option first, correct timing / susceptible stage of pest, apply only where needed, etc.
    • Monitor and assess the result: keep records of pest damage, controls used and results
  • How to reduce pesticide exposure to the environment;
    • Alternative pest management strategies: cultural controls, mechanical controls, biological controls, tolerance for damage, etc.
    • Spot treatments instead of broadcast treatments
    • Principles of resistance and resistance management
    • Reduce pesticide drift: timing, weather
    • Protect water bodies (25 foot buffer zone required for all broadcast applications)
    • Keep products off impervious surfaces, don’t apply just before rain.
  • How to minimize pesticide exposure to humans;
    • Identify individual sensitivities
    • Selection and use of proper personal protective equipment (PPE)
    • Keep in original containers
    • Follow proper mixing and application procedures
    • Understand dose: exposure & toxicity
  • How to properly store, secure and dispose of pesticides.
    • Keep in a location away from children
    • Purchase the smallest quantity for your needs
    • Understand the storage needs of different formulations of pesticide: (powder, liquid, EC, etc.)
  • Become familiar with Maine Board of Pesticides Control (BPC)
    • Questions
    • Complaints
    • Pesticide Pick-Ups for old, out of date, expired
  • Why Master Gardener Volunteers do not give advice on the use of pesticides

Practical Skills Gained and Strengthened

  • How to read, understand and follow a pesticide label;
  • Acquire and keep dedicated PPE on hand to use when needed.  Know how to launder and re-use, if applicable.
  • How to access credible information on pesticides.