Your yard may have High Academy students have adopted first grade students in Mrs. In addition, The National Pesticide Information Center says that it is more important to consider the toxicity of a substance than it is to consider whether or not it is organic.
A number of chemical pest control agents are minimally toxic to humans and disperse quickly to prevent dangerous exposure. Some organic pesticides carry risks. For instance, plant oils used in some organic pesticides irritate eyes and other mucus membranes.
A number of people may find that they are allergic to these ingredients. Organic pesticides sometimes contain metallic substances like sulfur and zinc. These can contaminate surface water and damage equipment when not used properly. However, they kill both beneficial and harmful insects alike.
Also toxic to fish and amphibians, pyrethrum-based pesticides should not be used in areas where they may wind up in waterways or storm drains. Vinegar, while harmless to most humans, can affect many different kinds of plants if used as a herbicide. While pre-emergent chemical herbicides affect only a blossoming plant and soon dissipate, substances like salt can stay in soil for extended periods of time and inhibit growth of both desirable and undesirable plants alike.
Research into organic pest control continues to develop just as conventional pest control research does. Certain once-popular organic options have been discontinued because of newly understood dangers. While tobacco was once widely used to inhibit garden insects, even tobacco dust is now forbidden in organic agriculture because of toxicity. Arsenic and strychnine were also used in the past but are no longer recommended for organic pest control. Many consumers look to organic pest control out of concern for declining bee populations.
The following organic pest control agents have been shown to be unsafe for bees:. There are, however, a number of organic pest control methods that can be used without risking bee populations. A few that have low toxicity or are non-toxic:. In many cases, conventional pest control options are more effective than organic ones and can be used less often to get the job done. For instance, the National Center for Food and Agriculture Policy says that copper, when used as an organic fungicide, must be used at a rate of four pounds per acre. Sulfur must be used at a rate of 34 pounds per acre.
Chemical fungicides, by contrast, can be used at a rate of 1. But in other cases, organic pesticides can be more effective than chemical ones.
Biopesticides, which are made from living things or are found in nature, are often organic and carry lower risks while being more effective. Some questions to ask before choosing to use a pesticide include:. More often than most people imagine, pesticide products are applied unnecessarily because the cause of damage has been misidentified. Damage can also be the result of other factors such as incorrect irrigation, poor drainage, herbicide toxicity, or physical damage. A few caterpillars on a plant might not be a problem that requires any pesticide action on your part, especially if natural enemies of the caterpillars are present.
However, a very high population causing severe leaf loss or damage to edible fruits or nuts may mean you would want to control the pest. Be sure to base decisions on presence of pests—not damage levels—and on your knowledge of the pest's life cycle. For instance, often by the time a tree is defoliated stripped of leaves , pests are gone and sprays will be of no use.
In the case of foliar diseases, many fungicides must be applied preventatively before symptoms are noticeable. Prevention is always the best way to manage a pest problem. Will the conditions change due to the weather or other environmental factors? Is the problem due to gardening practices that can be changed? Each specific pest organism has optimum environmental conditions for causing damage.
For instance, powdery mildew in many plants is favored by shade and conditions that favor off-season growth. Sometimes providing plants with a sunny location, opening up canopies to provide air circulation, and avoiding excessive fertilizing will keep the disease from becoming serious. Overhead sprinkling may also reduce powdery mildew problems on some plants.
If you decide to use a pesticide, use it in an integrated pest management IPM program that includes use of nonchemical methods. In almost all cases, a combination of measures will provide the most satisfactory and long-term pest control. The first step in choosing a pesticide is to accurately identify the organism e. If the pest is misidentified, you will not be able to choose an effective pesticide or other management strategy.
If you aren't confident that you can do this using your own experience, get help from your University of California Cooperative Extension office or other reliable source. Use the plant problem-solving tables in the back of University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources publications, Pests of the Garden and Small Farm and Pests of Landscape Trees and Shrubs to identify major pests on most common garden plants. If a pesticide is needed, select one that is effective against your pest and also poses the least risks to human health and the environment.
When shopping for a pesticide, it is important to consult the label to be sure the target pest and site is listed. However, don't use a label as your primary source for selecting the best control product. In addition to pests that are effectively controlled, pesticide labels often picture or list pests against which the product is only marginally effective.
Getting information from University publications, UC Cooperative Extension offices, or other knowledgeable experts is a better strategy. Before purchasing a pesticide, also check the label to be sure it is appropriate to use on your plants or treatment site. For instance:. Finally, when choosing pesticides, remember that most pesticides even the more toxic ones only control certain stages of the pest. Many insecticides kill only the larval e. Other insecticides target only adults. Many fungicides are preventive treatments and will not eliminate infections that have already started, although they may slow their spread.
Likewise, some herbicides preemergence herbicides kill germinating weeds but not established ones, while others postemergence herbicides are effective against actively growing weeds. Important information regarding the pesticide can be found on the product's label. The label is a legal document required for every pesticide registered in the United States. The U. Environmental Protection Agency must approve the label.
Always keep the product in the original package. Some of the information that is contained on the label includes:. Choose the least-toxic pesticide that will solve your problem. Examples of least-toxic insecticides include insecticidal petroleum or plant-based oils, soaps, and the microbial insecticide Bacillus thuringiensis. Pesticides are used because they kill or control the target pest. Others are broader spectrum, killing a range of pests but also nontarget organisms.
Most pesticides are not without some negative impacts on the environment. For instance, some insecticides with low toxicity to people may have high toxicity to beneficial insects like parasitic wasps or other desirable organisms like honey bees, earthworms, or aquatic invertebrates. Most herbicides selectively kill some weeds, but can also kill desirable garden plants if not used properly. Pesticide persistence—or how long it remains toxic in the environment—is also a factor in the safety of pesticides.
Pesticides that break down rapidly usually have less negative impact on the environment, but are more difficult to use. Because they don't leave toxic residues that will kill pests arriving hours or days after the application, they must be applied precisely when the vulnerable stage of the pest is present.
The signal words Danger , Warning , or Caution on a pesticide label indicate the immediate toxicity of a single exposure of a product to humans. Over the years, these words have been the consumer's primary guide to relative safety of products. However, signal words do not give an indication of potential for causing chronic problems e.
They also do not reflect potential hazards for wildlife, beneficial insects and many other nontarget organisms.
However, most home and garden products are relatively safe and unlikely to cause injury to people if label directions are carefully followed. Precautionary statements on labels give additional information on harmful effects or additional safeguards that should be taken.
Many of the modern pesticides used today commercially persist in soil for years and compound the store of toxins in our soil, air and water.
There are many types of natural pesticides which are not products of chemical engineering and return to the earth with less impact and reduced danger. Pesticides for organic gardens must meet certain criteria set forth by the USDA and bear a logo stating they are certified. Are organic pesticides safe to use in the home landscape? The bonuses with using organic pesticides for plants are their specific target range, slow mode of action, shorter persistence, low residue levels and safer use than conventional pesticides.
These attributes are a win-win for consumers and the earth alike, but as with any formula you must pay strict attention to time and mode of application and follow any precautions. The wide variety of organic pesticides encompasses biochemical, microbial, botanical or mineral based. Many of these come from plants themselves, insects, or naturally occurring minerals. Folk wisdom had a cure all for everything before modern technology and science came to the fore. Pest control in the field was accomplished using companion plants and herbs , good cultural practices such as crop rotation and field burning or the result of home concocted sprays and dusts.
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