Articles

Spraying Safety

Integrated Pest Management: the Future of Pest Control

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) has been gradually gaining followers over the years amongst farmers and growers as a way to manage pests economically and with the least amount of risk to people and the environment.

It involves using the latest scientific information on how pests live and interact with their environment to select the best available means to control them.

Different IPM programs usually involve a number of similar practices, including:

  • Monitoring of crops and accurately identifying the pests that need to be controlled (and those that don’t)
  • Determining the point at which the numbers of a problem pest at a particular site would pose an economic threat to a crop (i.e. when the cost of damage is more than the cost of control)

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Pest Control in Developing Countries

While western agriculture has largely come to grips with the need for safe and environmentally responsible pest control, developing countries still have a long way to go.

Third world farmers face huge problems which, until overcome, could see them repeating the mistakes of their western counterparts.

These problems include:

  • Lack of information on crop pests, leading to misuse of pesticides and failure of crops
  • Misinformation from pesticide manufacturers, some of whom are deliberately unloading products that have been banned in the west and encouraging excessive pesticide use
  • Lack of information on applicator safety, faulty and poorly maintained equipment and non-existent first-aid facilities, contributing to thousands of deaths every year.

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A Brief History of Agricultural Pest Control

Almost as long as agriculture has been in existence, humans have used pesticides in one form or another to protect their crops from insects and diseases.

The ancient Sumerians used sulphur to control insects and mites, the Chinese used arsenic and mercury and the ancient Romans used salt to control weeds.

However, the majority of agricultural pest control was through crop rotation, tillage and the variation of sowing times.

It was after World War II that the use of chemical pesticides really took off. The insect-killing capabilities of DDT had been discovered in 1939 by Paul Muller, who received the Nobel Prize for his efforts, and after the war ended, DDT became the insecticide of choice for farmers everywhere.

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Safety First When Spraying

Pesticides and herbicides provide agriculture with significant benefits, controlling pests and diseases and allowing us to produce better crops and higher yields.

Unsafe use of these chemicals however, can risk health and even life and cause extensive damage to the environment through pollution of land and water and harm to non-target organisms.

So safety first is paramount when spraying, something which is reinforced by chemical manufacturers on their own labels and through government and EPA guidelines and regulations.

These regulations infer a common law ‘duty of care’ on those who use chemicals to store, transport, apply and dispose of them in a safe manner.

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