Chemical care: Taking inventory

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Updated Mar 16, 2020

Screen Shot 2013 10 31 At 9 23 04 AmAt first glance, it seems like an easy task: taking stock of your chemicals for spring to see what you have and what you need to budget for this year. But, as several university turf specialists agree, it’s hard to determine specifically what you’ll need without being able to predict weather patterns and unexpected manifestations of things you didn’t see last year. Chances are, if you had a crabgrass epidemic last year, you can probably expect to see a little this year, too. And if the treatment you used last year post-emergently was able to knock it down, you’ll want to make sure you have some more on-hand for this year. If you’ve been using recurring chemicals to combat the same weed types for more than a year or two, you may want to re-evaluate your herbicide to ensure they’re not becoming tolerant to what you’re using, or switch to a pre-emergence herbicide. These issues, along with having to store the chemicals all year if you overbuy, can make inventory a tedious chore.

Could a reduction of chemical stocks be in your cards?
That said, there are some commonly used pesticides that might be worth having on hand for the coming season. If you’re having trouble identifying what chemicals you may need this year, refer to the list below to help you get started. However, you should use chemicals only when absolutely necessary. Many landscapers are capable of staving off pests through alternative practices – saving time and money. The hallmarks of Integrated Pest Management (IPM), such as good cultural practices and finding the right plant for the right place, will always be your best bet – and most cost-effective defense – against weeds, insects and disease.

David Sandrock, assistant professor of landscape design at Oregon State University, believes in using chemicals as a last resort, and certainly only as a part of IPM. “I am an advocate of reducing chemical applications in the environment and so are many of the contractors I work with,” he says. “They are constantly looking for ways to reduce chemical usage or eliminate it all together. As professional managers of the environment, it is our responsibility to lead the charge in chemical application reduction and elimination through proper design, thoughtful installation and innovative management strategies. We should be setting an example for others to follow.”

However, there are times when, despite your best efforts, weeds, insects and diseases pop up and your client wants them gone – now. So Sandrock identified these commonly used pesticides in landscaped beds, listed by active ingredient, to have on-hand come spring. This list is not comprehensive, and is meant only to serve as a guide.

  • Glyphosate: a post-emergence, non-selective, direct-spray herbicide
  • Fusilade: a post-emergence, selective, direct-spray herbicide for grasses and sedges
  • Isoxaben+Trifluralin (Snapshot): a pre-emergence herbicide for broadleaf and grassy weeds
  • Oryzalin (Surflan): a pre-emergence herbicide
  • Prodiamine (Barricade): a pre-emergence herbicide for weed control in ornamentals
  • Ester formulations of 2, 4-D: for broadleaf weeds in winter late spring, changing to amine formulations as temperatures rise
  • Scythe (fatty acid): for mossy pathways in shady areas
  • 2-,4-D: generic for spot-spraying difficult turf weeds
  • Casoron: use as a pre-emergent in beds far from any turf
  • Pendimethalin: use as pre-emergent in all other highly visible bed areas
  • Safer soap: for treating problematic aphids and whiteflies on ornamental plants
  • Horticultural oil: to treat spidermite-prone, highly visible arborvitae and skimmia
  • Ferrous sulfate: for moss control in beds and turf

For turf, some of the most commonly used chemicals include the following:

  • Dithiopyr: an herbicide that controls crabgrass both pre- and post-emergently
  • Quinclorac: an herbicide that controls crabgrass post-emergently
  • Fenoxaprop: used post-emergently to control goosegrass and other annual grasses
  • 2-4-D, + MCPP + dicamba: to control dandelions in many different turf varieties
  • 2-,4-D + clopyralid + triclopyr: to control clovers in many different turf varieties

What’s in store
No matter the time of year, you need to know how to properly store chemicals. Here are some general guidelines. (Remember to always consult the product’s label for specific storage information.)

  • Store pesticides in a locked, secure place, such as a separate building or storage room. Locate your storage area where water damage is unlikely.
  • Post highly visible warning signs on walls, doors and windows to indicate that pesticides are stored there. Also post “No Smoking” signs. Keep storage areas locked. Store pesticides away from food, potable water supplies, seeds and protective equipment.
  • Ventilate the storage area and keep temperature extremes to a minimum. Very high or low temperatures can cause pesticide deterioration. Keep pesticides cool, dry and out of direct sunlight.
  • Keep plenty of soap and water available in or close to the storage area, as well as a fire extinguisher approved for chemical fires. First aid equipment and emergency telephone numbers should all be readily available.
  • Store volatile pesticides separately to avoid possible cross-contamination of other
  • Store pesticides in their original containers only. Serious poisonings have resulted when people, especially children, mistakenly ingested pesticides that were stored in jars intended for food or beverages.
  • Keep the original label attached to the container. To keep a label legible, protect it with transparent tape or lacquer. Remember, the label is the most important safety factor in the use of pesticides – do not let it become damaged or destroyed.
  • Close containers securely when not in use. Dry formulations tend to cake when wet or subjected to high humidity. Place opened bags of dry formulations into sealable plastic bags or other suitable containers. This reduces moisture absorption by the material and prevents spills should a tear or break occur.
  • Store liquid formulations and small containers of dry formulations on metal shelving. Metal shelving does not absorb spilled pesticides and is easier to clean than other surfaces.
  • Check containers regularly for leaks or breaks. If a leak or break
    occurs, place the container inside another container or transfer the contents to an empty container that originally held the same material and has the same label attached.
  • Keep an inventory of all pesticides in storage and mark each container with the purchase date. Check to see if a product has an effective shelf life recorded on the label. If you have doubts or questions about the shelf life of a pesticide, call the dealer or manufacturer. To minimize storage problems, buy only as much as you anticipate needing for the season.
  • Keep records of previous usage to make good estimates of future needs. You are responsible for proper disposal of pesticide wastes, such as unused chemicals and empty pesticide containers. Empty pesticide containers are a hazard to children and animals, and improperly disposed of pesticides and rinse water can cause environmental harm.

Source: This information was partly excerpted from training materials produced by the Michigan State University Pesticide Education Program (E. Lansing, Michigan). For more information, you can contact them at this site or (517) 353-8811.

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