Misconceptions, Understanding Fate, and Optimizing Pesticide Apps

— Written By

Travis Gannon | 3/4/2019 | SportsTurf Online

While there is currently much scrutiny around pesticides and their use, synthetic pesticides are an integral component of comprehensive pest management programs in all facets of agriculture including sports fields. While this is not a new interest or concern, it is currently heightened, likely for a number of reasons including the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classification of glyphosate as a Class 2A probable carcinogen to humans in 2015 and subsequent events. While pesticides are an integral component, they must be used judiciously and its imperative facility managers understand various aspects of their utilization so environmental and human health aren’t adversely affected.

Examining Pesticide Usage on Athletic Fields

Let’s start with a partial list of common misconceptions about pesticide use and we’ll address a few in (limited) detail:

  • Pesticides offer little (or no) benefit in today’s society
  • Pesticides persist a very long time (some believe forever)
  • Pesticides adversely affect human and environmental health, cause various diseases and illnesses
  • Pesticides move off-target and contaminate streams, surface water bodies, etc.
  • Pesticides aren’t adequately evaluated prior to commercialization and aren’t regulated after commercialization
  • Facilities maintained with organic products are safer than those maintained with synthetic pesticides
  • Pesticides are to blame for bee colony collapse disorder

Pesticides offer little (or no) benefit in today’s society. In major agronomic crops, the primary benefit of pesticides is to increase or maximize yield. While yield isn’t of concern on sports fields, pesticides offer various environmental, human, social and economic benefits. Specifically, pesticides are a component of comprehensive pest management programs which enable sports field managers to maintain an aesthetically pleasing, functional, and safe playing surface.

Pesticides aren’t adequately evaluated prior to commercialization. In the US, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is responsible for regulation and oversight at the federal level. The EPA has a very rigorous set of guidelines and laws for evaluation before a pesticide is registered as well as when it’s reregistered. Further, a comprehensive battery of biology, environmental fate, and toxicological studies are required prior to registration. While it’s not within the scope of this article, those interested can refer to the following federal laws to learn more about the agency’s oversight: The Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act, The Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, The Food Quality Protection Act and The Endangered Species Act of 1973. Further, pesticides must be registered at the state level, which may require additional tests for registration. Finally, some local governments, municipalities, etc., may require additional tests or impose additional regulations for registration and/or use.

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