On most Christmas tree farms, pesticides play a role in management of pest issues. Pesticides are chemicals used to kill, mitigate, or repel pests; as such, both benefits and dangers may be associated with their use. To prevent misuse and undesirable effects, the government has enacted regulations on the use and handling of pesticides. This section discusses some of those pesticide regulations.
Information on the safe use of pesticides can be found through county extension offices, state land-grant universities, state agricultural departments, or the United States Environmental Protection Agency. In Pennsylvania, Penn State’s Pesticide Education Programprovides a wealth of educational materials.
Fungicides, Herbicides, Insecticides, and Miticides
Pesticides, by definition, are chemicals or other agents used to kill or control pests or to protect something from a pest. Generally, four types of pesticides are used in the Christmas tree industry: fungicides used to control disease-causing fungi; herbicides to kill or deter plant growth; insecticides to control or prevent damage caused by insects; and miticides, often associated with insecticides, to control mites or arachnids (spiders and ticks). Each pesticide can be identified by its brand name, active ingredient, and chemical class. Closely related chemicals are grouped in the same chemical class.
Pesticide Resistance Issues
One major concern that has been raised as the agricultural industry becomes increasingly dependent on pesticides is the risk of pests, including diseases and weeds, developing resistance to current pesticides. Repeated use of the same class of pesticide hastens this development and, ultimately, renders the chemical ineffective. This is especially true for pests that have multiple generations each growing season. By regularly changing to a compound from a different chemical class, the development of resistance is slowed, thus extending the useful life of the pesticide.
Several international groups have formed to address the issue of pesticide resistance:
- The Fungicide Resistance Action Committee (FRAC) has developed a number and letter code to distinguish the fungicide groups according to their cross-resistance behavior. A table of codes can be found on the FRAC website
- The Herbicide Resistance Action Committee (HRAC) supports the global survey of resistant weeds initiated by the Weed Science Society of America. A searchable database of resistant weeds can be found by going to their website and clicking Resistant Weeds in the top navigation bar.
- The Insecticide Resistance Action Committee (IRAC) has developed a mode of action (MOA) classification based on known ways in which different products act. The MOA Classification list can be downloaded from the IRAC website
Federal and Pennsylvania Pesticide Laws
The use of pesticides worldwide has increased greatly over the last 35 years. With this increased use, there are growing concerns for possible harm to human health and the environment. The purpose behind pesticide regulation is to protect public health and welfare, as well as prevent harmful effects on the environment through proper labeling, sale and distribution, transportation, storage, use and application, and disposal of pesticides. Pesticides are under regulatory inspection from the time they are invented in the lab to use in the field or approved disposal.
Since signed into law in 1947, the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) has been the basis for regulation, distribution, and use of pesticides in the United States. FIFRA grants the federal Environmental Protection Agency the power to stop the sale or use of any pesticide. FIFRA regulations dictate labeling and packaging standards and also disposal procedures for pesticide containers and surplus pesticides. The Pennsylvania Pesticide Control Act was enacted in 1973 as a companion bill to FIFRA. The purpose of this state act is to regulate the labeling, distribution, storage, transportation, use, application, and disposal of pesticides. In addition to being registered with EPA, every pesticide used in Pennsylvania must also be registered with the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture. Regulations also cover dealers and applicators and the licensing of applicators. For additional information, contact the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture Bureau of Plant Industry or Penn State’s Pesticide Education Program. If you reside outside Pennsylvania, consult your local regulatory authority or land-grant university.
Worker Protection Standard
In August 1992, the Worker Protection Standard (WPS) was revised. Like FIFRA, it is overseen by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. This regulation is aimed at decreasing the risk of pesticide poisoning and injuries to agricultural workers and pesticide handlers. Included in the WPS are requirements for pesticide safety training, worker notification of pesticide applications in the workplace, personal protective equipment use, reentry interval, decontamination supplies, and emergency medical assistance.
Caution: Always read the pesticide label to determine specific uses and rates before mixing and applying the compound. If any questions arise, contact the dealer or manufacturer. It is illegal to apply any pesticide in excess of labeled rates. Labeled uses may vary for each formulation of the same chemical. Purchase the formulation intended for your particular use.