At the end of a production year, farmers may find themselves with leftover pesticides they use to control weeds, insects and diseases, and fertilizers to boost yields.
“We recommend that farmers not carry over large stocks of pesticides from year to year to avoid problems such as storage,” said Ples Spradley, pesticide assessment coordinator for the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service.
Chad Norton, Lincoln County staff chair for the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service, said that if farmers calculate their needs correctly during the growing season, they shouldn't have leftover pesticides. However, if farmers have chemicals left, they can use them the next growing season if they store them properly according to the label.
Longtime storage can be a problem, he said, adding that only a handful of Arkansas counties have grant money to sponsor a pesticide collection and disposal program.
Meanwhile, Spradley said farmers should follow Extension guidelines if they have to store chemicals.
“Make sure you have a secure storage area. The area should be locked, with a sign alerting people that there are pesticides inside,” Spradley said. “You should always have an inventory list of what you've stored in case of a fire. It can help fire fighters determine what they're up against.”
It's important to have a place where stored chemicals won't freeze. Ideally, you should have a locked room dedicated to chemical storage that's insulated or heated, according to Spradley.
You shouldn't store chemicals in your house, next to your house or in a storage closet next to a water heater. Avoid storing near any kind of ignition source or gasoline.
One of the most important tips Spradley offers is to keep pesticides from freezing.
“If some products freeze, they'll lose their effectiveness. The cold can affect the formulation.”
Spradley said pesticides should be kept in sealed, airtight containers away from moisture. “Moisture will affect everything from labels to containers to the product.”
Containers should be kept in good shape. Most containers are plastic, so they're not going to be affected by sitting directly on the floor.
Farmers should try to use up a pesticide in a leaky container during the year to keep from having a storage problem. Spradley doesn't recommend transferring the pesticide to another container for storage. If you have a leaky container, he said, contact your county Extension agent for advice.
Spradley said storage measures are listed on the labels of product packages. The labels also list measures to take in case of a chemical spill.
“Basically, what you do is stop what's leaking; put the cap back on the container or plug the hole and clean up the spill. If it's dry material, you can sweep it up. If it's liquid, put an absorbent material on it such as kitty litter or oil soak and then sweep it up and properly dispose of it. Never wash down the area with water.”
The label will usually list protective gear to wear in an emergency, but you should have at least the minimum protective gear such as waterproof gloves, long-sleeve shirts, long pants, shoes and socks, Spradley said. The label may call for more protective gear such as a respirator and coveralls.
Because of the threat of terrorism, farmers should report any suspicious activities around their farms or pesticide storage area to authorities, said Spradley.