Whether it’s nuisance weeds like thistle and teasel, or insects like mosquitoes and black flies, these “pests” can cause as much stress as they can damage. While Integrated Pest Management (IPM) practices are a key component to the solution, the Kentucky Department of Agriculture (KDA) recognizes that pesticides also hold risks and must be regulated to protect human health and the environment.
A Proactive, Educational Approach
“We devote a lot of our time to promotion and education of proper use of pesticides,” says David Wayne, director of the Kentucky Department of Agriculture’s Division of Environmental Services, which provides presentations for safety and regulation updates at more than 50 events each year. “Our regulations require continuing education courses for maintenance of pesticide licenses.”
KDA requires 12 CEUs (continuing education units) every three years to maintain a pesticide license. Additionally, KDA offers a compliance assistance program so a company can request to be inspected without being penalized for self-reporting.
“We’d much rather everyone be in compliance – helping a company be proactive rather than reactive once they get a violation,” Wayne says.
To further ensure proper use of pest control products and techniques indoors, KDA visits schools, daycares, health institutes, and food prep areas, inspecting nearly 500 of these facilities annually to keep structure- invading pests under control.
Whether applying, selling or recommending products for pesticide application, in Kentucky both companies and individuals need a license.
“There are 3,100 pesticide application companies that we regulate, and within those companies, there are 11,000 individual applicators. Plus, we have 12,000 private applicators that we license – like your ag producers,” Wayne says.
Because of new technologies and innovation in agriculture, there are always new pesticide application techniques and products being developed within the industry. However, one trend Wayne has noticed in recent years is that fewer pesticides are being used overall.
“With precision agriculture and IPM, producers and consumers are using the exact amount of product needed to control the pest or weeds,” Wayne says. “This has created a dramatic decrease in the amount of pesticides being used, while saving money and reducing the impact on the environment.”
Protecting People and the Environment
The Public Pest and Recycling Assistance branch of the KDA aids citizens with environmental concerns, from pesticide disposal to insect control, through its proactive voluntary programs.
For example, empty plastic pesticide containers can’t go to the landfill or through the normal recycling chain. Instead, as part of the Rinse and Return recycling program, these containers go to a designated recycling facility.
“Annually, we collect about 70,000 pounds of pesticide containers,” Wayne says. “That’s 70,000 pounds not entering the landfill and turned into useful end product like plastic fence posts, plastic pallets, and wire spools. We also keep 35,000 pounds of unwanted pesticide material out of landfills each year, which could leech out into waterways.” KDA’s public pest programs also help protect ag producers and residents from mosquitoes, black flies, and nuisance weeds.
“On average, we treat 100,000 acres statewide for mosquito control annually,” Wayne says. “We target high-population areas where people congregate, like parks, fairgrounds and schools in order to limit the spread of mosquito-borne viruses and diseases.”
Another bothersome pest, black flies can stress livestock to the point of decreased weight gain and milk production, and even calf mortalities. KDA performs a treatment once a year on 70 miles of river waters, impacting nearby communities and ag production tremendously.
For nuisance weeds, which include any weed that is affecting yields in ag production on 10-plus acres, KDA provides spray equipment for first-time applicators. This program’s goal is to demonstrate what farmers can do on their own to control weeds.
As pesky as these pests can be, knowing the best options and resources available is half the battle.