Collaboration Results In Safer, Wiser Pesticide Use

Pesticide applicator patterns are changing for the better, thanks to training by ISU Extension and IDALS.

With crops out of the fields and snow in the air, farmers and Iowa State University Extension are turning their focus to winter trainings that make Iowa a healthier place to work and live. ISU Extension provides the educational part of the training for farmers who are required to become state certified manure and pesticide applicators. As farmers and applicators put the training materials into their farming practices, they become better stewards of the land and water, which benefits farmers and consumers in Iowa and beyond.

"The pesticide applicator trainings that start showing up on ISU Extension calendars in December are the result of ISU Extension and the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship," says Gerald Miller, director of ISU Extension to Ag and Natural Resources. "The trainings are planned centrally and delivered by ISU Extension specialists at locations convenient to the applicators."

Plan to attend pesticide applicator training

* Certified private pesticide applicators – people who apply a restricted-use pesticide in producing an ag commodity on land they manage – must meet educational requirements to maintain their certification. This group includes farmers. Extension field agronomists provide training in all of Iowa's counties. In 2007, Extension held 290 private pesticide continuing instructional courses, training more than 17,000 applicators.

The private pesticide applicator training session consists of two parts: a required topics section and a discussion of integrated pest management topics. Required topics include safety issues related to storage and handling, calibration, water quality, and a review of laws and regulations.

* Commercial pesticide applicators are the other category. These are people who enter into contracts or agreements to receive payment for applying a pesticide or who are employed by such an entity. They can meet their certification educational requirements by attending video conferences and Web casts that feature campus-based ISU Extension specialists.

Last year, 89 ISU Extension county offices hosted downlinks of the commercial pesticide applicator training, and 33 additional continuing instructional courses for commercial applicators were held at sites across the state, training nearly 8,000 commercial applicators. Integrated pest management topics include weed management, preventing invasive species, insect management, and disease management.

There is great responsibility in directing programs that affect quality of life of Iowans; a responsibility met by the collaborative effort of the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS) regulatory oversight and ISU Extension's education.

Farmers take this responsibility seriously

"Farmers take very seriously their responsibility to protect Iowa's soil and water and Extension's effort to make sure applicators have the most up-to-date information is vital," says Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey. "The training materials clearly outline the current regulations that are in place to promote safety, environmental protection and efficient and appropriate use of pesticides."

The Pesticide Bureau of IDALS is responsible for a wide variety of consumer protection and agriculture promotion programs. Extension cooperates with the Pesticide Bureau to provide training opportunities that comply with Iowa Code governing pesticide use, application, registration and certification.

As a direct result of educational material presented during trainings, Iowa applicators know and are practicing proper recycling of used pesticide containers. In the state that ranks fourth in the number of pounds of empty containers, proper handling of material that would otherwise be considered hazardous waste has tremendous rewards.

How to find information about certification

"We are also seeing a better use of pesticides; atrazine is a great example," says Miller. "We are seeing changes in use patterns of atrazine as a result of targeted training. At one time, there were high instances of residual atrazine in ground and surface waters because of heavy usage. In trainings, we talked about geographic considerations, where to and where not to apply atrazine, and the effectiveness of lower application rates. We now have about the same amount being applied in Iowa, but at lower rates and in more appropriate geographic areas – and the result is less evidence of residual atrazine in the environment."

To learn about pesticide training opportunities, contact an ISU Extension county office or visit the ISU Extension calendar at and select the appropriate pesticide applicator training category. Information about pesticide testing is available at the IDALS site

TAGS: Extension
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