If a herbicide was released today, that means that its development began about ten years ago. Over the course of those ten years the herbicide was run through countless tests by the manufacture and the EPA. After the EPA completes the equivalent of a root canal to your product, and the final approval documents are sent to the manufacturer, it is finally released as a product for an end user to apply accompanied by regulations set up by the EPA. That set of regulations is the information that can be found on a herbicide label.
For many of us, a label may seem like a suggestion or a precaution. However, when it comes to herbicide use, the label is the law. Labels can seem overwhelming, but in reality there are three pieces of information that you truly need for its immediate use. You need to know the site specific location that the product can be used, the rate of the herbicide that can be applied and the necessary PPE that must be used or worn.
This refers to the places that this herbicide can be applied. Some labels may specify that the product’s use is prohibited on agricultural crops, bodies of water, close to trees or near residences. This means that the herbicide manufacturer or the EPA have decided that the product could cause harmful effects to crops, fish, trees or landscaping. More important is the label will tell you where the product can be applied. If the site is not listed on the label then you cannot make the application. Make sure the product is labeled for the location you will apply.
This refers to the amount of active herbicide, prior to being mixed, that can be applied within a defined area (usually an acre or 43,560 sq. ft.). You can use less than the labeled rate if your mix calls for it, but you can never exceed the maximum amount as it is written on the label. Exceeding the labeled rate is against the law and the applicator can be fined or have their license revoked. Also, many times a labels rate will change depending on the location in which you are applying the product. Make sure you always apply a labeled rate.
With all herbicides, there is listed Personal Protective Equipment that must be used when it is handled. The label may prescribe the use of gloves, safety glasses, goggles or wearing a long sleeved shirt when mixing or applying the herbicide. Again, this listing of equipment is not meant to be merely a suggestion or to make your job more cumbersome. Instead, this list of equipment is mandatory and put in place to protect you from the recognized hazards related to the use of the product. Make sure you always use or wear the labeled PPE.
Many of us have been working with or around herbicides for years, and it’s easy to get into the habit of treating one product just like any other. The danger in this is that you’re dismissing 10 years of research and evaluation that was performed on that herbicide to protect you and the environment. Instead of seeing the label as a burden, take comfort in the fact that it’s there.
In all cases, always read and follow the label before mixing or applying any herbicide.