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Iowa Farmers: Communicate to Reduce Risks from Pesticide Drift

Unintentional pesticide drift can result in unsellable crops and damage the health of people and animals. (panna.org)
Unintentional pesticide drift can result in unsellable crops and damage the health of people and animals. (panna.org)
May 16, 2018

DES MOINES, Iowa - Iowa's record number of complaints about the misuse of pesticides last year has resulted in both online and in-person training for farmers to prevent a repeat of the problem.

"Pesticide drift" is the biggest issue, especially when using dicamba. Dicamba has been used on and off for decades, but an increase in weed resistance as well as dicamba-resistant soybeans have led to renewed use.

Organic farmer Dale Raasch owns Bridgewater Farm in Adair County. To be certified, he can't use pesticides on his crops, but said damage from pesticide drift last summer cost him $150,000 in crop losses.

"Somebody can spray it and it might pick up in the wind, and it might move that three or four miles and then, just drop back down on my place," he said, "and I'm not going to know exactly where that came from until everything's dying."

In 2017, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship received a record 271 complaints of pesticide misuse. Farmers concerned about this year's crops can register their operations online at driftwatch.org, which allows applicators to identify areas that should not be sprayed.

Iowa State University agronomy professor Bob Hartzler said risk can be minimized if there's proper communication between conventional and organic farmers.

"If they are injured where symptoms develop, they no longer can market that crop and they also lose their certification," he said, "so that's a huge issue for organic farmers."

To avoid using harmful chemicals, Raasch said those who grow organic crops often rely on the old-fashioned way of farming.

"The way we do it is, we use a cultivator," he said. "We don't depend on chemicals and things that are poison, and killing everything and affecting everything."

Practical Farmers of Iowa has created a video series on YouTube about pesticide drift and how to best respond.

More information is online at practicalfarmers.org/pesticide-drift.

Roz Brown, Public News Service - IA