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Pesticide Considerations

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Use pesticides to manage identified pests only when cultural practices do not provide adequate control.

Use sound cultural management as a first line of defense against pests.

  • When pest populations threaten to exceed or do exceed the action level at which unacceptable damage may occur, use of a pest management material may be warranted.
  • Pesticides should be used only when other options and alternatives are not sufficient to manage the problem to the extent necessary.

Consider biological or other non-chemical control options.

  • Appropriate biological or non-chemical materials that have been proven to be effective through objective research should be considered first. Other pesticides should only be considered when alternative options will not adequately manage the target pest.
  • When employing biological or non-chemical control options, the turf manager must know what to expect from these products and how to maximize their effectiveness.

Plan ahead.

  • Diligent planning helps to ensure that an application adequately controls the target pest, is cost effective, has a minimal environmental impact, and ensures the safety of turf users.
  • Plan the treatment location. Spot or target treat in place of making blanket applications whenever possible. 


Select and use pest management materials based on quality expectations, pest action threshold, and characteristics of the material.

Consider pesticide characteristics and other information when selecting a pesticide.

  • Is there an identified justification for use?  Will the material manage the target pest?
  • Is a curative or preventive application necessary?
  • What is the potential for exposure to applicators and others?
  • What is the impact on non-target and beneficial organisms?
  • What is the potential for environmental impact?
  • What is the chemical class (mode of action)?
  • What is the proper timing based on the stage of development of the pest?
  • What is the cost?

Carefully evaluate the characteristics of a pesticide material:

  • persistence
  • solubility
  • mobility
  • risk of groundwater contamination
  • mammalian toxicity
  • effects on non-target organisms
  • speed of action
  • length of residual

Note: Information on characteristics of particular pesticides can be found on the pesticide label, the MSDS sheet, or in informational databases such as EXTOXNET (

Take special considerations for use of preventive pesticides within an IPM program.

  • Pesticides may have either preventive or curative action against the pest for which they are used. Preventive materials are applied before a noticeable pest population develops. Curative materials are applied when it is apparent that a pest population may reach the action level.
  • Pesticides should be used preventively in an IPM program only when damaging levels of a pest have been previously identified through monitoring, and reasonable evidence exists to suggest that the population will exceed the action level in the future.
  • Preventive applications should not be made outside of an IPM plan. The decision to use a preventive pesticide application should always be based on determination of action levels in conjunction with scouting.
  • There may be instances in which using a preventive material is the best option.

Example: A decision to make an application of a preemergence herbicide for the control of crabgrass and other annual grassy weeds should be based on scouting and records from the previous growing season. Though there may be no actual crabgrass plants present at the time of herbicide application, the documentation of the previous seasons infestation and the knowledge of the life cycle of the plant would lead to a justifiable decision to use a preemergence herbicide.

Example: For the management of white grubs there are few cultural practices or consistently effective biological materials currently available. In Massachusetts, the use of the most effective curative material, trichlorfon, is not allowed on school properties as specified in the Children and Families Protection Act. The only option for effective management of damaging levels of grubs in this circumstance is preventive application. Therefore, effective management of white grubs may require the use of a preventive pesticide application. It must, however, be based on scouting or determination and documentation of potential for damaging insect population levels from the previous season or seasons.

Evaluate unconventional and scientifically unproven pest management materials and methods.

  • If the efficacy of a management material or method has not been determined through unbiased research, then it is prudent for the turf manager to test and evaluate the material for a specific site.
  • Unconventional and scientifically unproven pest management materials and techniques should be tested and compared directly to an untreated area to determine the response of the specific pest management agent.
  • The use of an ineffective product should not be considered simply because the product is biological or organic.
  • When using unconventional and scientifically unproven materials, it is critical to set realistic expectations with the customer or client regarding potential outcomes.


Apply pesticides in a manner consistent with labeling and compliant with regulations, and with environmental and human safety as priorities.

Comply with laws and regulations regarding the use of pesticides.

  • Know and comply with all federal, state and local regulations (refer to Pesticide Resources).
  • Use only allowed materials. Determine the registration status of a pesticide prior to applying it.
  • Pesticide applications should only be made by properly licensed and/or certified pesticide applicators.
  • Follow appropriate posting and notification requirements in accordance with regulations.
  • By law, thorough records of all pesticide applications must be kept.
  • Make applications of pesticides according to label directions.
  • Carry out pesticide applications in a manner designed to protect water and other natural resources.

Consider application conditions.

  • Consult the pesticide label for drift and volatility risks associated with the material.
  • Avoid application of any pesticide immediately prior to or during windy conditions or heavy rainfall that could result in unintended drift or runoff.
  • Consult the pesticide label for specified air and soil temperature ranges appropriate for application.

Plan ahead when preparing spray mixtures.

  • Mix only the amount of pesticide needed to do the job.
  • Leftover spray mixtures need to be handled according to pesticide label instructions.

Record required and pertinent information when making a pesticide application.

  • Pesticide application records must be kept as required by law.
  • Use records of applications provide valuable information when assessing results and planning for future pest management activities.

Suggested points for pesticide application records:

  • date and time of application
  • product brand name
  • active ingredient
  • formulation
  • amount used
  • application equipment used
  • application rate
  • target pest
  • growth stage of pest
  • treatment location
  • temperature at application
  • wind speed at application
  • rainfall before/after application
  • pH of water used to apply materials
  • efficacy of application 


Store, handle, transport and dispose of pesticides in a manner consistent with labeling, in compliance with with regulations, and with environmental and human safety as priorities.

Store, mix, load, handle and transport pesticides with the same level of care devoted to pesticide applications.

  • The quality of surface water, groundwater and soil can be degraded in areas where pesticides are stored under inappropriate conditions, improperly mixed and loaded into application tanks, and/or where equipment is washed and rinsed after application.
  • Accidents involving spills or leaks may have serious health and environmental consequences.

Figure 16. Store pesticide materials in a dedicated location whenever possible. Evaluate any pesticide storage location carefully to determine its suitability.

  • The potential harm to human health and the environment due to spills, contaminated runoff or fires should be assessed.
  • Pesticide storage should be restricted to a first story room or cabinet which has direct access to the outside.
  • Pesticides should not be stored in basements.
  • Pesticides should not be stored outdoors in the open.
  • The storage location should be accessible in the event of an emergency situation.
  • The storage location should be located away from direct sunlight, freezing temperatures and extreme heat.
  • Where practical, the storage location should be located close to the mixing or loading area to minimize the distance that chemicals are carried.
  • Pesticides should be stored away from fertilizer, food, feed, potable water supplies, veterinary supplies, seeds and personal protective equipment to avoid contamination.

Know that safety is the key element in pesticide storage.

  • The storage area should be properly identified with signs such as, "Pesticide Storage Area".
  • The storage location should be securely locked at all times and access should be limited to only individuals trained in pesticide use.
  • The storage location should be adequately ventilated.
  • Minimal quantities of pesticide materials should be stored whenever possible.
  • A list (inventory) of the products being stored should be posted on the outside of the storage location. A duplicate list should be retained off-site in case of emergency.
  • Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) for stored pesticides should be available in a location adjacent and/or outside of the storage location.
  • Pesticides should be stored in accordance with their label requirements in their original container with the label clearly visible.
  • Pesticides should always be kept off the ground to prevent the accumulation of water in or under the containers.
  • Separation of pesticides by hazard and function is essential. Flammable pesticides should be stored separately from non-flammable pesticides, in a fire proof cabinet for example. Fungicides, herbicides and insecticides should be stored in separate locations of the storage area to prevent cross contamination and accidental misuse.
  • Dry pesticides should be stored separately from and above the level of liquid pesticides to avoid wetting from spills.
  • Secondary containment vessels (such as plastic containers) should be used for liquid pesticides, whether they are at risk of leaking or not.
  • If containers are in danger of leaking, they should be placed in an oversized plastic container or plastic lined (leak proof) cardboard box with vermiculite or other non flammable absorbent material for spill protection.
  • Clean up supplies for spills (kitty litter, shovel, plastic bags, etc) should be kept in the pesticide storage area.
  • Pesticides shall not be stored in the same place as ammonium nitrate fertilizer.
  • Particular care should be taken if storing phenoxy herbicides (such as 2,4-D and MCPA) due to their volatility.
  • Exposure to sunlight and extreme temperatures can lead to chemical breakdown of pesticides; therefore pesticides should not be stored in proximity to windows unless windows are covered.
  • Because shelf life is difficult to predict, pesticides should not be stored longer than two years. The purchase date and the date that the container was opened should be written on the pesticide container.
  • All applicators and staff should be trained in the particulars of pesticide handling and the safety/storage/handling procedures in place at the business or facility.

Avoid mixing pesticides in areas where a spill, a leak or overflow could allow pesticides to get into water systems.

  • The mixing and/or loading of pesticides should not occur within four hundred feet of any private or public drinking water supply or two hundred feet of surface water.
  • Pesticide application equipment or mix tanks should not be filled directly from any water source unless a back siphon prevention device is present.
  • Mixing should not occur on gravel or other surfaces that allow spills to move quickly through the soil.
  • A tank should never be left unattended while it is being filled.

Wear personal protective equipment (PPE) appropriate for the material(s) being handled when mixing and loading pesticides.

  • A description of appropriate PPE can be found on the pesticide label.
  • PPE should be in place before opening the pesticide container.
  • A respirator should be worn when the potential exists for exposure to dusts or vapors.

Take appropriate care to account for potential pesticide spills and fate of rinsing and wash water.

  • All transfers of pesticides between containers, including mixing, loading and equipment cleaning, should be conducted over a spill containment surface.
  • Spill containment surfaces should be designed to intercept, retain and recover spillage, leakage and wash water.
  • Containment needs depend on the quantities of pesticides that are being mixed and loaded. If mixing small quantities, a tarpaulin can be sufficient to contain any spills. If mixing large quantities regularly, the construction of a mixing/loading pad is an option to consider.
  • Washing and rinsing of pesticide residues from application equipment, mixing equipment or other items used in storing, handling or transporting pesticides should occur on a containment pad.
  • In order to reduce the need to frequently wash application equipment and to avoid cross contamination, application equipment can be dedicated for use with certain types of pesticides.

Develop an emergency response plan and share it with all individuals responsible for the handling of pesticides.

  • An emergency response plan should list actions to take and personnel to contact in the event of a spill or accident.
  • The plan should also include the names and quantities of pesticides present; the location of the property including a map with directions; the names, addresses and telephone numbers of the business owner and key employees; a plan of the facility; and the location of emergency equipment supplies including breathing equipment and protective equipment.
  • A copy of the plan should be readily available at the pesticide storage location.
  • Copies of the plan should be given to the local police department and fire department.
  • Applicators and other staff should receive emergency response-related training.
  • The plan should be available in English and any additional languages required for comprehension by all workers.

Install effective fire prevention mechanisms and update them as necessary.

  • Appropriate fire prevention and emergency procedures for the pesticide storage location should be devised in consultation with the local fire department.
  • An automatic smoke detection system or smoke and heat detection system should be installed.
  • Suitable methods for extinguishing fires should be installed, such as the appropriate type and number of fire extinguishers.
  • All electrical fixtures and appliances should be non-sparking units approved for use in facilities storing flammable and combustible liquids.

Take appropriate personal safety considerations at the pesticide storage location.

  • The phone number for a Poison Control Center should be posted in a prominent location.
  • A first-aid kit should be readily available immediately outside of the storage area.
  • Appropriate personal protection equipment such as respirators, chemical resistant (CR) gloves, CR footwear, coveralls with long sleeves, protective eyewear, CR headgear and CR aprons should be available as needed.
  • Workers should be instructed in the correct procedure for the removal of contaminated clothing.
  • Eye wash stations or portable eye wash bottles should be easily accessible by each person engaged in the operation and should be capable of flushing eyes for a minimum of fifteen minutes.
  • Routine wash up facilities, equipped with soap, hand cleanser and single use paper towels should be available near the storage location.

Account for pesticide spills or accidents.

  • Contact information for emergency response providers should be readily available.
  • As noted above, absorbent material such as re-usable gelling agents, vermiculite, clay, pet litter or activated charcoal should be on hand along with a garbage can and shovel to quickly contain and clean up any spills.
  • All spills or other discharges to the environment must be recorded. The records should include the date and time of the incident and the cleanup procedure.

Take proper safety precautions in order to ensure safe transportation of pesticides.

  • The driver of the vehicle should be a licensed or certified pesticide applicator.
  • Pesticide containers should be stored in a dry and lockable portion of the vehicle but not in the same compartment as the driver, and should be secured in place.
  • A binder of appropriate pesticide labels and MSDS sheets should travel with the pesticide containers at all times.
  • Emergency supplies should be kept on-board the vehicle including emergency phone numbers, a first aid kit, fire extinguisher(s), PPE (gloves, goggles, etc) and clean up supplies for spills (kitty litter, shovel, plastic bags, etc).
  • At least 5 gallons of potable water should be carried for emergency eye or skin decontamination.
  • All traffic laws should be obeyed at all times.
  • A daily transportation/use log should be kept.

The daily transportation/use log could include the following:

  • pesticide material on board
  • drivers name and license number
  • daily weather conditions (windy, rain, overcast, sunny etc.)
  • if liquid, who filled the truck
  • how many gallons of product in each tank
  • what and how much of each granular product was loaded daily
  • how much product was used for daily work

Take proper safety precautions to ensure safe disposal of pesticides and containers.

  • An improperly disposed product can be hazardous to people and the environment.
  • Pesticide containers should be triple-rinsed when emptied.
  • Rinse water should be poured into a spray tank and applied to a registered site.
  • Triple-rinsed containers are considered non-hazardous and should be disposed of according to state recommendations.
  • Never reuse an empty pesticide container.
  • Applicators are advised to use pesticides in the same year of purchase whenever possible and to store pesticides properly in order to avoid the accumulation of unusable pesticide products.
  • Pesticide products that can no longer be used and need to be disposed of are considered hazardous waste.
  • Contact the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources at 617-626-1781; or the pesticide regulatory agency in your state for current regulations for pesticide disposal.