Five things producers are learning about pesticide storage
Safe storage a growing concern among producers, says a farmer and industry observer
Posted: November 18, 2008
It's a story many farmers can relate to. One evening several years ago, Dan Moe was driving into his quonset at 11 p.m. after a day of spraying that began at 5 a.m. In the process, he drove too close to some jugs of pesticide he had stored in the dirt-floored building, causing a spill and a hasty clean-up as he attempted to keep the chemical from draining downhill into his well.
Since that time, the Central Alberta producer has gained a greater appreciation for the specific standards of pesticide storage – and he's learned many other farmers are thinking the same way. In addition to completing an Environmental Farm Plan (EFP), an on-farm environmental assessment which emphasizes safe storage of farm chemicals, Moe acted for several years as a Regional Team Leader for the EFP program.
Talking to dozens of farmers first-hand through the EFP completion process has given Moe the opportunity to learn about what producers are thinking. When it comes to the safe storage of crop protection products, what he's found is that environmental pressures, product cost, the threat of theft and other factors are driving greater awareness of this growing area of stewardship among producers. Here are five trends he's seeing:
1. They're recognizing the risks. More and more farmers today are spraying for insect pests such as wheat midge and diamondback moths, says Moe. On the plus side, producers are generally thinking more about the risks of using these products out of a sense that insecticides are more toxic than other pesticides.
"It's key to recognize that all '-cides' are pesticides whether they are herbicides, fungicides or insecticides and they all have risks associated with them," says Moe.
Generally speaking, however, producers are recognizing the effects of pesticide use on their health and the environment and adjusting their management and storage practices accordingly. "For example, a lot of growers now are using Chem Handler-type systems that rinse the jugs, mix the product and pump it to the sprayer so that you're not physically handling and opening and pouring the jugs," says Moe.
2. Better understanding of value. Although producers have always been keenly aware of the cost of pesticides and the concept of "waste not, want not," Moe says the skyrocketing cost of most farm inputs has driven this message even further home. As a result, they are taking extra precautions to make sure these products go where they're supposed to - on their crops - and not lost to leaks, drift or theft.
3. Dedicated storage, better containment. Farmers need to look at better ways to store their pesticides, says Moe, with the focus being on sufficient containment in the event of a leak or spill. "I think farmers could or should look for ways to store the product that are better than what they're currently doing but do not require building a huge warehouse to put it in," he says. "They need to get some storage in place that has containment in case there's a spill. It could be a water trough or Rubbermaid-style container, for example – just some very simple ideas on how to store it so you can prevent environmental contamination."
4. Security – both theft and fire. With crop protection products becoming more valuable, another threat that looms over pesticide storage is the issue of security, says Moe. "You have the same strength of product but in smaller packaging. When you have lots of dollars worth of product in a smaller package it's pretty easy for it to disappear."
For those reasons, keeping products under lock and key has never been more important, and that includes storing pesticides in the field. "I've seen farmers here, who farm large tracts of land and have a lot of product with them on their trucks, build metal containers, almost like a mini-dumpster that they can put the product in. When they're away from the truck working, they close it and lock it. It's also sealed so if there was some spillage it's contained in there."
Fire safety has also taken on new emphasis. In Alberta, the Rural Emergency Plan (REP), an emergency response map that each participant fills out for their own location, has been developed to help emergency responders in rural communities, who are quite often friends and neighbours, quickly and accurately deal with emergencies. "In the case of chemicals, it helps them know where these products are stored so they're not heading into the unknown," says Moe.
5. Dealers need to step up to the plate. Finally, more and more producers are putting in place what may be the most beneficial pesticide storage practice of all: managing inventory to store as little pesticide on the farm as possible. However, Moe believes there's call for dealerships to make this option easier for producers.
"I understand it's a matter of throughput through their facilities, but the push has always been to buy it and take it home to get the best price," says Moe. "But in effect what you're doing is taking that product out of storage facilities that are designed to store that product and taking it onto farms where it's stored in all kinds of fashions, some not the best. I think as an industry that we need to deal with that better."
Author: Jeff Melchior
Sponsored by: Meristem