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Home > Protecting Our Lands & Waters > Best Management Practices > Pesticide Selection How-to's

Pesticide Use: Selection How-To's

Pesticides are one of many tools available to us for effective protection of crops from weeds, insects and diseases. Pesticides require special care and handling. The following practices outline safe, responsible and effective procedures for pesticide use and handling that can help protect our environment, our water supplies - and ourselves.

When selecting pesticides, recognize that pesticide product selection should be made based on a number of important factors. In addition to legal requirements, consider the following voluntary Best Management Practices (BMPs) when making pesticide application and handling decisions.

Assess product effectiveness. For annual bulletins describing the effectiveness of various pesticides to control their intended pest, including Cultural and Chemical Weed Control in Field Crops, visit the University of Minnesota Extension Applied Weed Science Research website.

Select pesticides with minimal impact on non-target species and use pesticide control options that minimize impacts on beneficial, threatened or endangered species. Refer to your pesticide label's Environmental Hazards section for toxicity information on beneficial insects such as bees. For general information on protecting non-target organisms, including Minnesota's threatened and endangered species, visit the MDAs Endangered Species web page or consult the University of Minnesota Extension's Private Pesticide Applicator Training Manual, 2004, 18.3 ed.

Minimize pest resistance by:

  1. rotating pesticides used;
  2. using premixes or tank mixes that include more than one site of action; and
  3. avoiding repeated use of pesticides having similar sites of action.

Consider possible toxicological risk associated with pesticide exposure. For information on a number of pesticides and their associated human toxicity values and ratings, consult the USDA Natural Resource Conservation's Pesticide Properties Database.

Evaluate pesticide and site characteristics affecting off-site movement of chemicals.

  • Pesticide characteristics that minimize potential to move off-site into ground or surface waters include low water solubility, short half-life and strong adsorption capabilities (attraction to soil particles).
  • Site characteristics that affect pesticide movement include:
    1. soil texture, permeability (ability to move through soil), and organic matter;
    2. depth to water table;
    3. proximity to surface waters; and
    4. climatic and watershed characteristics affecting runoff and leaching.

    For information on relative soil potential to retain chemicals on-site, relative chemical potential to move off-site, and a procedure that considers the combined effects of soil and pesticide characteristics on off-site movement, consult the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service's soils data for runoff ratings for both solution and sediment.

    • Evaluate area susceptibility to the potential for surface or ground water contamination.
    • Select the correct pesticide and rate for the pest spectrum present. For more information, refer to the University of Minnesota Extension's Pesticide Safety & Environmental Education web page and the pesticide label for details.
    • Consider soil texture, organic matter and soil pH when selecting soil-applied pesticides and application rates. See pesticide label for details.

    Minnesota Department of Agriculture • University of Minnesota Extension • USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service
    Working cooperatively to balance pest management and water quality protection. October 2008

    MDA Contact

    Ron Struss

    Pesticide & Fertilizer Management Division