According to the Texas Department of Agriculture's Laws and Regulations manual, a pesticide is any substance or mixture of substances intended for preventing, destroying, repelling or mitigating any pest. A pest may be any insect, plant or disease causing damage to your crops, lawn or property.
There are many pesticides. Insecticides are pesticides that control insects. Herbicides are pesticides that control weeds or plants. Fungicides are pesticides that control fungus. There are dozens others under the term pesticide.
The first decision when deciding on using a pesticide is proper identification of the pest species. The next decision is to decide which control method you may use. In agriculture, we incorporate the Integrated Pest Management system or IPM approach to pest control. IPM is an ecological approach to pest control using biological, cultural, mechanical and chemical controls to mitigate or control a pest species.
Natural enemies, such as beneficial insects, may offer some control of unwanted pest species. Lady beetles or lady bugs, praying mantis, parasitic wasps and spiders are examples of insects that aid in controlling insects that may cause damage.
Crop rotation, mowing, plowing and hand removal are examples of cultural and mechanical controls of pest species. In an IPM approach, chemical controls may be used incorporating the judicious use of least toxic chemicals to control or mitigate a pest.
Pesticides may be dusts, granular, aerosol, baits, spays ready to use and spray concentrations with active ingredients to control the pests. Many are sold under various trade names, but the active ingredient is important to know as it may determine which category the pesticide may fall.
Many of us use pesticides daily and do not realize it. Pesticides could be horticultural soaps, plant derived oils or other substances. In Texas, the Texas Department of Agriculture is the regulatory agency on pesticides. The pesticide label is the law. It is important for anyone using a pesticide to read, understand and follow all label instructions when using these products.
The pesticide label will provide the product name, brand or trademark. The label also will include the active ingredient. Statements on environmental hazards, first aid and signal words to indicate toxicity of a particular product also will be on the label. A list of pests controlled, rate of application and other precautionary statements will be included on the label.
Factors to consider when using a pesticide are the costs, convenience in mixing and applying the product, effectiveness against the target pest and safety.
Another important factor to consider is whether the pest is causing an economic loss to the crop or property. A few pests may not warrant control while a large infestation may warrant a control to prevent loss of money to the landowner.
Pest control may be something you can handle yourself or you may need to seek advice from professionals. Professional pest control operators are licensed and may offer equipment and expertise to control unwanted pests that you may not be capable of.
Educational programs of the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service are open to all people without regard to race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, genetic information or veteran status. The Texas A&M University System, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the County Commissioners Courts of Texas Cooperating.