Illinois Fertilizer & Chemical Association
Supply · Service · Stewardship

5 Things You May Not Know About Pesticides

It’s a hot topic in all circles involving agriculture: pesticides. Some are for, some are against, but in truth, most people simply don’t know that much about them. The term pesticide is actually a bit of a catch-all, and is often used interchangeably with herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, and rodenticides, among others. Historically, pests have been loosely defined anything that negatively impacts a food producer’s efforts or interferes with crop or animal production.
While we tend to think of pesticides in a modern sense (over the past couple of generations or so), the reality is that pesticides, which are also called “crop protection,” have a very long history of effective use in agrarian societies. Even before the Romans were suppressing weeds with salt in the early years of the first millennium, the ancient Sumerians were controlling insects with burnt sulfur in the 2500 BCE period. Questions facing folks in modern discussions typically revolve around how much of what type is acceptable and to whom.
With so much information and misinformation swirling around the internet — and with so many people not knowing about many resources available on the topic, such as extension agents — we’re going to elevate the conversation a bit. Here are 5 things you may not know about pesticides — from their long backstory to their development and testing to the broad range that is available today.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) offers the official definition for federal purposes: “A pesticide is any substance or mixture of substances intended for: Preventing, destroying, repelling or mitigating any pest; Use as a plant regulator, defoliant, or desiccant; use as a nitrogen stabilizer.”
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