Low row-crop prices are forcing many row-crop farmers to look at alternative crops to make ends meet.

I tell farmers that even with a very sharp pencil it is very difficult to make row-crop budgets end in the black. Therefore, at the S.C. Agribiz Expo (January 15-16) one of the main emphasis is alternative crops for row-crop farmers.

However, a farmer just called me to tell me about his plans of growing pickling cucumbers as an alternative crop next spring, and the first thing I asked is what chemical herbicides he has used on his crop this year. His crop happened to be field corn and one of the herbicides used was atrazine.

I hated to break the news to him that he could not grow cucumbers on the land next year. The atrazine label clearly states not to plant vegetables the following year after application.

The owner was understandably upset. All of his hard work and money spent getting ready to plant cucumbers wasted.

The moral of the story is to be very careful with and have a healthy respect for chemicals. They are designed to be very effective at what they are made to do, so misuse or using them in an unlabeled fashion can be very dangerous even if it is by mistake.

First, no matter what your neighbor or anyone tells you, the label is the law and must be strictly followed. One of my favorite sayings is “They Say is the biggest liar in the world.” Especially when using chemicals, don’t do what your neighbor advises you to do, just read and follow the label directions.

Next, there is a lot of useful and needed information on a chemical label. I know labels are lengthy, boring, and very technical, but you need that information to make a proper application of the chemical. Labels contain all types of information from the active ingredient to replant intervals for certain crops. Would you spray an unknown liquid all over your home, lawn, and the food you eat?

Next, what happens if something goes wrong? Put it this way: You just need to know what is on that label. You are ultimately responsible for everything that happens on your farm, including chemical residues in the soil to drift of a chemical which originated from your farm. For instance, you are responsible if you spray a product containing atrazine, 2,4-D, glyphosate, etc., and it drifts and damages plants on your neighbors’ property.

Finally, every farmer should have a private pesticide applicators license which can be obtained after taking training and passing a test – call your local County Extension Office for training dates.

Also, any company that is paid to apply any chemical on someone’s farm must have a commercial applicators license. A person with a commercial applicators license must take a very comprehensive test and have proof of insurance. In other words, they must know how to apply chemicals properly, effectively, and safely and be covered by insurance when something goes wrong. They must display a sticker on each side of their vehicle stating that they are a licensed commercial applicator. Also, after obtaining any applicator license the applicator must take re-certification classes to renew the license. Clemson University has a totally separate department to handle any kind of problem with chemical application – the Department of Pesticide Regulation – www.clemson.edu/dpr.

The Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service offers its programs to people of all ages, regardless of race, color, gender, religion, national origin, disability, political belief, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital or family status and is an equal opportunity employer.

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