Awhile back I visited a tomato farm with all of its plants wilting, dying and exhibiting bright yellow patches at the base of their leaves.

The owner was understandably upset. All of his hard work was lost.

I told the farmer that the plants had characteristic glyphosate herbicide (Roundup) injury. The farmer got even more upset and said there was no way Roundup got on his plants.

The next day the farmer called me and apologized because his neighbor borrowed his sprayer while he was out of town and did not rinse properly to remove the herbicide (Roundup) he used.

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 how to apply the product properly. Would you spray an unknown liquid all over your home, lawn and the food you eat?

Next, there is zero tolerance for crops with illegal residues. If chemicals drift onto or are sprayed onto a crop that it is not labeled for (what we call an off-label application), it must be destroyed and not sold.

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 drift of a chemical that originated from your farm. For instance, you are responsible if you spray a product containing 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 they obtain 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 recertification 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 (

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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