Store chemicals safely on the farm

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With farmers concerned about the supply for the 2022 growing season, many are turning to early purchase and storage of produce. However, there is a good way to store chemicals on the farm, and that involves a lock and key.

University of Missouri extension specialist Sam Polly says chemical inventory management can save farmers money. However, improper storage can make these expensive products worthless.

“With the cost of pesticides, letting a product degrade in your storage shed isn’t a mistake everyone can afford to make very often,” says Polly, who teaches private pesticide applicator training for MU Extension. He adds that degraded chemicals not only affect a farmer’s bottom line, but can also pose health risks to humans and animals – and harm the environment.

So if you have chemicals in storage or on your way to your farm’s warehouse, now is a good time to review safety procedures. Polly shares seven tips from MU Extension and Purdue University’s on-farm chemical safety resources.

1. Track inventory. Maintain an inventory of stored pesticides. The shelf life of pesticides varies, but once opened, chemicals begin to break down. Throwing away an unused or ineffective product is like throwing away money, Polly says. Store chemicals in their original containers.

2. Monitor the environment. Always follow label directions for storage and use. Store pesticides in a controlled environment. High temperatures can melt plastic containers, explode glass containers and cause some pesticides to volatilize. Low temperatures can cause frost damage. Extreme temperatures can also affect power and stability.

3. Make safe handling a priority. Keep protective gear nearby, but away from pesticides. Train farm workers in proper procedures. Display emergency phone numbers.

4. Choose the storage location wisely. Locate pesticide storage facilities away from people and livestock. Avoid flood-prone areas to reduce the risk of contaminating water sources. Make sure the site is protected from inclement weather and strong winds. Choose a well ventilated area. Store dry chemicals on pallets. Do not store where heat or electricity can generate sparks. Do not store liquid chemicals on top of dry chemicals.

5. Lock down storage facilities and post warning signs. Farmers must lock all access points and place signs on doors and windows indicating that chemicals are stored inside. Also, post a “no smoking” sign.

6. Check the condition of the container. Regularly inspect your farm chemicals for rusty containers and illegible signs or labels. Check for leaks and corrosion. Tightly seal containers to avoid spillage, evaporation and cross-contamination.

7. Plan the use of chemicals. Rotate older products toward the front of the shelf to use them first. Consider labeling them with a year or a month and a year for easy reference. When switching to a new formulation, use the existing inventory first. However, use unsealed containers in the season they were opened.

After harvesting is complete, make sure your farm chemicals are safe and secure. A little time now can save money and headaches next year.

University of Missouri Extension contributed to this article.


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