Important, must-read announcement regarding pesticide use

There’s a new report out from the Weed Science Society of America (WSSA) which blasts a common piece of gardening advice: use least toxic pesticides only as a last resort.  Popular as it may be, this advice is not scientifically grounded and can actually cause more harm than good.  The WSSA is joined in this announcement by the American Phytopathological Society (APS) and the Plant-Insect Ecosystems Section of the Entomological Society of
America (P-IE ESA).

This is a must-read for anyone who is a responsible educator regarding pesticide use, which includes Master Gardeners and other horticulture paraprofessionals.  You’ll want to use the webpage link above to read the entire announcement, but here’s a paragraph to get you thinking:

“There is no benefit or scientific basis to simplistic messages like “use least toxic pesticides as a last resort” for the large number of pesticide users who apply pesticides according to the label and practice good stewardship. Nor are these messages beneficial for those who neither seek training nor adequately read the label believing instead that it is safe, practical, and effective to simply choose a product considered a “least toxic pesticide” and apply it only as a “last resort.” These messages hinder pesticide safety and stewardship education and practices that are in the best interest of the pesticide user, our food supply, public health and ecosystem preservation.”

Published by

Linda Chalker-Scott

Dr. Linda Chalker-Scott has a Ph.D. in Horticulture from Oregon State University and is an ISA certified arborist and an ASCA consulting arborist. She is WSU’s Extension Urban Horticulturist and a Professor in the Department of Horticulture, and holds two affiliate associate professor positions at University of Washington. She conducts research in applied plant and soil sciences, publishing the results in scientific articles and university Extension fact sheets. Linda also is the award-winning author of five books: the horticultural myth-busting The Informed Gardener (2008) and The Informed Gardener Blooms Again (2010) from the University of Washington Press and Sustainable Landscapes and Gardens: Good Science – Practical Application (2009) from GFG Publishing, Inc., and How Plants Work: The Science Behind the Amazing Things Plants Do from Timber Press (2015). Her latest effort is an update of Art Kruckeberg’s Gardening with Native Plants of the Pacific Northwest from UW Press (2019). In 2018 Linda was featured in a video series – The Science of Gardening – produced by The Great Courses. She also is one of the Garden Professors – a group of academic colleagues who educate and entertain through their blog and Facebook pages. Linda’s contribution to gardeners was recognized in 2017 by the Association for Garden Communicators as the first recipient of their Cynthia Westcott Scientific Writing Award. "The Garden Professors" Facebook page - "The Garden Professors" Facebook group - Books:

9 thoughts on “Important, must-read announcement regarding pesticide use”

  1. I wonder if I could reprint part of that in the master gardener newsletter (internal to MGs) (Santa Clara County, CA) … I’ll ask them, thanks for pointer.

  2. Some horticulture paraprofessionals have degrees in English Literature and journalism or Design. Consequently, they are not all qualified to paraphrase and simplify the article in order to educate a wider audience.
    Many of us have come to rely upon you to do that for us. There are two publications in my garden book collection with your name on them that attest to the fact that no one can explain horticultural science to the layperson better than you do.

  3. So, if I’m reading right, all the side-effects of pesticides that have been documented for 40+ years are a result of users simply not following the label? Go ahead and distribute all those mutagenic endocrine disruptors into the environment early and often everybody, just make sure to follow the label and everything will be OK.

    Their logic also doesn’t stand up to my experience – if I sprayed every time I saw the first sign of a pes
    t (to avoid having to use more of a stronger pesticide later, according to their argument), I would have missed seeing how much of the time the problem either doesn’t end up mattering, or resolves itself thanks to the healthy ecosystem I grow my plants in.

    I think this advice from the WSSA is violating article II of their constitution, “with protection of humans, wildlife, soil, water, crops, and our environment.”

  4. That paragraph is confusing. Yikes. To me toxic is toxic using the least or most label in front of iris going to add another layer of confusion. That “last resort” phrase isn’t helping matters either. It’s something I associate with a major medical conditional. Good thing they didn’t say last hope.

  5. This is my take on pesticides. I don’t like them but there are some times when they are necessary.Often times the need for use is the result of not taking care of business in other areas of gardening and maintenance. When I was landscape supervisor and we were given a new property for renovating and renewal, it was not uncommon to find the plants in terrible condition. Overwhelming infestation calls for usage of Pesticide as a major remover of those overwhelming numbers. Then at this point you can start to heal the landscape through proper plant removal and replacement, mycorrhizal & beneficial bacterial inoculent and ganerally building up the landscape in a healthy underground biological system which is ultimately the foundation of any healthy system. I’ve never found a need of any type of regular chemical maintenance program if I maintained a healthy system which balances itself. Especially in small home gardens there should be no need for them if you are into a hands on approach anyway. I liked the last recorded piece Linda did and which for whatever reasons no one commented on. She had some sound advice on rejecting the Advertisement hype and that “Ooooo” factor. Read Labels people and forget the animated cartoons and gimmicks. Do your homework.

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