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Store chemicals safely on the farm

Oakozhan/Getty Images metal chain with red lock
DOWN TIGHT: Farm chemicals are not only costly, but also toxic. It is important that farmers who store chemicals on their property lock them up to reduce the risk of theft or misuse by those not accustomed to handling ag products.
Supply shortage fears have farmers buying chemicals early; here’s how to store them.

With farmers concerned about supply for the 2022 growing season, many are turning to buying early and storing products. However, there is a proper way to store chemicals on the farm, and it involves a lock and key.

University of Missouri Extension specialist Sam Polly says managing chemical inventory can save farmers money. However, improper storage can make those high-dollar products worthless.

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

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

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

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

3. Make handling safety a priority. Keep protective equipment nearby but away from pesticides. Train farmworkers on proper procedures. Post emergency telephone numbers.

4. Choose 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 severe weather and high winds. Choose a well-ventilated area. Store dry chemicals on pallets. Do not store where heat or electricity can spark. Do not store liquid chemicals above dry chemicals.

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

6. Check container condition. Routinely inspect your farm chemicals for rusting containers and signs or labels that are unreadable. Look for leaks and corrosion. Close containers tightly to avoid spills, evaporation and cross-contamination.

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

Once harvest wraps up, 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.

TAGS: Chemical Use
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