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Aerial Pesticide Application Q & A


aerial spraying

Why Do You See Airplanes Flying Low Over Farm Fields?

Aerial application is often the most efficient and most economical way to apply crop protection products, fertilizer and even seed to grow and protect crops such as corn, soybeans and wheat. Aircraft can treat fields when the soil moisture is too great for the operation of ground application equipment and can also apply necessary crop protection products when the crop canopies become too tall or are too thick for ground application equipment. When pests or diseases threaten a crop, time of application becomes critical. An airplane or helicopter can accomplish more in one hour than ground equipment can in a single day.

Who Is Flying These Planes?

Aerial applicators are highly-trained professionals. The average aerial applicator has over 20 years experience in the industry. The aircraft range in price from $100,000 to $1.5 million and utilize sophisticated precision application technologies such as GPS (global positioning systems) and GIS (geographical information systems), flow controls, and precisely calibrated spray application equipment to make sure the pilot is accurate in applying the product to the crop. A complete list of Illinois licensed pesticide applicators, including individuals licensed to make aerial pesticide applications, can be found via the following link: http://www.agr.state.il.us/Environment/Pesticide/aplicatorsearch.php. To search for licensed aerial applicators or operators, select AGS (aerial general standards) under the "category" criteria and press the "Search for the selected criteria" bar.

Who Regulates Aerial Applicators?

Aerial application performed in Illinois is regulated under the provisions of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) and the Illinois Pesticide Act. The Illinois Department of Agriculture administers these statutes and associated rules, working under delegated authorities from the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA). In addition, the federal departments of Homeland Security, Federal Aviation Administration and the US Department of Transportation have oversight over specific aspects of the industry. Regulatory personnel inspect operations and require strict and specific documentation of each field sprayed. These same agencies continually monitor environmental and public health to assure safe and legal application of crop protection products.

What Products Are Most Likely Being Applied?

The common classes of pesticides regulated by USEPA and the IL Department of Agriculture that are applied by air are insecticides and fungicides. Because insects and fungal diseases often attack agricultural crops late in their growing seasons, aerial application may be the only method available to control these pests and diseases in an attempt to reduce significant losses in crop yield.

Fungicides are chemical compounds or biological organisms used to kill or control fungi or fungal spores. Fungi can cause serious damage in agriculture production areas, resulting in critical losses of yield, quality and profit. Fungicides are used both in agriculture and to fight fungal infections in animals. Fungicides can either be contact or systemic. A contact fungicide kills fungi by direct contact; a systemic fungicide has to be absorbed by the affected organism.

Click below for Specimen Labels and Material Safety Data Sheets for some commonly applied agricultural fungicides --

Headline®   Specimen Label        MSDS
Quilt® Specimen Label MSDS
Stratego® Specimen Label MSDS
Quadris® Specimen Label MSDS

An Insecticide is a pesticide used to control insects and includes ovicides and larvicides used against the eggs and larvae of insects, respectively. Insecticides are used in agriculture, medicine, industry and the household. Used incorrectly insecticides can be toxic and are generally categorized as Restricted Use Pesticides (RUPs); thus only appropriated licensed individuals are allowed to apply insecticides for agricultural use.

Click below for Specimen Labels and Material Safety Data Sheets for some commonly applied agricultural insecticides --

Warrior II® Specimen Label MSDS
Mustang Max®     Specimen Label      MSDS
Baythroid® Specimen Label MSDS
Leverage® Specimen Label MSDS

The Illinois Department of Agricutlure maintains a database of all pesticides, including herbicides, fungicides, insecticides, and others, appropriately registered for use in Illinois. A complete searchable listing of registered products can be found via the following link: http://www.agr.state.il.us/Environment/Pesticide/productsearch.php.

What Should I Do If I Feel I Have Been Exposed To These Products From An Aerial Application?

The application of these products by aerial application is intended to treat crops that are listed on the pesticide product labels at specified rates. The application of product in a manner which results in off-target consequences should be reported to the Illinois Department of Agriculture at 1-800-641-3934.

While off-target exposure cases are rare, if you experience pesticide exposure from drift, you should seek medical attention immediately. For immediate assistance contact the Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222 or call 911 if symptoms are severe such as shortness of breath, abdominal pain, sweating, muscle weakness, vomiting or diarrhea.

The common first aid for exposure to pesticides would be to treat for skin and respiratory exposure. The impacted individual should be moved to fresh air immediately. All contaminated clothing should be removed. The exposed area should be washed with generous amounts of water and soap. If much of the body is exposed, shower with soap and water, and use shampoo to remove chemicals from the scalp and hair. Also consider that pesticides may be retained under fingernails and in skin folds. Persons attending the victim should avoid direct contact with heavily contaminated clothing and wear chemical-resistant gloves while washing the victim. The ingestion of pesticides is more serious and the victim must seek immediate professional medical attention.

Reporting Alleged Pesticide Misuse

Cases of suspected pesticide misuse should be reported to the Illinois Department of Agriculture at 1-800-641-3934. The Department's responsibility is to investigate a pesticide misuse complaint, determine whether any violations of the Illinois Pesticide Act have occurred and initiate any administrative actions deemed necessary based upon a detected violation. The department's responsibility does not include the offering of assistance in the pursuit of damage reimbursement.

A complaint form to assist in the submittal to the department of information associated with an alleged pesticide misuse complaint can be accessed at the following internet address: http://www.agr.state.il.us/pdf/pesticidemisusecomplaintform.pdf. When completing a complaint form, please provide as much information as possible about the incident. Feel free to attach additional pages to the form if need.

A complaint form must be received by the department within 30 days of the incident or within 30 days of when the damage associated with the incident was first noticed pursuant to 8 IAC 250.200. Complaints received by the department after this 30-day period will be kept on file at the department but no investigation or administrative action can be pursued.

Copies of the department's completed complaint investigation file, including any analytical sample results, will only be provided in response to a request submitted under the Freedom Information Act. In most cases, a copy of a complaint investigation file will not be released until the department has completed the investigation, any potential enforcement action has been taken, and the case has been closed. If you wish to receive a copy of the investigation file related to your complaint, please send a written request addressed to the Freedom of Information Office, Illinois Department of Agriculture, State Fairgrounds, P.O. Box 19281, Springfield, IL 62794-9281.

Completed forms can be emailed, faxed, or mailed to the department. Faxes should be submitted to (217) 524-4882 while mail should be addressed to the Illinois Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Environmental Programs, P.O. Box 19281, Springfield, IL 62794-9281.

Additional questions regarding pesticide regulations, the pesticide misuse complaint investigation process, or other related issues can be directed to the Illinois Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Environmental Programs at (800) 641-3934 or (217) 785-2427.

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