The Pesticide Guide

Understanding pesticides, what they’re used for, and when they’re used can help you avoid them more effectively. Learn the basics with our pesticide guide.

What’s a pesticide?

A pesticide is any substance used to kill or control insects, weeds, fungi, rodents, bacteria, or other unwanted organisms. The term “pesticide” also applies to herbicides, fungicides, and various other substances used to control pests. Herbicides are, by far, the most commonly used pesticide followed by insecticides, fungicides, and rodenticides.

Are pesticides used in organic land management?

Non-organic farms spray toxic persistent pesticides and herbicides to keep pests at bay, and many of these chemicals are proving to be harmful to pollinators, other wildlife, and even human health. They break down very slowly, remaining in our soil, water, and air. Some can continue to cause damage for decades after they are first used.

Organic practices strictly forbid the use of toxic persistent pesticides. Organic farmers can only use approved pesticides as part of an organic ecological systems approach. They are limited to a small number of pesticides that have been reviewed by the National Organic Standards Board and have been found to have little to no risk to human health or the environment. Organic farmers are also allowed to use naturally occurring (non-synthetic) pesticides, but only if these materials are confirmed to be low-risk for human health or the environment.

Toxic persistent pesticides are not used in any of the StonyFIELDS Initiative Fields.

Types Of Pesticides

Herbicides – used for weed control are the most widely used pesticides nationwide. While the mix of weeds varies across the country, spraying herbicides remains, in most regions, the “go to” response for when weeds need managing.

Insecticides – are applied to kill a variety of bugs and grubs.

Fungicides – are periodically used, especially in humid regions, to control fungal pathogens, or other pathogens.

Across the U.S., herbicide use and risks are rising the fastest as the result of a spread of weeds now resistant to several, if not most, herbicides registered for their control.

About Herbicides

Which herbicides are most commonly applied on playing ground fields?

  • Glyphosate
  • 2,4-D
  • Dicamba

All herbicide products contain one or more active ingredients, plus several so-called “inert ingredients.” Read the EPA overview of inert ingredients here.

Risks can be caused solely or largely by an herbicide’s active ingredient—the chemical in the formulated, herbicide product that delivers the weed-control punch. However, as the EPA clearly states on its website, “inert” does not mean that these other ingredients are non-toxic. These inert ingredients span a vast array of chemicals and are often present at equal or higher concentrations than the active ingredient in an off-the-shelf herbicide.

Can inert ingredients alter the toxicity for plants and people? Some inert ingredients are more toxic to certain organisms, including mammals, than the herbicide’s active ingredient with which they are mixed.

If you want to learn more, the EPA lists 24 different types of pesticides on its website and provides clear explanations of the different, major categories.