Pesticides and Herbicides
Pesticides are types of chemicals designed to kill 'pests.' Pests include all kinds of insects, flying and creeping. They also include fungi and bacteria which attack plants and trees. Pesticides include herbicides which are used on plants. They also include fungicides which kill fungi. Miticides are used to kill mites. Rodenticides kill the many types of rodent pests. Insecticides kill insects.
Pesticides can be in different forms. They can be liquid, powder or a gas. Ant traps and rodent poisons are used to kill ants and rodents. Health experts are concerned about the use of pesticides near edible plants. Toxic, harmful or poisonous, residue from these pesticides may remain on the plants and pass on to people who eat the food.
The Environmental Protection Agency of the United States government keeps data which show that toxic residue can pass to humans through food. A group called the Environmental Working Group puts out each year a list of the twelve pesticides called the 'dirty dozen.' These are the most dangerous pesticides. They may leave a toxic residue. Any kind of produce which is listed as organic does not contain toxic pesticides.
Insecticides are a type of pesticide. An insecticide can be a concentrate which is mixed with water before spraying. It can be in liquid, granule or dust form also.
Herbicides are a type of pesticide. They are chemicals which are used to kill many types of weeds. Some are selective. Some are non-selective. The selective herbicides target a specific type of weed which is known to be doing the damage. Non-selective herbicides are made to kill everything growing in one area. If a person wants no grass to grow in his driveway, he might spray a non-selective herbicide.
Herbicides work several different ways. Some are sprayed on and are called contact herbicides. Contact with a weed kills it. The problem is that every part of the weed needs to be covered with the spray. Otherwise, the weed will regenerate. Systemic herbicides get into the roots or leaves and travel to other parts of the plant. Pre-emergent herbicides will prevent seedlings from growing. It is put into the soil before the plant appears.
In ancient times, ashes, common salts, and bittern were used as herbicides. Bittern is a foul-tasting solution left after the salt has evaporated from brines or seawater. In the Vietnam War during the 1960's and 1970's, the United States military used a combination of chemicals to defoliate the jungle. It was called Agent Orange. This chemical was used to clear the jungle of vegetation for the army so that they could be able to see the enemy and move more easily. Because many serious health conditions were attributed to exposure to this chemical, many chemical compounds have been reevaluated and not used indiscriminately, that is used when not needed.
Use of the chemical in Agent Orange was prohibited in the United States in 1984. Glyphosate was identified as an herbicide in 1970. It was originally sold under the name Roundup. It was not very toxic or harmful and disappeared quickly into the environment. Since the 1990's, some crops have become resistant to this herbicide. Superweeds have grown up which are resistant to glyphosate.
Vinegar and herbicidal soap can be used as a natural herbicide. However, even a natural herbicide may harm a plant a person wants to protect. Garlic and red pepper sprays can be used also. The choice depends on what a person wants to kill.
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