The safe application of pesticides in the greenhouse or elsewhere requires an understanding that:
• the health of the plant is more important than killing the pest.
• the health of the greenhouse staff and the consumer are more important than either the crops or the pests.
Sometimes priorities can get confused, and risks are taken to produce a marketable product regardless of the dangers. Other times, safety procedures are bypassed for reasons of expediency or personal comfort. But people are more important than plants or pests is the first rule of safe pesticide use.
For a review of pesticide safety, see Chapter 6. Safety rules should be posted where all staff and supervisors can see them frequently. The rules should be enforced without exception. Where the level of toxicity is high, as indicated by the skull and crossbones on the label, workers should wear protective equipment during all contact with the material (mixing, application, and cleanup). This equipment includes rubber boots, gloves, pants, hat, raincoat, face shield, and gas mask for the application of a highly toxic spray (Figure 20-16). Too often, in hot weather, workers want to spray without donning the rubber suits. Such a practice should not be condoned by the supervisor. Either a less toxic pesticide should be selected, or a fumigant or similar form used that eliminates the danger to the applicator.
Another danger of pesticide use is that people will reenter the greenhouse too soon after the pesticide has been applied. The reentry time, in hours or days, is specified on the pesticide label and should be adhered to strictly. After spraying, a warning sign should be posted on the greenhouse doors and the reentry time noted. The greenhouse should be aired as much as the weather permits following the pesticide application.
If systemic pesticides are used for potted plants, workers must be careful not to touch the soil in the pots. When expanding spacing or disbudding or staking are required, it is nearly impossible to avoid coming in contact with the soil. In such cases, workers should wear plastic or rubber gloves. This is another situation in which workers will object. The gloves are hot and hands perspire quickly. Safety, not personal comfort, must be given priority and the rule enforced.