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Pesticide/Herbicide Drift Concerns in the Midwest

With organic farms and sensitive crops growing side-by-side with fields of corn and soybeans, pesticide/herbicide drift is a significant concern. Chemical drift can originate from other areas as well; golf courses, manicured lawns and landscaping, and even along roadways.

When those areas receive applications of pesticides and herbicides, the applicator must ensure the weather conditions are suitable for the application. Certain weather conditions may cause the chemicals to drift.

Most applicators are familiar with wind speed and wind direction as critical factors, understanding that wind gusts even at 10 mph can cause the chemical, during the application, to drift off-target and following the direction of the wind. It is important, however, for applicators to understand all critical weather factors, as only the slightest amount of chemical drift may severely damage organic and sensitive crops.

Less understood by applicators are the concepts of volatilization and inversion--what may appear as the best weather conditions for an application may be the worst. Chemical volatilization occurs when the sprayed chemical becomes a vapor, lifts off the target plant or soil, moves with air currents, and deposits onto a neighboring property. Chemical volatilization may occur any time in the hours or days following the application. A temperature inversion can cause the chemical to drift more than a mile off-target. A temperature inversion means the air temperature at ground level is cooler than the air temperature above, resulting in significant lateral movement of the chemical in the air.

Applicators understand these critical concepts and must analyze the current and forecasted temperature, humidity, and air movement in the area to be sprayed--visualization of the conditions is not enough.

Minnesota law is clear: "A person may not apply a pesticide resulting in damage to adjacent property." Minn. Stat. sec. 18B.07.

If you believe your property has been damaged by pesticide/herbicide drift, contact Attorney Andrea Niesen for a legal consultation.

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