Product labels aren’t the type of reading material that you can snuggle up with, but they’re also not the kind you can ignore or just skim through before filing away.

5 Keys to Understanding Product Labels

By Kyle Miller


Product labels aren’t the type of reading material that you can snuggle up with, but they’re also not the kind you can ignore or just skim through before filing away.

Labels deserve routine attention beyond the one-time, quick read after purchase. However, it can be common practice to follow use recommendations from colleagues and distributors without analyzing the important details explained on the product’s label. But following

 best label practices can save money, prevent injury, and help grow better plants by ensuring product performance.

Most people using fungicides, herbicides and insecticides only ask themselves, “What product do I need to control the weed, insect or disease and what rate do I apply?” Rate information is essential, but labels provide a technical breakdown and need-to-know information prior to application. Here are five key areas to read on a label:


1. Mix mindfully

The tank mixing section of a label lays out exactly how to combine a product with other additives. Glazing over these guidelines can create an un-usable compound, clog application equipment, and reduce efficacy.

The basic rule of thumb — mix dry materials first, then add liquids — may not ring true for all products. One must be mindful of variances between generic and patented formulas, and know that even though an active ingredient may be the same, its formula could require a different mixing order. So don’t rely on old standards; get up to speed on the label’s specifics before adding each product to the tank.


2. Follow special statements

Special statements on a label clearly communicate how to use a product for particular conditions. In uncontrolled climates, weather is an important variable to consider.

Be sure to make note of the rainfast or drying times mentioned in a special statement or you may lose your valuable pest control efforts to precipitation. Retain product effectiveness by making sure spray technicians are also in-the-know about circumstances included in the special statements section.


3. Get to know group numbers

Group numbers help avoid the risk of disease resistance by identifying which fungicides, herbicides and insecticides operate under the same mode of action. Usually included on the first page of a label, group numbers make it easy to organize products with different modes of action into a rotation program. For example, if you notice signs of resistance after using a fungicide in Group 1, try using a product with a different group number in the next application.


4. Acknowledge agricultural use requirements

Agricultural and non-agricultural use requirements on product labels are important and vary depending on product use. A greenhouse or nursery employee, for example, may use the same product as a turf or lawn professional, but has to abide by a completely different set of rules with regard to protective equipment and re-entry interval. Failing to read this section of a label could harm employees, plants and the environment.


5. Follow restrictions and limitations

Carefully read the “general restrictions and limitations” section on your product labels. Knowing the “do not” statements list could be the difference between having profitable healthy plants and turf and causing damage due to poor application practices. Brushing up on labels you haven’t read since last year can make all the difference.


Making a 10-15 minute investment in reading a label can save a lot of time and hassle compared with the fallout of misusing a product. Schedule a label date once a year upon which you can carefully re-familiarize yourself with old labels and dissect the details of new updated labels. The best place to obtain current labels is


Kyle Miller is senior technical specialist with BASF Turf & Ornamentals