What Pesticides Approved by FDA Can I Use on Herbs?
Answered by: Conrad Richter
Question from: Joseph de Cicco, Beacon Farms
Posted on: April 03, 2008

We are growers of basil, thyme, rosemary, chives, dill. I am having problems with whitefly. I can’t seem to find a product approved by the FDA. I am an American growing in Guatemala. Is there a product that I can use after harvest and ship the same day?

In the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sets the tolerance levels for pesticides in all foods, and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) monitors and enforces the pesticide residue levels on most foods, including all foods from plants. You can review the current tolerances for pesticides in foods online at:

http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_07/40cfr180_07.html

Insecticidal soap is probably the safest option. It can be applied on the day of harvest. You would need to wash the product with the soap solution and then rinse the product to remove the residue. This may not work for you because of the effort required to remove the excess water after rinsing and because of the potential damage caused by the extra handling. Instead you may need to look at the fumigant option, but I am not sure what you can use. Carbon dioxide may work -- and it is exempt from FDA regulation -- but it may not be cost effective. But whatever treatment method you employ, there is still the issue of eggs that may hatch after treatment.

By far the best approach is preventative: make sure that whiteflies are not a problem in the first place. In our experience, the most lasting solution is to develop an effective pest monitoring system in your production areas. The idea is to catch infestations at the earliest stages and treat them before they become a serious problem. This is a cornerstone of what is called integrative pest management or IPM. When we switched to IPM years ago we saw a huge improvement in pest control in our greenhouses. It took a while before our monitoring methods started to work, but within a year or two we had all of our major pest problems under very good control. Although our situation is under cover, IPM works outside in the field also. The key is to make sure your monitoring team is well trained and diligent in getting reports quickly to the pesticide application team.

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