How to Read a Chemical Label

FBN Network

Feb 27, 2023

The cardinal rule of ag chemicals: Always read the label.

Your best resource for learning how to use your product safely and effectively is the manufacturer. This helpful guide will ensure that everyone on your operation has a safe and successful application.  

Active Ingredient Statement

The Active Ingredient Statement provides the name and amount of each active ingredient and the total ratio of inert ingredients in the container.

  • The important chemical(s) are individually listed on the label by the common and/or chemical name and the concentration (as a percentage) in the product.

  • Liquid products generally show both the percentage of the active ingredient and the amount in the container. Since all liquid products don’t weigh the same, it is important to understand the pounds of active ingredient in each gallon.

  • Dry products usually only list the percentage of the active in the package. If the label says a product has 50% of an active ingredient, then you can multiply the percentage by 16 oz. to figure out the amount of active in the package.

Key Pests Controlled

The list of pests controlled by a given product should be listed under the brand name. This is often not the complete list of labeled crops or pests, so make sure you review the entire label and verify that the crop you plan to spray is identified.

Don’t rely on general terms of what the product will control. If you’re spraying for rootworm in corn, make sure the label specifically identifies the product’s use for Corn Rootworm. Or if you’re trying to control Palmer amaranth in corn, make sure the product is specifically labeled for Palmer Amaranth in a crop crop. 

EPA Registration Number and Establishment Number

The EPA Registration Number indicates the specific company who registered the chemical and verifies that it has been approved for sale. The EPA Establishment Number Identifies the approved EPA facility where the product was manufactured.

How to Read a Chemical Label

Click here to better understand how to read a chemical label.

What’s in the Container?

Commercial Name

The brand name given by the manufacturing company, for example, Willowood Mesotrione 4SC.

Common Name

The name given by the EPA to a chemical for easier recognition. Callisto is the common name for Mesotrione.

Chemical Name

The technical name that identifies the chemical components and structure. For example, 2-[4-(methylsulfonyl)-2-nitrobenzoyl]-1,3-cyclohexanedione, or Mesotrione.

Inert Ingredients

These ingredients are not required to be individually listed, but the total inert concentration must be listed. Variations in inert ingredients can affect the performance of the active ingredient, so it’s important to talk with your local crop consultants, pest control advisors, and university extension agents to understand their effect on particular crops, soils, and pests.

Signal Words

Signal words indicate the relative acute toxicity of the product to humans and animals. If two products will control the same pest, signal words can help you choose the least toxic option.

There are 4 types of signal words:

  • DANGER ☠ POISON - Highly toxic by any route of entry into the body.

  • DANGER - Can cause severe eye damage or skin irritation.

  • WARNING - Moderately toxic either orally, dermally, or through inhalation; causes moderate eye or skin irritation.

  • CAUTION - Slightly toxic either orally, dermally, or through inhalation; causes slight eye or skin irritation.

Learn more about understanding signal words.

Other Information on the Label

Precautionary Statements

Information about possible hazards. Additional information can be found in the Material Safety Data Sheet, (MSDS, which are currently being renamed simply Safety Data Sheets or SDS). Includes Hazards to Humans and Domestic Animals and Environmental, Physical and Chemical Hazards.

First Aid or Statement of Practical Treatment

Direction on what to do if someone accidentally comes in contact or is poisoned by a pesticide. ALWAYS call the National Poison Center Hotline (1-800-222-1222) for further medical instructions. Since the label has information the doctor will need, it is important to have the label available when calling the hotline or when taking someone to the doctor or hospital.

Directions for Use

“It is a violation of federal law to use any pesticide in a manner inconsistent with its labeling.” This section explains how to properly use the product to get the best results without harming yourself, others, or the environment.

You can search for and read thousands of chemical labels here. The label’s directions for use will tell you:

  • What pests this product is registered to control

  • Where the product can and cannot be used (plants, animals, locations)

  • How to apply (or not apply) the product

  • How much product to use, often a range for soil type, organic matter, or plant size

  • Timing of when the product should be applied, either time of year, or stage of the crop

  • How many times you can apply the product

  • How soon the crop can be harvested after application

  • The Re-Entry Interval (REI), is the period of time after which it’s safe for people to return to a treated area after application

Storage and Disposal

This section explains how to store the product and what to do with the unused portion of the product and the empty container.

  • Always keep products in original containers, out of the reach of children, and in a locked storage area.

  • Be aware that temperature can affect product quality and environmental safety.

  • Do not contaminate food or foodstuffs.

  • For proper container disposal, always triple-rinse, puncture, and dispose of the container according to your local and state regulations. 

  • Find links to state and national regulations here.

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Copyright © 2014 - 2023 Farmer's Business Network, Inc. All rights Reserved. The sprout logo, “Farmers Business Network”, “FBN”, “FBN Direct” are trademarks, registered trademarks or service marks of Farmer's Business Network, Inc.

FBN Direct products and services and other products distributed by FBN Direct are offered by FBN Inputs, LLC and are available only in states where FBN Inputs, LLC is licensed and where those products are registered for sale or use, if applicable. If applicable, please check with your local extension service to ensure registration status. Nothing contained on this page, including the prices listed should be construed as an offer for sale, or a sale of products. All products and prices are subject to change at any time and without notice. Terms and conditions apply.

ALWAYS READ AND FOLLOW LABEL DIRECTIONS. It is a violation of federal and state law to use any pesticide product other than in accordance with its label. The distribution, sale and use of an unregistered pesticide is a violation of federal and/or state law and is strictly prohibited. We do not guarantee the accuracy of any information provided on this page or which is provided by us in any form. It is your responsibility to confirm prior to purchase and use that a product is labeled for your specific purposes, including, but not limited to, your target crop or pest and its compatibility with other products in a tank mix and that the usage of a product is otherwise consistent with federal, state and local laws. We reserve the right to restrict sales on a geographic basis in our sole discretion. You must have a valid applicator license to use restricted use pesticides. Please consult your state department of agriculture for complete rules and regulations on the use of restricted use pesticides, as some products require specific record-keeping requirements.

All product recommendations and other information provided is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for consulting the product label or for specific agronomic, business, or professional advice. Where specific advice is necessary or appropriate, consult with a qualified advisor. Neither Farmer's Business Network Inc. nor any of its affiliates makes any representations or warranties, express or implied, as to the accuracy or completeness of the statements or any information contained in the material and any liability therefore is expressly disclaimed.

FBN Network

Feb 27, 2023

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