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Yuma-area chemical companies advise farmers on controlling critters
The Yuma Sun is taking a behind-the-scenes look at agriculture in Yuma. This story is one in an ongoing series. Here are some other stories in this series:
Pests of all shapes and sizes hinder crop production in Yuma, but luckily there are a number of chemical companies in the area ready to exterminate the bugs and critters that plague local farmlands.
Phillip Townsend, pest control adviser and owner of Sunlund Chemical Company, said that they are one of the last independent dealers in the area, as most others are part of nationwide chains.
Sunlund Chemical Company opened in Yuma back in 1969, Townsend said, explaining that he came to work there in 1981 and bought it from the owner in 1985.
His role in Yuma's agricultural industry, he said, is to go out into the fields of the growers that he does business with to see if the crops are in need of any type of chemical treatment. When he notices a problem that he feels the grower should be aware of, he then contacts them to see if they are interested in having their crops treated.
“Every company does things a little differently,” he said. “We consider ourselves full service. We don't charge a field checking fee. If we sell something, we get paid. If we don't sell something, then we don't.”
Townsend explained that although their company performs some applications of various chemicals, they mostly order chemicals and distribute them to the applicator.
“We deliver the chemical either to the grower if they are going to apply it themselves or to the commercial applicator who is going to apply it,” he commented. “We also do some applications ourselves through sprinklers, primarily the herbicides and some insecticides.”
Thanks to a new computer Chemical Management Services system at their office, Townsend said that they can type in something like “fungicide for celery,” for example, and it will show all of the various types of fungicides that are registered to be used on celery.
“If I pull one up I can see the label and it will show me all the information that I will need to know,” he said. “It shows me things like the crops it's registered on, the rates per acre, the pests that the particular fungicide will control, precautionary statements like days between application and planting, minimum days between application and harvest.”
He noted that the labels will also give him instructions as to the time necessary to wait before reentering the field after a crop has been treated.
“That's why it is important for people to not enter into fields and take produce because aside from it being theft, there are a lot of food safety issues that go along with eating something if you don't know what has been applied to it.”
Townsend said that the type of pest or disease that could be plaguing fields varies based on the type of crop, the time of year and the weather.
“For example we have lettuce, cauliflower and broccoli in the fall and our main pests for those crops are things like beetles, crickets, armyworm, looper worm, corn earworm, whitefly and then as the weather cools they kind of die off and things will go dormant pest wise, but then we have to monitor for diseases like mildew,” he shared. “In the spring aphids become a problem. Beetles, crickets and ants will also sometimes consume the seed even though it's coated with a clay coating, birds are a real problem too.”
Townsend noted that there are many factors that go into treating a field like being aware of when there will be a crew in to weed the crop, how close to harvest it is and what the expected weather conditions are.
As far as applications go, they can be made by air or ground, he said noting that if his company performs the application they will mix the chemical and inject it into a pump that feeds into a sprinkler system for that field.
Most applications will take place at night, he said because there are seldom any people in the field during that time, insects are more active at night during the warmer months and winds generally tend to fall off during the evening hours.
He added that because information and regulations about chemicals are constantly changing in Arizona and California where their company does business, it is important that pest control advisers stay up to date on that information through license renewing classes required once every two years.
“We're a very highly regulated industry,” Townsend concluded.
Sarah Womer can be reached at email@example.com or 539-6858. Find her on Facebook at Facebook.com/YSSarahWomer or on Twitter at @YSSarahWomer.