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MADISON – As Wisconsin farmers head into the fields this spring, agriculture officials are reminding them of the restrictions on using atrazine, a corn herbicide that is contained in nearly 100 products.
Atrazine use is prohibited in parts of 35 counties. Elsewhere in the state, restrictions on atrazine application include: who may apply it, when it may be applied, how much may be applied, and where it may be mixed and loaded.
“The first thing you need to know is where those prohibition areas are,” says Stan Senger, who leads the Environmental Quality Section at the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. “We have 101 prohibition areas. Many have been in place for 20 years or more, and farmers probably know where they are on land they’ve cropped in the past. But if you’ve bought new land or are renting land you haven’t used before, you need to check the atrazine status for that acreage.”
A prohibition area is established where the atrazine level in a private well exceeds three parts per billion. Atrazine products may be mixed and loaded in these areas for use elsewhere, but only on a liquid-tight, non-absorbent pad that is strong enough to support the weight of all the equipment.
There are prohibition areas within these counties: Adams, Brown, Calumet, Chippewa, Columbia, Crawford, Dane, Dodge, Eau Claire, Grant, Green, Green Lake, Iowa, Jackson, Juneau, Lafayette, Manitowoc, Marathon, Marinette, Marquette, Monroe, Outagamie, Pierce, Portage, Richland, Rock, Sauk, St. Croix, Trempealeau, Vernon, Walworth, Waupaca, Waushara, Winnebago and Wood.
“We do monitor to be sure atrazine is not being used in prohibition areas and that it’s used at appropriate levels in other areas,’’ Senger says.
Senger stresses the importance of reading the label to see if a herbicide contains atrazine. Among the most common products containing atrazine are Lumax®, Keystone®, Bicep II Magnum®, Harness® Xtra, Aatrex® 4L and Aatrex® Nine-O.
Even in non-prohibition areas, atrazine may be applied only by someone who has taken an exam and been certified to do so — either a farmer certified as a private applicator for his own fields, or a certified commercial applicator. In non-prohibition areas, it may be applied only from April 1 through July 31, in limited amounts: on coarse texture or sandy soils, no more than 0.75 pounds per acre per year; on medium texture or loam soils, no more than 1 pound per acre if it was used the previous year on that land, or 1.5 pounds per acre if it was not used the previous year.