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Publication #PI238

Rainfastness of Pesticides1

Bonnie Wells and F.M. Fishel2

Introduction

Applicators of pesticides often question whether an application they have made will be effective if rainfall occurs too soon after the application. But what is too soon? Is it 10 minutes, an hour, 4 hours, 24 hours, etc.? Rainfall occurring after application can have a significant effect on the residual activity and efficacy of pesticides. A pesticide’s rainfastness, or its ability to withstand rainfall, is an important factor affecting the efficacy of foliar-applied pesticides. Generally, it is best to avoid pesticide application when rainfall is likely; however, weather can be unpredictable, so it is best to choose a product with good rainfast characteristics.

Definition of Rainfastness

A pesticide is considered rainfast after application if it has adequately dried or has been absorbed by plant tissues so that it will still be effective after rainfall or irrigation. The degree of rainfastness of pesticides is highly variable. The best source for determining rainfastness for a particular product is to consult its label. Some products contain statements that specifically address the length of time necessary for rainfastness to occur (Figure 1). In many cases, limited or no information about rainfastness is included on the label, and the wording is often vague (Figure 2). Some product labels will expressly prohibit an application if rainfall is expected within a stated timeframe (Figure 3). Others may recommend that a product is not applied within a stated timeframe (Figure 4).

Figure 1. 

Label wording example seen on a pesticide label.


Credit:

CDMS Agrochemical Database, http://www.cdms.net/LabelsMsds/LMDefault.aspx?t=


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Figure 2. 

Label wording example seen on a pesticide label.


Credit:

CDMS Agrochemical Database, http://www.cdms.net/LabelsMsds/LMDefault.aspx?t=


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Figure 3. 

Label wording example seen on a pesticide label.


Credit:

CDMS Agrochemical Database, http://www.cdms.net/LabelsMsds/LMDefault.aspx?t=


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Figure 4. 

Label wording example seen on a pesticide label.


Credit:

CDMS Agrochemical Database, http://www.cdms.net/LabelsMsds/LMDefault.aspx?t=


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Impact of Rainfastness on Pesticide Performance

Rainfall can adversely affect a pesticide application by (1) directly washing the pesticide away or physically removing it, (2) diluting the product to a less effective form, (3) redistributing the active ingredient, or (4) extracting the pesticide from the plant tissue altogether. The overall rainfastness of a pesticide depends on which of these factors or combinations of these factors are occurring, the time between the application and the rainfall event, the amount of rainfall, the formulation of the pesticide, and the properties of the target surface. Research conducted in Michigan suggests that the duration of a precipitation event is relatively unimportant, but the amount of rainfall will significantly impact the insecticide residues remaining on the fruit and leaves of the plant (Table 1) (Wise 2010). Removal of pesticides is greatest when rainfall occurs within 24 hours after application (McDowell et al. 1985).

Table 1. 

Insecticide rainfastness ratings.1

Insecticide class

Rainfastness ≤ 0.5 inch

Rainfastness ≤ 1.0 inch

Rainfastness ≤ 2.0 inch

Fruit

Leaves

Fruit

Leaves

Fruit

Leaves

Organophosphates

L2

M

L

M

L

L

Pyrethroids

M

M

L

M

L

L

Carbamates

M

M

L

M

L

L

Insect growth regulators

M

H

ND

ND

ND

ND

Neonicotinoids

M, S

H, S

L, S

L, S

L, S

L, S

Spinosyns

H

H

H

M

M

L

Diamides

H

H

H

M

M

L

Avermectins

M, S

H, S

L, S

M, S

L

L

1 Source: 2010 Michigan Fruit Management Guide E-154 (Wise 2010).

2 H – Highly rainfast (≤ 30% residue wash-off), M – moderately rainfast (≤ 50% residue wash-off), L – low rainfast (≤ 70% residue wash-off), S systemic residues remain within plant tissue, ND – no data available.

While it is important to know the rainfastness of a pesticide when considering re-application following a rainfall event, the target pest’s biology, behavior, and threat to the crop must also be considered. For example, a pesticide may be highly susceptible to wash-off, but the pest may be highly sensitive to the active compound, and adequate residues remain on the crop for protection. Also, the potential for wash-off can be different for foliar, fruit, or soil-applied compounds.

Effects of Formulation on Rainfastness

The formulation of a pesticide is the mixture of active ingredients with other inert ingredients, and it has a significant effect on the rainfastness qualities of the product. Inert ingredients are added for ease of applicability and safety and to improve the accuracy and effectiveness of the pesticide. Solvents, wetting agents, stickers, powders, and granules can be added to active ingredients to yield a more durable and effective product. Some modern pesticides are formulated for slow release. A single pesticide can have many formulations, so the best formulation for each job overall should be considered.

Dusts and wettable powders are more susceptible to wash-off than emulsion formulations of pesticides (Ebeling 1963). Dusts are finely ground mixtures of the active ingredient with clay, talc, or other such materials, and they usually contain a low percentage of active ingredients. This would allow rain to easily wash off the active compound. Wettable powders (W or WP) are similar to dusts, but contain a wetting and dispersing agent. Wettable powders have a more concentrated active ingredient than dusts, but are still generally prone to wash-off. For emulsifiable concentrates (E or EC), the active ingredient is dissolved in an oil or a solvent, and then an emulsifier is added so that it can be mixed with water for application. Emulsifiable concentrates and wettable powders are the most commonly used formulations. Biopesticides are generally not as rainfast as modern conventional products.

Adjuvants to Improve Rainfastness

Adjuvants that increase absorption of the product into plant tissues can be added to increase the rainfastness and overall performance of a pesticide. Adjuvants can either be included in the formulation or added to the spray tank before application. Adjuvants to enhance rainfastness of pesticides can include surfactants, oils, deposition agents, and thickeners. In particular, organosilicone surfactants are commonly used to improve rainfastness, reduce surface tension, and enhance spreading ability (Figure 5). A simulated rainfall study showed that several latex-based adjuvants improved rainfastness of chlorpyrifos, an organophosphate insecticide, when it was applied in its emulsifiable concentrate formulation (Thacker and Young 1999). Some products’ labels will state to use an adjuvant to improve the rainfastness characteristics.

Figure 5. 

Surfactants increase spreading a pesticide evenly over a leaf.


Credit:

National Pesticide Applicator Certification Core Manual, http://www.nasda.org/workersafety/


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Conclusions

Always consult the product’s label for information if there is any question regarding rainfastness of a pesticide. If the label states a specific length of time is required following the application for rainfastness to occur, never make an application if a rainfall event is scheduled to occur within that timeframe. If no such specific information exists on the label, or the information is stated in vague terms, use common sense. For such products, don’t make foliar applications if a rainfall event is forecasted within the next 24 hours.

References and Additional Information

Ebeling, W. 1963. “Analysis of the Basic Processes Involved in Deposition, Degradation, Persistence and Effectiveness of Pesticides.” Residue Reviews 3:35-163.

Fishel, F.M. 2010. Pesticide Formulations. PI231. Gainesville: University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pi231.

McDowell, L.L., G.H. Willis, S. Smith, and L.M. Southwick. 1985. “Insecticide Runoff from Cotton Plants as a Function of Time between Application and Rainfall.” Trans Amer Soc Agric Eng 28:1896-1900.

Thacker, J.R.M., and R.D.F. Young. 1999. “The Effects of Six Adjuvants on the Rainfastness of Chlorpyrifos Formulated as an Emulsifiable Concentrate.” Pesticide Science 55:197-218. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/(SICI)1096-9063(199902)55:2%3C198::AID-PS867%3E3.0.CO;2-R/pdf.

Wise, J. 2010. “Rainfast Characteristics of Insecticides.” Crop Advisory Team Alert: 2-4. Michigan State University.http://msue.anr.msu.edu/news/rainfast_characteristics_of_insecticides[15 November 2012].

Footnotes

1.

This document is PI238, one of a series of the Pesticide Information Office, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. Original publication date August 2011. Visit the EDIS website at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu.

2.

Bonnie Wells, graduate student, Doctor of Plant Medicine program, and F.M. Fishel, professor, Agronomy Department, and director, Pesticide Information Office; Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611.

The use of trade names in this publication is solely for the purpose of providing specific information. UF/IFAS does not guarantee or warranty the products named, and references to them in this publication do not signify our approval to the exclusion of other products of suitable composition. Use pesticides safely. Read and follow directions on the manufacturer's label.


The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.