South Carolina Approves Pesticide Use in Hemp Farming

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CLEMSON, S.C. Hemp farmers in South Carolina have received some clarification when it comes to hemp cultivation.

The South Carolina Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) has approved a list of pesticides that can be used on hemp. The issue was considered to be a significant obstacle for hemp farmers in South Carolina.

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“We don’t want to be in a conundrum where we have growers who have no pesticides to use,” said Tim Drake, DPR state programs manager. “We’re already seeing samples of young hemp plants with cutworm damage. These are expensive plants. When you’re paying $4 for a plant you can’t afford to lose too many of them.”

The DPR has approved chemicals already in use in Washington state where hemp farming is a bit further along. All approved pesticides for hemp farming in South Carolina are classified as 25(b) under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act. The Environmental Protection Agency considers 25(b) pesticides to carry minimal risk.

Not all pesticides on the DPR list have been registered for use in South Carolina, meaning farmers must be careful. Farmers may check the DPR website to find out which approved pesticides have already been registered.

“Before any pesticide on this list is used in South Carolina, the grower must first make sure it is registered for use in the state,” Drake said. “Pesticide dealers also must ensure that any pesticide on this list is registered in the state before making it available for wholesale or retail purchase by growers.”

South Carolina’s current list will only be used by farmers until federal guidelines are released. The U.S. Department of Agriculture should be releasing hemp production regulations later this year.

Katie Moore, a Clemson Extension associate with the university’s Pesticide Safety Education Program, wants farmers to understand the importance of using only approved pesticides. 

“There are a lot of misconceptions,” Moore said. “I think many people are under the impression that organic pesticides can be used on hemp. Just because it is organic doesn’t mean it is allowed. It must be labeled for herb crops. You need to read and follow the label.”

According to Drake, hemp plants are particularly vulnerable to ill effects from inappropriate pesticide use. 

“Cannabis plants absorb almost anything put on them,” Drake said. “Because the plants have a tendency to take up the chemicals they are exposed to, it’s important to err on the side of caution.”

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