Assessing Pesticide Spray Drift Damage on Tobacco


    Assessing spray drift damage from growth regulator chemicals and other pesticides that can cause damage to a tobacco crop can be challenging.  Often a producer and a local farm supply dealer or other farmer that you know personally and have to live with are involved.   While there may be reason why you would favor one over the other, remember that this could go to court.  It is better to give both sides a realistic idea of their legal rights.  

    The producers often think they should get paid for the eventual worth of the crop.  Example:  One acre is damage from a spray drift of 2,4-D.  The producer generally makes 3000 lb per acre and expects to get $1.95 per pound average for his crop this year and, therefore, a settlement of  $5850.  Unfortunately a court of law seldom sees it the same way.   Usually, if the crop is a total loss, the producer is entitled to the cost of production to date, not the potential earnings.  This may not seem fair, but neither is it fair for the person who sprayed near by to pay for cutting, housing, and stripping labor that never occurs.

    What constitutes a complete loss?  The crop has to be totally or at least substantially non-salvageable.  That could mean damaged beyond hope or with unacceptable residue.  Many think that the form MQ-38, where the producer certifies that he has used only EPA approved chemicals labeled for tobacco, would prevent the producer from selling the tobacco.  This is not the case.  The producer is only certifying to his own actions, not to a second party who may have sprayed a chemical not labeled for tobacco near his crop.  However, pesticide residue can prevent the tobacco from being sold if it surpasses legal residue limits for the chemical involved.  How can you determine pesticide residue levels?  Either party may have a sample analyzed or the Division of Pesticides, if contacted, may analyze a sample.  This, however, may help or hurt either parties case, but is a good solution.  Growth regulator or other symptoms do not mean that residue can be detected or that it will exceed legal limits.  A hooded leaf caused by a growth regulator like Dicamba, that is obvious while the plant is growing, becomes almost non-detectable at the market.

What should the producer who finds crop damage do?  Contact should be made with the responsible persons .  A quick settlement may be in the producers best interest.  Seldom is the expected damage as bad as it first appears and residue levels tend to decline with time.  Tobacco can compensate for some damage.  The producer must continue to treat the crop as a normal crop, spraying for insects and disease, topping when appropriate, and even harvesting when it is time regardless of the condition or appearance of the crop.  Failure to do so can prompt a charge by the defense that the main damage was due to crop neglect or abandonment.  Never destroy the crop.    Doing so destroys the evidence and, maybe, any hope of recovering some loss.


Kentucky Department of Agriculture
Division of Pesticide Regulation
Agricultural Branch, Manager - Ken Franks
100 Fair Oaks Lane Floor 5
Frankfort, KY 40601
Phone (502) 564-7274

Pesticide Residue Labs                                

Waters Agricultural Laboratories, Inc.
2101 Calhoun Rd
Hwy 81
Owensboro, KY  42301

PTRL East, Inc.
3945 Simpson Lane
Richmond, Kentucky 40475
Telephone: (859) 624-8111
Telefax: (859) 624-3566

McCoy & McCoy Laboratories, Inc.
Madisonville, KY (Corporate Headquarters)
P.O. Box 907
85 E. Noel Avenue
Madisonville, KY 42431
Telephone: (270) 821-7375
Fax: (270) 821-5673

Southern Testing & Research Laboratories, Inc
3809 Airport Drive
Wilson, North Carolina 27896
Phone: 252-237-4175 Fax: 252-237-934