Using Pesticides in Ontario
Some of the information in this generic chapter may not apply to all crops.
Table of Contents
The information in this chapter is updated regularly. For up-to-date information, visit ontario.ca/usingpesticides. Some of the information in this generic chapter may not apply to all crops.
Read the label before use.
Before a pesticide can be sold or used in Ontario, it must be registered under the federal Pest Control Products Act (PCP Act) and be classified under the provincial Pesticides Act. The Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) of Health Canada registers pesticides for use in Canada following an evaluation of scientific data to ensure that the product has value. It also ensures that any human health and environmental risks associated with its proposed uses are acceptable.
The PMRA re-evaluates registered pesticides to determine whether today's health and environmental protection standards are still met when the pesticide is used according to the label. Outcomes of a re-evaluation can be:
The pesticide label is a legal document. Follow all label directions. Labels for all registered pesticides are under "Search Pesticide Labels" on the Government of Canada website. Ensure you have the most current label and are aware of any re-evaluation decisions.
The Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) is responsible for regulating the sale, use, transportation, storage and disposal of pesticides in Ontario. Ontario regulates pesticides by placing appropriate education, licensing and/or permit requirements on their use, under the Pesticides Act and Regulation 63/09. All pesticides must be used in accordance with requirements under the Pesticides Act and Regulation 63/09, which are available on the e-laws website at ontario.ca or by calling ServiceOntario at 1-800-668-9938 or 416-326-5300.
Before a federally registered pesticide can be sold or used in Ontario, it must be classified under the provincial Pesticides Act. The Ontario pesticide classification system consists of 12 classes. Ontario's Pesticides Advisory Committee (OPAC) is responsible for assessing new pesticide products and recommending to the MOECC the classification of these products. Pesticide products are classified on the basis of their toxicity, environmental and health hazard, persistence of the active ingredient or its metabolites, concentration, usage, federal class designation (e.g., domestic, commercial, restricted) and registration status. The provincial classification system provides the basis for regulating the distribution, availability and use of pesticide products in Ontario. Once approved by the MOECC, classified products are posted on the MOECC website.
Certified Farmers and Their Assistants
Growers must be certified through the Grower Pesticide Safety Course in order to buy and use Class 2 and 3 pesticides on their farms. They do not require this certification to buy and use Class 4, 5, 6 or 7 pesticides, however, a grower needs to provide his/her Farm Business Registration Number or a signed "Farmer Self Declaration to Enable Purchase of a Class 4 Pesticide" form to the vendor when buying Class 4 pesticides. For information about certification for growers and training for assistants to growers, visit the Ontario Pesticide Education Program website or call 1-800-652-8573.
Class 12 Requirements for Growers
Starting on July 1, 2015, new requirements were phased in for growers who plan to purchase or plant neonicotinoid-treated corn (silage or grain) or soybean seed in Ontario. For more information on the training and reporting requirements for growers, visit the MOECC website at ontario.ca/pesticides, then click on "Neonicotinoid regulations."
Commercial Applicators (Exterminators) and Their Assisting Technicians
For more information about exterminator licensing and technician training, visit:
Exception Uses Under the Cosmetic Pesticide Ban
Pesticides listed in this publication are meant for Exception Uses (e.g. agriculture) under the Cosmetic Pesticide Ban unless the active ingredient is listed under Class 11 pesticides in Ontario Regulation 63/09.
For information about requirements under the Pesticides Act and Regulation 63/09, for golf courses and other excepted uses for turfgrass, including mandatory golf course IPM accreditation, go to ontario.ca and search for:
For more information about requirements in the Pesticides Act and Regulation 63/09 for the exception regarding the use of pesticides to maintain the health of trees, go to ontario.ca and search for:
For more information about pesticide regulations, certification and licensing, see:
When you decide to use a pesticide, choose the most appropriate formulation and application method for your situation. Use only properly calibrated sprayer equipment. Choose less toxic and less volatile alternatives when possible. Take all possible precautions to prevent the exposure of people and non-target organisms to the pesticide. Read the most current pesticide label thoroughly before application. The label provides important information, such as:
For more information on hazards, consult the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) or contact the manufacturer.
For more information on pesticide application, see:
Restricted Entry Interval (REI) is the period of time after a pesticide has been applied that agricultural workers or anyone else must not do hand labour tasks in treated areas. The REI allows the pesticide residues and vapours to dissipate to safe levels for work to be done.
An REI can range from 1 hr to several days. A pesticide label may state different REIs that are specific to a crop and post-application task (e.g., scouting, harvesting). If the REI is not stated on a label for agricultural crops, use a 12-hr REI. For golf courses and residential turf applications, the spray solution must be dry before entry can occur.
Hand labour tasks involve substantial worker contact with treated surfaces such as plants, plant parts or soil. Examples of these activities include planting, harvesting, pruning, detasseling, thinning, weeding, scouting, topping, sucker removal, mowing, roguing and packing produce into containers in the field or greenhouse. You can only do these tasks after the REI has passed. Hand labour generally does not include operating, moving or repairing irrigation or water equipment, except for hand-set irrigation.
A Certified Farmer or Licensed Commercial Applicator (i.e., a holder of the appropriate Exterminator License, such as an Agriculture Exterminator Licence or a Greenhouse/Interior Plant Exterminator Licence) may need to re-enter a treated area to do short-term tasks before the end of the REI. In these cases, the Certified Farmer or Licensed Commercial Applicator may re-enter 4 hr after the application wearing a NIOSH-approved respirator and any other protective clothing (PC) and the personal protective equipment stated on the label for mixing and loading. This Certified Farmer or Licensed Commercial Applicator (exterminator) must not be in the treated area during the REI for more than a total of 1 hr in any 24-hr period.
See Figure 1 for an example of a 24-hr REI on a pesticide label.
Figure 1. Example of a 24-hr REI on a pesticide label. (text version)
Certified Farmers and Licensed Commercial Applicators should plan pesticide applications around work tasks so that no one needs to re-enter treated areas before the restricted entry interval has passed.
These intervals state the minimum time that must pass between the last pesticide application and the harvesting of the crop or the grazing and cutting of the crop for livestock feed. If you harvest a crop before the pre-harvest interval (PHI) has passed, there may be pesticide residues in excess of the maximum residue limits (MRLs) set by PMRA.
"Up to the day of harvest" means the same as 0 days PHI; however, the REI may be more restrictive (e.g., a 12-hr restricted entry interval) and must be observed for harvesting that occurs on the day of pesticide application.
To avoid exceeding the maximum residue limits,
Buffer zones, or no-spray areas, are areas left untreated to protect an adjacent sensitive area, such as sensitive terrestrial and aquatic habitats. Generally, a buffer zone is the downwind distance separating the point of direct pesticide application from the nearest boundary of a sensitive habitat. For soil fumigation, a buffer zone is an area established around the perimeter of each application block.
Leave a suitable buffer zone between the treatment area and adjacent sensitive area. Buffer zones may vary depending on the method of application (e.g., aerial, field boom, air blast). Check the pesticide labels for buffer zone requirements.
Sensitive terrestrial habitats include hedgerows, grasslands, shelterbelts, windbreaks, forested areas and woodlots.
Sensitive freshwater habitats include lakes, rivers, streams, creeks, reservoirs, marshes, wetlands and ponds.
Health Canada's PMRA has an online spray drift calculator that allows applicators to modify the buffer zones specified on the product label based on weather conditions, the category of the spray equipment and the droplet size. For more information, see the Buffer Zone Calculator at canada.ca.
Setback Distances for Water Bodies
It is an offence under the federal Fisheries Act to introduce into water any material that may be harmful to fish or fish habitat, and under the Species at Risk Act, to impact endangered or threatened fishes and freshwater mussels. To protect these waters, applicators must determine a suitable setback distance between the area to be protected and the area where pesticide treatments are planned (if the setback distance is not specified on the pesticide label). The protected area includes the water body as well as adjacent riparian (riverbank) areas that contribute to fish food and habitat.
According to the British Crop Protection Council (BCPC), 40%-70% of surface water pesticide contamination comes from mixing and filling areas.
Where possible, load or mix pesticides on impermeable surfaces located safely away from watercourses or environmentally sensitive areas. Collect drainage and run-off and dispose of it safely (Your Guide to Using Pesticides, BCPC 2007).
Clean your spray equipment away from wells, ponds, streams and ditches. Apply the diluted rinse water (usually at a ratio of 10:1) to the treatment area (crop), but do not exceed the pesticide rate recommended on the label.
Do not make a direct connection between any water supply (e.g., public supply, wells, watercourse or pond) and a spray tank. Use an anti-backflow device or intermediate system to prevent back-siphoning that could contaminate the water supply.
Immediately contain and clean up any spills to prevent contamination to water sources.
Check the pesticide label for specific instructions on protection of water sources.
For more information on protecting water sources, see ontario.ca/crops:
Honeybees, native bee species and other pollinating insects are important pollinators for many Ontario crops. Insecticides, some of which may negatively affect bees, require careful management to achieve both pollination and insect control. Growers and licensed commercial applicators can protect bees by following these suggestions:
Pesticide drift is the aerial movement and unintentional deposit of pesticide outside the target area. Drift results in wasted product and may compromise crop protection and also may adversely affect nearby sensitive environmental areas, crops and wildlife. The following strategies can help reduce the risk of pesticide drift:
Temperature inversions create problems for spray applicators because pesticide spray can:
Field air temperatures are often very different from local or regional forecasts, so the most reliable method of detecting inversion conditions is to measure temperatures at, and several metres above, the ground. Spray applicators can recognize a temperature inversion when:
Temperature inversions start to form 3 hr prior to sunset, become stronger as the sun sets and continue until sunrise when the surface warms and air mixing begins. If you suspect there's an inversion, don't spray. Often, warnings for the risk of inversions are stated right on the product label.
For more information about spray drift, see:
Never re-use empty containers.
The Ontario Empty Pesticide Container Recycling Program, an industry-led program, is available free of charge to growers and commercial applicators. Through this program, you can return triple-rinsed or pressure-rinsed plastic pesticide and fertilizer containers up to 23 L to container collection depots located throughout the province. Remove the cap and booklet from the pesticide container before recycling. To locate the closest container collection depot, visit CleanFARMS, call your local dealer, or contact CleanFARMS at 416-622-4460 (toll-free at 1-877-622-4460) or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Growers and commercial applicators should return pesticide containers that are greater than 23 L in size to the point of sale or to the manufacturer for disposal. Contact your local dealer for details on disposal of these containers, or contact CleanFARMS at 416-622-4460 (toll-free at 1-877-622-4460) or email@example.com.
Empty Seed and Pesticide Bags
Growers can return their empty seed and pesticide bags to select retail locations. Contact your local dealer for details on disposal of these empty seed and pesticide bags, or contact CleanFARMS at 416-622-4460 (toll-free at 1-877-622-4460) or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The best approach is to plan the spray job accurately to avoid creating a surplus.
When this is unavoidable, dispose of excess spray mix by spraying it on other crops that require an application of this pesticide. Before spraying, check the label to make sure the pesticide is registered for use on that other crop.
If you cannot find another allowable crop to spray, then dilute the remaining spray mix by adding 10 parts of water for each 1 part of spray mix. The diluted solution can be safely applied to the original treated area as long as you do not exceed the pesticide rate recommended on the label. Be sure to check the label for any restrictions about crop rotation, days to harvest or disposal of surplus spray mix.
Never re-spray the treated field with undiluted spray mix. Spraying an area twice at the same pesticide rate will double the labeled pesticide rate. This may cause illegal pesticide residues in the harvested crop or harmful residues in the soil that can cause crop damage.
Be sure to safely dispose of pesticides that you do not need or cannot use. Options for proper disposal include:
Ontario's Pesticides Act and Regulation 63/09 provide details on storage requirements for pesticide storage facilities. As shown in Table 1, the storage requirements that must be followed are dependent on which classes of pesticides you store.
Note: Sufficient precautions are needed in your storage area to prevent the pesticide from entering the natural environment. Ensure your floor drain does not enter the natural environment.
* See ontario.ca
for requirements for warning sign G. (Search for sample warning
signs for pesticide use). These signs can be purchased from your
For more information about storing pesticides, see:
If a pesticide spill causes, or is likely to cause, an adverse effect that is greater than that which would result from the proper use of the pesticide, you must notify the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change Spills Action Centre at 1-800-268-6060 (24-hr a day, 7 days a week) and your municipality.
A spill is defined as a discharge of pollutant that is abnormal in quality or quantity, from or out of a structure, vehicle or other container into the environment. An incident such as an overturned pesticide sprayer that results in the loss of the spray solution to the environment is an example of a spill. A pesticide container that ruptures and leaks its contents is another example of a spill. The discharge or spraying of a pesticide in an unapproved area is also considered a spill.
Before you begin to clean up a spill of any nature, remember to protect yourself against pesticide exposure. Wear the proper protective clothing and personal protective equipment. If the spill occurs inside an enclosed area (e.g., a pesticide storage area or a vehicle during transport), ventilate the area first. Once you have protected yourself and removed other persons or animals from the spill site, take additional measures to stop the spill at the source and prevent it from spreading and/or contaminating watercourses. Specific precautions, emergency contact information and first aid procedures may be found on the label.
For minor spills, it may be possible to rectify the problem:
For major spills, it is essential to stop the spill from spreading.
The clean-up guidelines above may not be appropriate for all spill situations. Once you have contained the spill, follow directions from the manufacturer and regulatory authorities on cleaning the contaminated area.
Some of the information contained in this chapter is not authoritative. It is derived from the Pesticides Act, Ontario Regulation 63/09 and the federal Pest Control Products Act, Fisheries Act and Species at Risk Act and is for informational purposes only. Efforts have been made to make it as accurate as possible, but in the event of a conflict, inconsistency or error, the requirements set out in the referenced legislation take precedence. For specific legal details, please visit ontario.ca/laws (for Ontario legislation) and www.laws.justice.gc.ca (for federal legislation) and consult your lawyer if you have questions about your legal obligations.
For information on preventing spills, see:
For pesticide poisonings and pesticide injuries, call:
Poison Information Centre: 1-800-268-9017
For more information: