Wind, rainy weather and tight schedules for planting and controlling weeds make pesticide applications a challenge for even the most capable and well-trained applicator. As a result, herbicide drift complaints increase during spring.

Now is the time for applicators to focus on application equipment as well as human relations skills, says Joanne Kick-Raack, state coordinator for the Pesticide Education Program, Ohio State University Extension.

"Drift control frequently involves a series of trade-offs," Kick-Raack says. "Each application may involve a different approach to the potential for a drift problem. The applicator must make the effort to reduce drift with each and every application."

She says most drift complaints result because the applicator is in a hurry and makes poor decisions. Pre-planning is key to avoiding drift. Applicators need to evaluate the application site and adjacent land for sensitive areas such as crops, gardens, wells, ponds and other potential problems.

Applicators can make adjustments for these sensitive areas using drift nozzles or drift control agents and spraying at a different time when the wind is more favorable. Buffer zones, or set backs, give an applicator a margin for error.

"Handling drift complaints is not just a technical issue, but a human relations issue," Kick-Raack says. "The first response from the applicator sets the tone for the interaction with the neighbor complaining about drift."

She says the first step in handling a complaint is to respond immediately and in person. It is also crucial for the applicator to really listen to the neighbor.

"People want you to understand the problem they think you caused," Kick-Raack says. The applicator should be prepared to provide information such as herbicide used, the label and the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS).

If someone is concerned about pesticide toxicity, the National Pesticide Toxicity Network has a toll-free number, 800-858-7378, to answer any questions about the pesticide's effects on humans. If plant damage is suspected, the applicator should contact a third party to help evaluate whether the herbicide caused the plant damage.