Effective Herbicide Use Starts With the Label

NOW IS A GOOD TIME to re-familiarize yourself with herbicide labels and expand your understanding of the science and skills required to select, apply, and assess the effectiveness of herbicide treatments.

This first installment of the “Understanding Herbicides” series reminds invasive plant managers that some of the most valuable time spent in invasive plant control with herbicides is the time you take to READ and UNDERSTAND the herbicide label. This small investment of time can help you apply herbicides correctly and effectively.

Pesticides registered for use in the United States must have a label that has been approved by the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The label describes how to use a product so it effectively controls the target plant and is applied correctly. The label also describes how to store the product, how to give first aid, and where to call for help or more information.


  • Understand your legal obligations. Any use of a pesticide inconsistent with the label requirements is prohibited by law. (Pesticide laws and regulations)
  • Labels change! Read the label each time you select and apply any herbicide.
  • Read the label BEFORE PURCHASING the herbicide to determine whether the herbicide is the right product for the job.
  • Read the label BEFORE MIXING the herbicide to determine safe handling procedures, necessary protective equipment for safe handling, what you can mix with the product (compatibility), how much product is required, and proper mixing procedure.
  • Read the label BEFORE APPLYING the herbicide to determine necessary safety precautions, when to apply (including reentry restrictions), where to apply (natural areas, railroads, rights-of-way, noncrop areas, industrial sites and others), how to apply, and restrictions on use.
  • Read the label BEFORE STORING OR DISPOSING of the herbicide and container to determine where and how to store, how to properly clean and dispose of the container, and where and how to dispose of surplus herbicides or their containers.

There are a number of resources designed specifically to help users navigate and interpret herbicide labels.

Product labels are legal documents with language approved by the EPA during the pesticide registration process. To correctly interpret and apply herbicides in compliance with the label, applicators need to understand the terminology used to describe application timing and methods, as well as terms describing the product’s formulation, properties, and classification. If you haven’t done so already, take the quiz (at left) and test your understanding of herbicide labels. If you aren’t happy your score, it may be time to review some of the links provided above!

Becoming familiar with basic terminology associated with herbicide product labels, formulations, and classification systems provides a foundation for understanding how herbicides work, their potential impacts, and how to select and apply herbicides properly. A thorough understanding of herbicides beyond label information, and a working knowledge of herbicide mode of action, application techniques, and application timing can greatly improve effectiveness of herbicide treatments.

Watch for future TechLine articles that take you beyond the label; exploring formulations, herbicide properties, factors influencing herbicide performance, and more.