Understanding Pesticide Labels

The Importance of Statutory Conditions and Fields of Use Within the Law

Everyone who uses pesticides referred to as Plant Protection Products, (PPP) should abide by the Code of Practice for using plant Protection Products 2006 (COP). It has legal status and by following the advice you will be within the law. Both The Food and Environment Protection Act 1985, (FEPA) and the Health and Safety at Work Act, 1974 apply to the use of PPP.

The Importance of the Label

The COP is very specific about the need to follow the label as a whole and comply with maximum dose rates, maximum number of treatments etc.  Labels now carry this statement:


Use of a PPP against the label or the approval automatically results in failure to meet the Statutory Management Requirements under EU rules for farm subsidies and in the amenity sector anyone contravening the label instruction could equally be breaking the Law.

Fields and Conditions of Use

All approved pesticides have fields of use listed on the label. The conditions of use must be followed in order to remain within the law and are listed prominently under the product name eg.


The details are listed below the main heading under CROPS/SITUATIONS. It is not always obvious what these crops/situations are so it is vital to make sure you understand before you use a PPP for a situation which is not included on the label.  These are all defined by Chemicals Regulatory Directorate, (CRD) in the Crop hierarchy (Last revised in 2006) which can be downloaded from the CRD website.

The information is also in the Code of  Practice for using Plant Protection Products on p16,17 table 1

Example of  Fields and Conditions of Use: Roundup ProVantage label



Natural surfaces not intended to bear vegetation, permeable surfaces overlying soil, hard surfaces;
Enclosed waters, land immediately adjacent to aquatic areas, open waters
Amenity vegetation;
Forest nursery, forest (weed control, stump application and chemical thinning);
All edible crops, all non-edible crops (destruction, before sowing/planting). Grassland

CRD Crop Heirarchy Definitions For Amenity Use

Listed here in italics are the relevant areas from the Crop Hierarchy for amenity and industrial users, with explanations of some common misunderstandings.

Plant free areas covers all areas where plants do not normally grow like roads, paths etc, but it doesn’t cover areas between plants like shrub beds.  It may be soil, gravel or hard surface but will be specified:

Plant free areas: situations in this area may include industrial, horticultural/ amenity and agricultural.

Natural surfaces not intended to bear vegetation: Areas of soil or natural outcroppings of rock that are not intended to bear vegetation, including areas such as sterile strips around fields. May include areas to which the public have access. It does not include the land between rows of crops

Permeable surfaces overlying soil: Any man made permeable surface (excluding railway ballast), such as gravel, that overlies soil and is not intended to bear vegetation.

Hard surfaces: Any man made impermeable surface, such as concrete or asphalt and including railway ballast, that is not intended to bear vegetation.

This definition was clarified by CRD to include all types of paving irrespective of gaps being filled with permeable material such as sand.

Railway ballast is a sub-division of hard surfaces because it is man-made but has particular porous properties.

Some residual products can be used on railway ballast but no other hard surface. E.g. flazasulfuron and diflufenican.

Getting these plant-free area definitions correct is particularly important with regard to overall spraying since new rules were introduced in May 2012 which only permit spot treatment of weeds on non-porous hard surfaces.

Products used in Industrial and amenity areas should not be used under the heading ‘Green cover on land not being used for crop production’  because this is under an agricultural heading in the crop hierarchy.

Areas of land with a vegetation cover that have been removed (temporarily or otherwise) from production. For example some types of set aside. Includes fields or non-crop field margins covered by natural regeneration or by a planted green cover crop that will not be harvested. Does NOT include use in industrial crops or inter-row use within a crop (edible or non-edible).


:  This means groups of trees ie woodland in an amenity landscape but not single or small numbers trees or anything classed as ornamental.

Forestry: Groups of trees being grown in their final positions e.g. after planting out from a forest nursery. Trees grown primarily for commercial production, including ancient traditional coppice and farm forestry or from natural regeneration, colonisation or coppicing. Covers all woodland grown for whatever objective, including commercial timber production, amenity and recreation, conservation or landscaping, ancient traditional coppice and farm forestry. This includes restocking of established woodland and new planting on both improved and unimproved land.


Amenity vegetation: Ornamental plantings, shrub beds in parks or roundabouts, individual roadside trees etc.

Amenity vegetation : Any areas of semi-natural or ornamental vegetation, including trees. Also includes areas of bare soil around ornamental plants or intended for ornamental planting. Does NOT include hedgerows around arable fields.

Many glyphosates do not have approval for use in amenity vegetation. Also caution is required when using residual herbicides in shrub beds- only propyzamide, sulfosulfuron, isoxaben and metazachlor can now be legally be used. Use of products containing flazasulfuron or diflufenican in shrub beds for example would be illegal.

Some Industrial & Amenity glyphosate herbicides do not include all of these fields of use and great care is needed when making choices for large scale users who intend to use a single product for different purposes. Many glyphosate products do not include ‘Amenity vegetation’ and others do not include 'Destruction of crops prior to planting' and so should not be used on allotments for example.

Maximum Use Rates, Number of Treatments and Water Volumes

The Maximum individual dose rate is simply the highest dose you can apply at any one time. The maximum individual dose rate will vary according to the particular use e.g you can apply Roundup ProVantage at up to 7.5l/ha on Rhododendron, 4.5l/ha in aquatic situations or 3.75l/ha on plant-free areas.

A maximum number of treatments may be specified under the ‘Maximum number of treatments per year’ column or a Maximum total dose may be given which can be split into any number of treatments.

There is often no limit to the number of times glyphosate products can be applied per year in plant-free areas. The actual frequency required in a good weed control programme will depend on the weed burden and seasonal weather.

Water volumes in which the product can be applied may also be restricted. Instructions will be given on the label e.g. Apply in 80-250l/ha of water. In some cases this can be reduced, but the rules are complicated and often do not apply to knapsack use. (See para 4.6.4 COP).  

Many products are limited to a minimum of 40l/ha water and so are unsuitable for use through conventional CDA equipment. New approvals for Roundup products also allow the use neat through ‘specialised ULV applicators which have drift reducing systems’.

Always read the label carefully & comply with all the label instructions.

Failure to follow label restrictions could result in prosecution.