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Pesticides

  • By: Ryan E. Galt
  • In: Encyclopedia of Geography
  • Edited by: Barney Warf
  • Subject:General Geography, Earth & Environmental Science

Pesticides are chemical compounds that kill unwanted organisms, typically insects, fungi, plants, and other pests that harm humans or organisms valued by humans, such as crops and domesticated animals. Pesticides are agrochemicals, a category that includes synthetic fertilizers, which are derived from petroleum and other fossil fuels. Pesticide classification systems include those arranged by the target organisms (insecticide, fungicide, herbicide, acaricides, rodenticide, etc.), by chemical origin (“inorganic” pesticides are derived from basic chemical elements such as copper, “organic” or “synthetic” pesticides from fossil fuels, and “biological” pesticide from organisms), by chemical class (organochlorines, organo-phosphates, etc.), and by their effects on nontarget organisms.

Farmers producing horticultural crops began widely using inorganic pesticides for pest management in the late 1800s, while synthetic pesticides were widely adopted in many ...

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