Statewide training and certification for private pesticide applicators from the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture is now available online to help keep farmers on schedule as the planting season approaches.


Kevin Lawson, Faulkner County extension staff chair, said the decision to make the online training available to first-time applicators is in response to the spread of COVID-19, the novel coronavirus first detected in Arkansas earlier in March.


The training, which is required for licensure through the Arkansas State Plant Board, is available to both experienced applicators seeking recertification and individuals seeking first-time certification, according to a news release.


Online applicator recertification first became available from the Division of Agriculture last year.


“The Cooperative Extension Service, like a lot of things, have had to cancel most or all of our public meetings in the immediate future,” Lawson said.


He said the cancellation of this training could put many farming operations throughout the state in an acute bind, as the weeks the precede spring planting are a key window to applying pre-emergent pesticides.


“This may save a lot of folks’ rear ends,” Lawson said.


To access the online training, visit www.uaex.edu/pat. The cost of the training is $20, which does not include license fees that must be paid to the state. Certification is good for five years, and private applicators may get a one-year or five-year license.


First-time applicators for private farm operations can receive a license from the plant board with proof of the online training. First-time commercial applicators must still complete testing with the state to receive their certification.


According to the Division of Agriculture’s pesticide application training website, to qualify as a private applicator, one “must be involved in the commercial production of agricultural commodities on your own farm or the farm of your employer to qualify as a private applicator. Home gardeners do not qualify for a private applicator license.”


Ples Spradley, extension pesticide assessment specialist for the Division of Agriculture, said the training is formatted as a series of narrated slide shows, with quiz questions embedded in the presentation, which lasts about 2.5 hours.


“You can’t just turn this on and walk away while it plays out,” Spradley said. “You have to be engaged.”


Spradley said more than 300 individuals have participated in the online training so far in 2020. He said the Cooperative Extension Service normally trains between 3,000-4,000 private applicators and more than 1,000 commercial applicators each year.


For online training, visit www.uaex.edu/pat. To learn about extension programs in Arkansas, contact a local Cooperative Extension Service agent, visit www.uaex.edu or follow the agency on Twitter at @UAEX_edu.


The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs to all eligible persons without discrimination.