Don’t get caught trying to play catch up this year when it comes to pasture management. Think about setting your pasture up for a successful spring and summer. The best first step is the all-important soil sample. Though a large portion of agricultural operations choose to soil test in the fall, it is never too late to test. Testing your soil through your local Extension office will yield a plethora of information that can be immediately put to work to improve your pastures. Most notably is the soil pH and liming recommendation. Lime will raise the soil pH to desirable levels to allow pasture forage to efficiently utilize nutrients in the soil. Without the proper pH, the process of nutrient uptake is hindered. Once you have your soil pH taken care of, you can turn your attention to green-up.

Spring undoubtedly starts a new phase in pasture management. It is the time of year that brings new growth and new life. As wonderful as it sounds, not all new life in a pasture is welcome. Many warm-season weeds like to start their new journey of life beginning in the spring. This is why early spring is such a vital time for those who maintain pastures. To keep pesky weeds at bay such as the infamous pasture bully, foxtail, utilizing pre-emergent herbicides is a useful tool in producer’s tool box.

Pre-emergent is applied before weeds are visible, so it can be easy to miss the timing or think of this control method as frivolous. Believe me, this is not a step you want to skip! Weeds are easier to control before they emerge. If you wait until they are visible, you are already fighting from behind. While some pre-emergence are available to all consumers, some pesticides are specifically labeled for those with special licenses. Don’t worry, it isn’t as scary as it sounds. A private applicator’s license is intended for individuals who produce an agricultural commodity, such as commercial horse farms, and wish to utilize restricted use pesticides. A license such as this allows producers to utilize a wider array of chemicals to control and maintain their pastures.

This sounds pretty good, but now what do you do? You need to start by completing the Private Applicator training program through the Georgia Professional Certifications storefront on the UGA Marketplace. You can purchase the online course for $25 and will subsequently receive an email with instructions from Dr. Mickey Taylor. The online course has quizzes and multiple modules that have to be passed in order to progress until the certificate is available at the end. Reattempts are allowed, so there is no reason for test anxiety. Dr. Taylor estimates that it takes novice farmers approximately 4-5 hours to complete the course. Take your printed certificate, license application and driver’s license to your local Extension office. Your local Extension Agent will take care of the remainder of the process for you. A license will come to you through the mail in approximately one month.

A Private Applicators License does come with extra responsibility and things to consider:

  • The initial license is good for five years.
  • Three recertification hours are needed within the five-year timeframe to keep the license valid.
  •  If enough recertification hours are obtained, the license will roll over for another five years.
  • Recertification hours are available year-round through numerous Extension events including webinars, so these are not elusive or difficult to earn.
  • Private applicators are not allowed to receive compensation for services. This license is for applying for your operation or supervising on your operation, not for applying herbicide for the lawn down the street.  
  • The label is the law! Be sure to always follow the label on all pesticides.

Yes, there are many things to consider before diving into this endeavor, and it isn’t right for every pasture manager. If you have any questions about obtaining a Private Applicators License or wonder if this might be the right course of action for you, do not hesitate to contact your local Extension Agent. We are here to help you! While obtaining a license might not be for everyone, making a pasture management plan to prevent weeds most certainly is.

Private Applicators | Pesticide Safety Education (

Brooklyne Wassel, Pike County Extension Coordinator