While many farmers who useprofessional pesticides on grassland are aware of the need to protect water, asignificant number remain unaware of the imminent changes in legislation to useand apply such products, according to The Voluntary Initiative (VI).
A survey undertaken by theVI and the Pesticides Forum during summer/autumn 2014 showed that almost 90% ofthe 355 farmers surveyed were aware that products used to control weeds ingrassland can be found in rivers and lakes. Around 70% were aware that underthe Sustainable Use Directive regulations Grandfather rights for sprayeroperators will be ending (from 26 November 2015). Fewer knew that from 26November 2016 mounted sprayers and applicators will need to be independentlytested at least every five years reducing to every three years by 2020
When it comes to meetingthe new legislation, some 44% said they would undertake the necessary trainingand get their sprayer tested. A further 20% said they would turn to aprofessional contractor to apply products in the future. However 26% were stillassessing their options.
If farmers wish tomaintain access to vital grassland weedkillers to control docks, thistles andother grassland weeds they must step up to the mark and ensure they arecomplying with this new legislation, says Eblexs Liz Genever. With grasslandweedkillers regularly being detected in drinking water supplies ensuringprofessional use in a tested sprayer by a competent operator has to be the wayforward.
The survey showed thatnearly 90% of respondents spray grassland every year, although the mostcommonly-used methods of application were knapsack sprayers used by 38% andboom sprayers 35% of those surveyed.
Using sprays requires asmuch professionalism as when treating livestock with veterinary medicines. Thatmeans complying with the legislation, the product labels and doing the jobcarefully. In particular, extra care needs to be taken when filling or washingdown the sprayer as these activities increase the risk of spills, splashes andwashings reaching water, says VI Manager Patrick Goldsworthy.
For those only treatingbroad acres on an occasional basis, the best way forward is to look toprofessional contractors with tested machines and qualified operators.