Grassland farmers must wake up to changing pesticide rules

While many farmers who use professional pesticides on grassland are aware of the need to protect water, a significant number remain unaware of the imminent changes in legislation to use and apply such products, according to The Voluntary Initiative (VI).

A survey undertaken by the VI and the Pesticides Forum during summer/autumn 2014 showed that almost 90% of the 355 farmers surveyed were aware that products used to control weeds in grassland can be found in rivers and lakes. Around 70% were aware that under the Sustainable Use Directive regulations ‘Grandfather rights’ for sprayer operators will be ending (from 26 November 2015). Fewer knew that from 26 November 2016 mounted sprayers and applicators will need to be independently tested at least every five years reducing to every three years by 2020

When it comes to meeting the new legislation, some 44% said they would undertake the necessary training and get their sprayer tested. A further 20% said they would turn to a professional contractor to apply products in the future. However 26% were still assessing their options.

“If farmers wish to maintain access to vital grassland weedkillers to control docks, thistles and other grassland weeds they must step up to the mark and ensure they are complying with this new legislation,” says Eblex’s Liz Genever. “With grassland weedkillers regularly being detected in drinking water supplies ensuring professional use in a tested sprayer by a competent operator has to be the way forward.”

The survey showed that nearly 90% of respondents spray grassland every year, although the most commonly-used methods of application were knapsack sprayers used by 38% and boom sprayers 35% of those surveyed.

“Using sprays requires as much professionalism as when treating livestock with veterinary medicines. That means complying with the legislation, the product labels and doing the job carefully. In particular, extra care needs to be taken when filling or washing down the sprayer as these activities increase the risk of spills, splashes and washings reaching water,” says VI Manager Patrick Goldsworthy.

For those only treating broad acres on an occasional basis, the best way forward is to look to professional contractors with tested machines and qualified operators.

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