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Pesticide handling

Course: Spraying advice | Last Updates: 7th October 2015

Patrick Goldsworthy, MBE
Independent Consultant
Biography >>

In the field

Filling and washing down in the field tends to be the lowest-cost system, as it uses cropped land to catch any chemicals.

Of course, the washing operation must not result in the overall application rate exceeding that permitted for the crop.

The chosen area should be sited 10m from any surface water, such as a ditch or watercourse, and must not be sited directly over a field drain.

Avoid waterlogged, compacted or frozen soils. The filling location should be changed regularly, to prevent compaction and any risk of residue build-up.

Roads, farm tracks and gateways should also be avoided, as many are close to storm drains and watercourses.

Portable bunds, or spill trays, can be used in the field or the yard. All washings must be returned to the spray tank for spraying out.

A good operator can cut pesticide losses from farmyard filling by 99%.


Lined biobeds are a way of dealing with washings from pesticide filling areas. A mixture of straw, soil and peat-free compost is very effective at retaining and degrading pesticides, with residues being reduced 100,000-fold.

Biobeds need a waste exemption from the Environment Agency and must be lined. They also require management, with the biobed mixture being topped up every year and completely refilled every four to six years.

Biobed construction costs will vary. An existing site modified using farm labour can be completed for less than £1,000, while a new bespoke filling area may cost more than £5,000. It is worth investigating whether the England Catchment Sensitive Farming Delivery Initiative (ECSFDI) offers grants in your catchment.

Biobed checklist

  • Environment Agency approved
  • Located away from watercourse, spring, well or borehole
  • Surface area calculated to allow for rainwater and washings
  • Impermeable liner
  • Irrigation site for biobed liquid
  • Grant availability

Filling in the field is a low-cost system but locations should be changed regularly.


Agencies try to be pragmatic on handling areas.

However, anti-pollution works notices will be issued if there is evidence that on-farm activities are leading to pesticides reaching water.

As well as being designed to protect against spray solution or washings reaching water, a well-designed filling area should also provide the following:

  • Easy access to pesticide storage
  • Waist-high work surface for easy handling and measuring
  • An area for draining, segregating and storing rinsed pesticide containers
  • Clean water storage tank or water supplied via a double-check valve
  • Drip tray or portable bund
  • Spill kit

Avoid the following practices:

  • Filling on hardcore, gravel or compacted soil
  • Filling near farm drains and watercourses
  • Locating it near trip hazards
  • Filling the sprayer from streams and ponds
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