Tougher rules on spraying close to watercourses are being introduced, with buffer zones of up to 20m being stipulated for some pesticides.

The new rules apply to relatively few products, with the agrochemical industry saying this move means farmers will still have access to pesticides which could have been restricted.

Some 23 products are listed by the Chemicals Regulation Directorate, including the insecticide deltamethrin, some pendimethalin herbicide products and potato blight fungicides.

“Without these bigger buffer zones, farmers would have lost access to these products,” says Janet Williams, Bayer CropScience’s regulatory affairs manager.

This brings Britain into line with buffer zone rules in the rest of the European Union and so will not penalise British farmers by restricting the use of these products.

She advises growers to read agrochemical product labels carefully and be aware the same pesticide could have different buffer zones requirements for different crops.

The new buffer zone scheme was introduced in November 2011, but it is only now that some products with the wider buffer zones of over 5m are reaching the market.

Previously, buffer zones of up to 5m around watercourses were stipulated for some pesticides, so the move to the wider buffers will extend the life of existing products and look to cut pesticide levels in drainage ditches and streams.

The Voluntary Initiative (VI), a farm industry body backed by the NFU and the Crop Protection Association (CPA), welcomed the move as it would help farmers and the countryside.

“The new wider aquatic buffer zones are good news for growers and the environment as they ensure access to new and existing products and are important for protecting aquatic life,” says VI manager Patrick Goldsworthy.

He advises growers to consult their agronomists on which products to use near watercourses, then read the small print on labels and keep spraying records when using the wider buffer zones.

Industry figures says the new rules could help pesticides coming on to the market that might not get approval within the old maximum 5m buffer zone scheme.

“UK farmers will benefit from innovative products as well as established chemistry that may otherwise have failed to gain or retain their approval for use,” says Anne Buckenham, director of policy at the CPA.

She points out the wider buffer zones apply to just a few products currently, but reiterated farmers and sprayer operators need to read labels carefully this season.

Mrs Williams says the group’s deltamethrin-based Decis range of insecticide products now have an aquatic buffer zone of 7m.

“Unless we have the 7m buffer zone, the product could have had its licence revoked,” she added.

More on this topic

A full list of the products that have the new aquatic buffer zone requirements on the label is published by the Chemicals Regulation Directorate: