A new range of pesticide packaging could reduce the time farmers spend on sprayer operations by 25% by being easier to open, empty and rinse out.

That was the conclusion of on-farm testing of BASF’s new Eco Pack, launched this week with cereal fungicides Opus (epoxiconazole) and Tracker (epoxiconazole + boscalid).

The new packs proved popular with the growers taking part in the trials, says Peter Hughes, BASF’s cereal fungicide product manager. “Time savings are of critical importance at busy times of the season, especially when weather is a limiting factor.”

Containers have a wide central opening at the top and a screw cap without a seal that is designed to reduce glugging and spillage.

They have flexible, rotating grips that fit snugly around the fingers and slip-free indented panels down the side of the bottle for easy handling, says Mr Hughes.

The new packs were trialled last year by Richard Peake and 17 other growers from Harlow Agricultural Merchants, using Crystal (flufenacet + pendimethalin).

“The packs are excellent; a big improvement on others in the market,” says Mr Peake.

“The centred opening makes them really easy to handle and much faster to wash out. Plus having no foil seal is just wonderful – it speeds up sprayer filling no end.”

Another key feature of the lightweight pack is that it is made with 25% less plastic than standard packs. BASF calculates that this equates to a 2000t reduction in greenhouse gas emissions each year.

One key factor that makes recycling easy is having the same type of plastic in bottle construction, says Alastair Leake, head of the Allerton Project which runs a pesticides containers recycling scheme for local farmers in Leicestershire.

With this in mind, every part of the Eco Pack is made from polyethylene.

“In terms of shape, polymer, label design and the elimination of the foil cap, this container has it,” says Mr Leake.

Andrew Myatt, last year’s winner of the Syngenta Farm Sprayer Operator of the Year Award, believes Eco Packs will intensify the battle to find better packaging.

“It’s an improvement on their existing can and the milk-bottle shape should make washing out easier,” he says.

BASF plan to continue rolling it out over the coming months with a range of cereal herbicides, including Stomp Aqua (pendimethalin), appearing in the new packs from autumn with most remaining cereal fungicides following suit in 2011.

Watch the video taken at the Allerton Trust, which includes interviews on the industry issues relating to recycling agrochemical containers and more details on the Eco Pack.

• For an in-depth look at how other major agrochemical companies have made improvements to their pesticide packaging, see the current issue of Crops (13 March).