Think cultivations as much as spraying techniques this autumn, pesticide users are being urged.

After good progress in reducing the amount of residual herbicides such as isoproturon reaching watercourses since the mid-1990s, heavy rain last November on already saturated soils drove levels in many rivers well above acceptable limits, admits Voluntary Initiative manager Patrick Goldsworthy.

“We’d had a wet harvest, and the continuing wet autumn caught us out.”

So this season renewed effort has been put into reminding farmers, through their agronomists, about how correct soil management can help keep chemicals out of water.

Detailed briefing notes and access to a Powerpoint presentation* to help relay best advice have been sent to distributors and independent agronomists nationwide, says Mr Goldsworthy.

“Some people forget, perhaps, that tramlines can make wonderful drains.”

The key reminder is that poor soil management can allow pesticides and sediments to get into watercourses.

Every year England and Wales lose an estimated 2.2m tonnes of arable topsoil containing nutrients and pesticides a year through erosion – the equivalent of a 1cm layer.

Potentially it all ends up in water, warns Vic Jordan of AAE Bioservices/SMI, joint presentation author.

“We don’t think people fully realise the full implications of what cultivations can do.”
andrew.blake@rbi.co.uk

*Can be downloaded from the library section of the VI web-site www.voluntaryinitiative.org.uk