EVEN WHEN sprays are only applied using a knapsack sprayer, livestock producers are still being urged to join the National Register of Sprayer Operators (NRoSO) and follow Voluntary Initiative guidelines.

Uptake of the Voluntary Initiative, to promote best practice in crop chemical use and avoid polluting water courses, by major crop growers has been good, the VI”s Patrick Goldsworthy told Smithfield visitors. But many producers have yet to join, particularly in the livestock sector.

“Grassland producers often have the impression they don”t use any sprays. But certain herbicides found in water are those commonly used on dairy farms, particularly in the north-east.

“The pesticide tax remains a threat. However, government could decide to stop producers from buying products unless they have proof of a professional approach.”

He also reported the VI was producing posters for retailing outlets using the slogan These products are only for professionals”.

He hopes suppliers may soon refuse to sell herbicides to producers without NRoSO registration, under a code of practice.

“Many livestock producers are already moving away from spraying crops themselves. A DEFRA survey found the number of spraying machines has reduced 12% in the last three years.

“A more detailed survey under way is already finding more farms are using contractors.” But livestock producers do have a responsibility to check their contractor is NRoSO registered, he pointed out.

His other concern is that people are using knapsack sprayers without thinking about what they are doing.

“There is often no sophisticated area for filling and washing these out. Users need to think through what they are doing and where they are disposing of washings.

“The sprayer may not need a test, but knapsack users should follow the checklist available through the VI and sign up to the NRoSO to ensure they can continue to buy products.” It costs 15 a year to join.

“Joining NRoSO will ensure they get in the training loop. Rules are changing and the environment matters more than it used to,” Mr Goldsworthy added.