1 August 1997

Additional paperwork is growers main concern

FEAR of more paperwork is the main reaction of growers to the prospect of having to implement LERAP when assessing the buffer zone needs of pesticides.

"There are quite a few farmers not very happy about it," says James Lunn, NFU sub-regional vice-chairman for the Boston, Lincs area. "But it does bring in some flexibility which we havent had in the past."

Rigid 6m restrictions severely limit the former Cereal Grower of the Years choice of products, especially fungicides, at Westville Farm, Frithville. There are plenty of ditches on the fenland farm.

"There is not a lot you can spray within 6m, but it is not practical to shut off 6m of the sprayer boom and leave the crop unsprayed," he explains. Key products like Opus (epoxiconazole) and the newer Amistar (azoxystrobin) cannot be applied that close to water, he notes. "So I tend to use a less effective tank mix on the headlands dropping out things like chlorothalonil which cant be used there."

Intensive vegetable growers on smaller fields to the south of the farm are much more affected as supermarket pressure for blemish-free produce grows, says Mr Lunn. "If the restrictions were observed to the letter of the law much of their land would become uncroppable."

His key complaint about the new measures concerns a proposal to replace the phrase "buffer zones" with "no-spray zones". "We think that is storing up trouble. As a description it is too rigid. We have been pushing hard for them to be called "restricted areas".

Much depends on how LERAP procedures are implemented and whether the issue of dry ditches is resolved, says former farmers weekly barometer grower and PSD working party member David Brightman.

Spraying will inevitably become more complicated, he says. "But the 6m buffer zone is so unpopular we had to find some way of mitigating it. The HSE is already pursuing prosecutions in Essex and Lincs." One ADAS report suggests buffer zones have proved a "disaster" with unsprayed cereals dying off and untreated potatoes smothered in blight, he adds.

"But even if the proposals are accepted it will take a long time to work them up into a practical system," he warns.