12 March 1999

Buffer zones set for big shake-up ready for spring

By Andrew Blake

FARMERS could be allowed to ditch current spray buffer zones and move to a more flexible approach by early April at the latest.

New rules to keep certain pesticides out of water will allow spraying within as little as 1m of some watercourses. But growers will be required to conduct a Local Environmental Risk Assessment for Pesticides and record the results in each case.

Draft regulations show LERAPs will be based on three factors – watercourse size, pesticide dose and spraying equipment.

Under the new arrangements buffer zones will be measured from the top of watercourse banks rather than, as now, from the waters edge. The standard buffer zone will be 5m instead of 6m with reductions down to 1m depending on dose and watercourse width.

Not all pesticides with buffer zones will be LERAP-eligible. Growers applying organophosphate or synthetic pyrethroid insecticides (Category A products) will have to stick to the new standard 5m buffer zone.

All other products (Category B) with 5m buffer zone requirements will qualify for a LERAP. Some products currently ineligible could qualify in future, the draft rules note.

In general the lower the pesticide dose the closer the spray can be applied to the watercourse. A "worst case" approach will have to be adopted for tank mixes.

Using low drift spraying tackle can have a significant benefit, the new rules acknowledge. Initially all spray equipment will be graded as standard. But a new one-to-three star rating system permitting further buffer zone cuts is expected to come into force as manufacturers apply to have their equipment drift assessed. Three-star status could allow buffers to be reduced to 1m irrespective of watercourse width or pesticide dose.

NEW SCHEME

&#8226 Spraying closer to water.

&#8226 Watercourse, dose & tackle to be taken into account.

&#8226 New buffer zone measuring.

&#8226 New 1m dry ditch zone.

Buffer zones for standard sprayer

Watercourse Application dose

Full Three-quarter Half Quarter

< 3m wide 5m 4m 2m 1m

3-6m 3m 2m 1m 1m

> 6m 2m 1m 1m 1m

Dry ditch 1m 1m 1m 1m

LERAP comments

&#8226 Chris Wise, pesticides specialist, NFU: Broad welcome for scope to cut commercial impact of buffer zones. Concern remains over extra management and recording. Product bans could follow if industry fails to respond.

&#8226 Rosalind Cecil, Billericay Farm Services, former chairman of ground spraying sector of National Association of Agricultural Contractors: Extra expense of star-rating equipment unwelcome. Company supplies five different bubble jet nozzles – £2800 to test each one.

&#8226 Peter Taylor, chairman, Association of Independent Crop Consultants: Still unconvinced. Two key factors ignored – wind direction and margin vegetation. Better to keep 6m zones and allow as set-aside?

&#8226 Jim Orson, director, Morley Research Centre: most practical scheme that can be developed within statutory requirements.