Crop expert rejects spray drift scheme
By Andrew Blake
PLANS to allow growers to spray nearer watercourses have been condemned as impractical by a leading agronomist.
The Pesticides Safety Directorate is believed to be close to announcing a new scheme giving sprayer operators more flexibility when working in fields beside open water and dry ditches.
It would let operators evaluate and record specific circumstances allowing them to reduce current strict water protection buffer zones on certain pesticides.
But Peter Taylor, chairman of the Association of Independent Crop Consultants, has slammed plans for Local Environmental Risk Assessments for Pesticides.
“LERAP is a dogs dinner,” said Mr Taylor. “It is a well-meaning attempt to deal with the problems of spray drift, but it is not practical. It is over-bureaucratic.”
He suggested two alternatives. Ideally, but politically unlikely, permanent sown spray buffers should be permitted under set-aside.
These would be narrower than the current minimum of 20m (66ft). Linked with public access to the countryside and wildlife corridors, they would find favour with many growers, he suggested.
Simpler, and more immediately attractive, would be to ban pesticide applications entirely from within 1m (3ft) of dry ditches and 2m (6.5ft) of running water, said Mr Taylor.
“Given some form of compensatory payment I believe it would gain virtually 100% acceptance by farmers overnight.
“The last thing they want is more form filling. You prevent an awful lot of drift just by taking the end of the sprayer boom away from the ditch edge.”
He also suspected that complicated tank mixes meant few growers stuck to the letter of the law on current restrictions. “I expect there is widespread non-compliance. But LERAP doesnt address that practical problem.”