10 May 1996

EAspolicies will follow those established by NRA

Judging in the Ciba Agriculture/farmers weekly Farm Sprayer Operator of the Year competition was recently completed. John Allan relays some views of two of his fellow judges

Sharing opinions… Farm Sprayer Operator of the Year judges (left to right): John Allan, Ciba Agriculture spray specialist Tom Robinson, farm manager Chris de Jong, and Alan Barnden of the Environment Agency.

SINCE April sprayer operators and their bosses have had a new name to conjure with – the Environment Agency. "But as far as spraying is concerned the ongoing policies will be a continuation of those of the NRA," says FSOOTY Judge, Alan Barnden, pesticide adviser at the EA Toxic and Persistent Substances National Centre, Peterborough.

"It needs only 200g of a pesticide to contaminate Londons drinking water for a day," he warns. So a small amount spilt or left in a container can cause a big problem.

Environmental standards are often far more stringent than those for drinking water. Well sited farm storage is, therefore, critical, says Mr Barnden. "Far too many stores are close to water, ditches or drains." Mixing and filling presents another risk. "There are well constructed mixing and washdown pads draining straight into ditches. The facilities and stores are often fine – they are just in the wrong place."

The new EA has the power to serve works notices to prevent pollution. But Mr Barnden hopes these will not be needed. He wants farmers to take advantage of free EA advisory visits aimed at helping to cut water pollution risks.

Last year the British Agrochemicals Association launched the "Think water, keep it clean" slogan. It has Mr Barndens full support.

It highlights the need to:

lMatch purchases to need.

lStore and transport safely.

lSecure good stock rotation.

lEnsure product is measured and mixed with care.

lRinse empty containers thoroughly and keep them in a compound.

lMix no more spray than will be used.

lThoroughly rinse the sprayer tank and pipework after work.

&#8226 Dispose of tank washings safely.

&#8226 Regularly wash the outside of the sprayer away from watercourses.

&#8226 Ensure safe disposal of washings and empty containers.

Before the EA was formed the NRA produced leaflets in co-operation with the BAA and the Fertiliser Manufacturers Association to help. But operators need to absorb as much information as possible, Mr Barnden suggests.

"The Code of Good Agricultural Practice for the Protection of Water has useful and interesting stuff in it but most people do not seem to read it."

More detailed help can be found in the Green Code on The Safe Use of Pesticides on Farms and Holdings. And a new free HSE leaflet, AIS 16, covering farm storage of pesticides is due out in June.