31 October 1997

No buffer zone change till autumn 98

SPRAY buffer zones to protect water and wildlife are under review.

But changes to the restrictions (see Arable Aug 1) are unlikely until autumn 1998, delegates at an ARIA meeting heard last week.

Real world assessments, as opposed to laboratory estimations, will prevail in future, according to Mark Clook of the Pesticides Safety Directorate. Outlining present restrictions, Mr Clook said they were risk management tools without which some pesticides would not be on the market.

Two three-year R&D projects are now under way to re-examine the effectiveness of current 6m (19.7ft) buffer zones. They are using drift potential data based on German information, which mirrors CSL findings. This shows that although 5% of a sprayers application lands "off target" 1m (3.3ft) from the boom end, only 0.6% makes it as far as 5m (16.4ft) away.

"We need to see if the present restrictions work. Is 6m sufficient, and do other factors, like hedges, play a role? We are definitely moving away from the laboratory to the real world, real fields and real water," said Mr Clook.

Confusion over the definition of a watercourse resurfaced at the meeting. One delegate pointed out that tramlines can carry more water than ditches. Another said he believed the key was whether such features were designed to take water.

Mr Clook maintained a watercourse was anything which may carry water at some part of the year.

NFU pesticides working party member David Brightman said two years had been spent trying to get more buffer zone flexibility. Proposals, based on the concept of LERAP (Local Environmental Risk Assessment for Pesticides), sent to the Advisory Committee on Pesticides were passed to ministers on Apr 15, he noted.

"The new government says it hopes to have a ministerial appointee to see through any changes by autumn 98." &#42

BUFFER ZONES

&#8226 Pesticide management tools which help keep products on the market.

&#8226 6m spray limits under review.

&#8226 Twin research projects.

&#8226 Watercourse confusion.

lChanges unlikely for a year.