28 November 1997

Spend more to get spray on the crop

MORE money needs spending on application technology and buffer zone legislation must be made more flexible to cope with the on-going problem of off-target spray.

"Most of what is applied as sprays just never gets to the target," says Terry Tooby of the Pesticides Safety Directorate at York. Run-off from plants and drift are the main concerns.

"If manufacturers spent as much on application methods as the millions of £s they spend developing new active ingredients that really would help reduce the risk to the environment," he says.

Not only could that reduce the pressure on existing products, it would also reduce the costly burden of environmental toxicity studies on new products, he adds.

In the meantime buffer zones are essential to separate crops from the environment. Without them more products would have to be withdrawn from use, he stresses.

Recent checks on the buffer zone requirements for the 406 UK products affected confirmed their validity in all cases, he notes.

Ditches and hedges

But, with new buffer zone requirements now out for consultation, Mr Tooby stresses the need for a practical approach. Growers with small fields surrounded by ditches and hedges should be compensated to avoid unfair discrimination, he argues.

"Financial support must be offered. Without it surface waters will be piped and small fields amalgamated. Ive already heard from a group in Yorks which is considering this."

However, a MAFF spokesman said compensation and more flexible rules were highly unlikely.