28 June 2002

Spray operators urged to join national register

By Andrew Swallow

A NATIONAL register of sprayer operators was launched at Sprays and Sprayers earlier this week, one of a host of new measures proposed by the Voluntary Initiative to minimise the environmental impacts of pesticides.

The aim is that by the end of 2003 all 60,500 operators in the UK will be members of the register, demonstrating to employers, the public and the government that they are qualified to apply crop protection products, says the Crop Protection Associations Richard Trow-Smith.

Holding an appropriate pesticide application certificate, or exemption from such under grandfather rights, plus a commitment to undertake Continuous Professional Development is needed to get onto the register.

Operators will need to accum-ulate a set number of CPD points every three years to stay on the register, typically met by a minimum of one days training/year.

The results of the first UK-wide survey into on-farm sprayer practice and seven key recommendations resulting from that were also announced at the event (see right).

While many growers say they check and service their machinery on-farm, the survey highlights concerns that this is inadequate and points out only 23% of sprayers are professionally maintained.

"Some farmers buy a piece of kit and think that is it for life. They dont calibrate or service it. Operators really have to know how to use and maintain their equipment," says Mr Trow-Smith.

Independent testing for all sprayers by 2005 is proposed as a result and use of the AEA checklist for regular in-season checks.

The survey revealed considerable confusion among operators and growers about what is "best practice" and what the environmental risks and priorities are.

"Farmers are bombarded with different information from different agencies. We need to crystalise this into a few key messages so that if growers do them we will succeed in water protection and wildlife conservation. These are the two big pushes government expects us to deliver on."

Food, Farming and Water-ways minister Lord Whitty confirmed that, saying positive results in biodiversity and water quality must be seen soon.

A pesticide tax remains in the governments back pocket as an alternative "effective but crude" policy, he warned. &#42

VOLUNTARYINITIATIVE

&#8226 Industry response to pesticide tax threat.

&#8226 National Register of Sprayer Operators launched.

&#8226 Roadshows on LERAPS and Drift this winter.

&#8226 Sprayer MOTs for all by 2005.

&#8226 Revision of Green Code.

&#8226 Infrequent users targeted.

Lord Whitty presents Farm Sprayer Operator champion Jim Powell with his award, watched by Jan Suter (left) and Stephen Howe (right) of competition partners Syngenta and farmers weekly. Mr Powell and the seven other FSOOTY finalists are the first to be entered onto the new national register of sprayer operators (see story). Turn to p58 for a profile of Mr Powells spraying operation.

PRIORITYAREAS

1 Effective stewardship communication.

2 Sprayer operator training and skills.

3 Checking, servicing and testing sprayers.

4 Improving advisor knowledge and interest in application issues.

5 Increasing farmer knowledge of application issues.

6 Advice for the infrequent user.

7 Further research and analysis of spraying practice.

Survey results back initiative

CSL visited 402 holdings and posted surveys to 374 more, receiving a 100% response to the sprayer practice survey commissioned by the CPA and UKASTA.

Of the 561 operators and 887 machines included in that, 99% of the area they cover is treated according to recommendations made by BASIS qualified advisors. Fully certificated operators spray 65% of the UK arable area with only 22% treated under grandfather rights. The remainder is treated by trained, not certificated operators.

Of the estimated 53,000 sprayers in the UK, those that are less than five years old treat 40% of the UK arable area, 5-10 years old another 40%, 10-20 years old 18% and only 2% by machines over 20 years old.

Sprayers accounting for 29% of the area carry three or more nozzle sets, 40% two sets, and 31% only one set. While holdings accounting for 85% of the arable area are aware of independent tests only 1% had used one.