Farmers asked to cap dose rates in VI pilot river catchments

VOLUNTARY INITIATIVE officials have taken action after pilot schemes measuring pesticide levels in river water yielded “disappointing results”.

Farmers in three VI pilot river catchments have been asked to cap dose rates of certain key weed-killers. And application of certain pesticides, including commonly used cereal herbicides isoproturon and chlorotoluron, will be restricted.

The three catchments affected are the Upper Cherwell, Oxon and Northants; the River Leam, Warwickshire and the River Blythe in Staffs.

Farmers will have to apply the herbicides before the end of October, and will be given advice on preventing pesticide run-off from sloping fields.

In all, five new measures are being proposed for the three river catchment projects to prevent a repeat of last year’s results when levels of pesticides in watercourses were found to be higher than in previous seasons.

“The results last autumn were disappointing for a variety of reasons,” said Hutchinson’s director Andrew McShane, who represents agronomists on the VI catchment project.

“Now the scrutiny is on the farming industry to deliver results this autumn.”

The focus of the new measures is very much on preventing run-off from fields, he said. “It was clear that wash-off from soil was playing a major part in some situations.”

That caused peaks of pesticides in water, which the water companies struggle to deal with, the Crop Protection Association’s VI manager Patrick Goldsworthy told FARMERS WEEKLY. “We need to stop those peaks happening – they are the biggest headache.”

As a result agronomists on the project team are issuing new guidelines for the coming season for farmers in the three catchment areas, including advice on alternative products, and where the weed-killers must be used a cap on rates, and latest timing dates, said Mr McShane.

“We are working hard to produce results delivering a step change.” Previous advice has emphasised point source pollution from spills in the farmyard, and both are keen to re-iterate that advice remains important. “Every route matters,” said Mr Goldsworthy.

“The problem is you won’t know which route matters until after the season.”

The new guidelines will be issued to the 1400 farms in the three affected pilot catchment areas. “We’re hopeful that farmers will follow the advice,” added Mr McShane. 

“If we get poor results again the water companies will be looking very hard at whether voluntary initiatives can be successful – and rightly so.”

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