WORD ON THE GROUND: New spray rules are impractical

Richard Barlow of Drings, Moulton.
Richard Barlow of Drings, Moulton.
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As farmers and growers, we apply the minimum amount of pesticides that will produce a crop that is of the quality the customer wants and at an affordable price.

We certainly don’t want to waste it, or let it drift off our fields.

Since 1999, we have had regulations called LERAPS (Local Environmental Risk Assessment of Pesticides, for the uninitiated) which provides instructions on how to apply sprays on the edge of fields.

The CRD (Chemical Regulations Directorate), which licences which pesticides are allowed in the UK, appears to be filled with boffins who don’t have an ounce of practical sense amongst them.

They have decided to change what is already a confusing system with one that an average farmer or sprayer operator is going to be completely bamboozled by. Aquatic, anthropoids, interim and permanent, 5m, 6m, 20m zones are coming in! Some are legal requirements, some are advisory. Some can be reduced by nozzle selection, some cannot.

At a recent meeting of interested parties at Rothamsted Research Centre, it was stated that there is actually very little scientific data on spray drift and what, if any damage it does.

Meanwhile, an arbitory 20m no spray zone around a field can mean 10-20% of a 30 acre field is lost to production.

The Dutch, who have many more water courses right up to the edge of cultivated land, have a system called Drift Reduction Technology and the maximum buffer zone is only 2.5m, and for potatoes 1.5m . So we Brits are shooting ourselves in the foot again by going overboard on legislation, and it has nothing to do with the EU!

As someone said at the Rothamsted meeting, if spray drift is so bad, why aren’t all our water courses full of dead fish?