Testing times for sprayers
As the spraying season begins, we look at what's involved in the new sprayer 'NCT' test
While ground conditions are still poor in many parts of the country, many crops are overdue their first fungicide and herbicide sprays of 2016.
But before the sprayer can be taken into the field, farmers need to make sure that they are in good working order. Not only is it an important way to ensure that they are getting good value for money from the chemicals in the tank, but new regulations now oblige farmers to ensure that their machines are fit to pass a test often referred to as the NCT for sprayers.
Every sprayer over five years old must be certified by a recognised tester before November 2016. It is estimated that up to 40,000 Irish farmers own sprayers that are subject to these requirements.
The test has been introduced to comply with the new Sustainable Use Directive rules from the EU.
While it is effectively another layer of paperwork from Europe, it is also something that any farmer should pass with flying colours if they are taking their crops seriously. Teagasc's machinery specialist, Tom Ryan, estimates that a 180ha cereal farmer is applying €41,000 of sprays annually onto crops worth €270,000.
"Even a 100ac spring barley grower typically applies more than €6,000 of product through a sprayer annually," he said.
Any sprayer over 3m in width, and more than five years old, needs to be tested every five years. After 2023, the test will become compulsory every three years.
So what's involved? Really it's the basic checks that the farmer should be doing on his sprayer every year. The only difference in the test is that someone is being paid to do it. North Dublin machinery dealer and registered tester, Neil Butterly (pictured below) says that the going rate in his area is €10/m. So for a 21m sprayer, that works out at €210. Farmers should note that every nozzle on the sprayer must be tested, so those with triple nozzle-holders would face a charge of €30/m.