Farm Ireland

Friday 20 April 2018

Tillage: Responsible pesticide use is in all our best interests

Checking the spuds were Jim Rooney and Gavin Weldon manager of the team of contractors E Finnegan & Sons, Navan, Co Meath harvesting potatoes in Clonmelsh, Co Carlow. The ground conditions were very good. Photo: Roger Jones.
Checking the spuds were Jim Rooney and Gavin Weldon manager of the team of contractors E Finnegan & Sons, Navan, Co Meath harvesting potatoes in Clonmelsh, Co Carlow. The ground conditions were very good. Photo: Roger Jones.
PJ Phelan

PJ Phelan

The new pesticide sprayer regulations have been introduced to promote responsible use of pesticides. Much of the content covered in the training courses is second nature to experienced operators.

However there are very few, if any, who know everything. If you attend a course and all the content is new, the course is probably too advanced for you; likewise, if you know everything you should be giving the course - and there is still a need for good trainers.

The need for appropriate training and standards is highlighted by the fact that one single drop of a pesticide entering a stream that's one metre wide and 0.3m deep can breach the drinking water limits on a 30 km length.

While much of our drinking water comes from groundwater, we do have many supplies fed by surface water and surface water feeds groundwater.

The most recent EPA Report on water quality states that "in general, it would seem that pesticides do not appear to be a particular problem in Ireland". Most of the cases of pesticide detection in water has been of MCPA use for rush control on grassland in wetland areas.

The National Action Plan for the Sustainable use of Pesticides specifies that products cannot be marketed or used unless it can be demonstrated that use will not cause unacceptable damage to human, animal or environmental health.

Therefore, problems are caused by misuse. It is important to read labels carefully and to follow all instructions.

Last Tuesday was the last day you were allowed to use your sprayer without being registered with the Department of Agriculture. You may register online but to do so you must be trained. For most people the training requirement is to attend a two-day course provided by registered providers.

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Until you register you may leave the sprayer parked or get a registered person to use it for you. Use of a sprayer by an unregistered person will trigger a penalty on the Basic Payment Scheme.

Your pesticide records must show the pesticide user number for pesticides used. Purchase of professional pesticide products must be recorded by pesticide distributers who are obliged to keep a register.

This record must be kept by the retailer for five years and made available to an authorised DAFM person on request.

Therefore the Department official who carries out a cross compliance inspection may know before he arrives on farm what pesticides you have purchased.

You may still continue to purchase pesticides authorised for both amateur and professional use without having completed training or registering.

The registration/training requirement is only required for the application of professional pesticides. Product labels specify if the product is for professional or amateur use.

Glyphosate can be purchased in containers of 1l or less for amateur use but larger quantities are for professional use only.

Products such as Grazone 90, sold in 1l containers and with a label specifying knapsack use only, are for professional use only.

Salespersons can only sell products for professional use if they have completed the training course for distributors or there is another staff member on the premises who has done so.

By November 26, 2016 all sprayers with a boom width of more than 3m will have to be tested and certified for use.

There is no need to have knapsacks tested but remember you can only use a knapsack where the label specifies such use.

Knapsack use

Most professional pesticides do not have a recommendation for knapsack use. A list of approved Pesticide Equipment Inspectors was published on the Department of Agriculture website on November 10.

That list will be revised as additional inspectors qualify. The test will involve inspection of all components including the pump, control systems, nozzles, pressure gauges, hoses and booms.

It is likely that most testers will also provide a maintenance or repair service. Sprayers will have to be tested once again by 2020 and after that every three years.

Testing may take place in your own yard or at a central location. Sprayers will be tested using clean water. Sprayers will have to be in safe condition and ptos fully guarded. Sprayers will have to be cleaned thoroughly, both inside and out, before the test. All filters must be clean and hoses leakproof.

While the requirement for training and testing is onerous it is important for everyone to safeguard water and indeed to help avoid pesticides being taken off the market due to poor application techniques.

PJ Phelan is a tillage advisor based in Tipperary and is a member of the ACA and ITCA

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