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Restriction of key pesticide won't solve issues says Department


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Education rather than restriction is key when dealing with pesticide usage in agriculture, according to officials from the Department of Agriculture and Teagasc.

In its Drinking Water Report the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) points out that at the end of 2016, 63 supplies serving over 900,000 people had open investigations due to failures to meet the pesticide standard.

It found that 55 samples in 29 supplies had failed the standard for individual pesticides.

The most commonly found pesticide is MCPA which was detected in 37 of the samples. The herbicide is used for rush control in grassland.

It is usually detected in the months of May/June/July and in September/October as it is most frequently applied to grassland in these months for ragwort, rush and thistle control.

Bill Callanan, chief agricultural Inspector at the Department of Agriculture told the Farming Independent that while we do have a problem with pesticide levels, and in particular MCPA, education rather than restriction is the best approach when it comes to controlling levels.

"MCPA is undoubtedly one of the substances that is found. We need to make sure farmers are well informed in terms of its use. Better education around the most appropriate use of chemicals is the most important. It's in the greatest interest of agriculture and the consumer that we have compliance," he said at the Department's grassland symposium on the Role of Sustainable Grassland in FoodWise 2025.

Head of environmental knowledge transfer at Teagasc, Pat Murphy also feels that continued education around pesticides is necessary if we want to eradicate pesticides in water.

"It is on the agenda and it is being dealt with. Pesticides that have been found have been found at extremely low levels. Rather than restrict usage we need to train farmers to ensure better protection and rush treatment.

"I think there's a realisation amongst farmers that they need to act. Going back to the days where they thought slurry wasn't doing any harm, a lot of that has that been resolved. That whole education process needs to be gone through with pesticides as well."


The ICMSA also said that increasing awareness and education programmes were having an effect and should continue.

The ICMSA's Patrick Rohan said the onus was on farmers and others to ensure that pesticides were kept away from water and he noted that the facts indicated that farmers were being extremely careful and conscious in using pesticides:

While concerns are being raised in the farming community that the new Nitrates review could cost farmers in the pocket if they have to prevent slurry run-off themselves, Mr Murphy feels that it would be a low cost and that farmers can resolve the majority of run-off issues themselves at local level.

"There could be an element of cost but I don't think it'll be huge. We shouldn't underestimate the ability of farmers to be able to see an issue and solve it themselves," he added.

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