Working to make spray drift regulations practical: GRDC

30 Mar, 2011 12:25 PM
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THE Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) and its industry partners are working to ensure new spray drift regulations are practical for Australian farmers, while meeting environmental requirements.

This message has been conveyed by the GRDC to industry consultants, advisers and growers attending recent grains research Updates throughout the southern cropping region.

GRDC crop protection manager Dr Rohan Rainbow has been informing industry personnel about spray drift research initiated by the National Working Party on Pesticide Application (NWPPA).

The NWPPA – an alliance of Australian agricultural industries – was formed after the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) last year proposed implementing regulations requiring new pesticides to be assessed for the potential risk of spray drift.

The regulations raised concerns in the agricultural sector that the new measures could prevent growers from using many pesticides under some circumstances.

Under the APVMA regulations, proposed label instructions for new and existing chemicals – including phenoxy herbicides such as 2,4-D and MCPA – may potentially contain mandatory ground applied no-spray (buffer) zones downwind of up to 300 metres.

Speaking at GRDC Adviser Updates in the southern region, independent chairman of the NWPPA, Gavan Cattanach, a consultant with John Thorp Australia, said the working party’s aim was to work with the APVMA to coordinate research leading to realistic and practical application of the regulations.

“The second aim of the NWPPA is to help farmers understand and implement the new spray operating principles,” he said.

“To do this, we are working closely with the APVMA and farmer organisations.

“Research coordinated by the NWPPA aims to provide the APVMA with evidence of newer drift reduction technologies (DRTs) which reduce the risk of spray drift, and to demonstrate that leading growers are using the technologies and demonstrating good stewardship.

“The research includes an initial $100,000 investment by the GRDC in 2010-11 to allow the APVMA to factor into its models newer spray nozzles which produce coarser droplets and reduce spray drift,” he said.

“The GRDC will invest an additional $900,000, with co-funding coming from other agencies, to conduct further research including the development of tools and models to assist in reducing spray drift.”

Mr Cattanach said that while the NWPPA was initiating research which could reduce the severity of the new regulations, it was just as important that the Australian agricultural industry enhanced its training systems to ensure farmers and spray operators used pesticides in accordance with label instructions.

GRDC Southern Regional Panel chair David Shannon agreed that every effort must be made to minimise the risk of spray drift.

“With the use of chemical sprays comes the onus and responsibility to do the right thing,” Mr Shannon said.

“The grains industry in the southern region shares the landscape with many other agricultural, horticultural and viticultural industries so it is imperative that our farming practices do not impact on our neighbours, and vice versa.”

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