Biosecurity SA’s Manager of Rural Chemical Operations, Michael McManus, said new Group I herbicides regulations introduced in 2013 and continuing chemical user education, appear to have had a positive impact on producer behaviour.
Mr McManus, said there had been a decline in the number of spray drift incidences across the state.
“While weather conditions each year can also influence the risk of such incidences, we are certainly noticing a decline in the number of reports that we are receiving in regards to spray drift,” he said.
“This is an encouraging sign and supports the State Government’s ongoing commitment to clean and green production systems in SA.
Producers have clearly taken up the challenge to meet industry best practice to reduce spray drift.”
Mr McManus said the recent widespread rainfall across much of the state earlier this month provides the right conditions for weed germination with spraying operations likely to increase.
“As a result producers will be keen to start spraying soon to control problem weeds and to retain soil moisture,” he said. We need to remind producers that while all agricultural chemicals need to be used responsibly to avoid spray drift, Group I herbicides require a higher duty of care.
“This also includes the need to have a current chemical user’s accreditation and to keep specific spray records.
“Education and promotion of the regulations is an ongoing focus. Biosecurity SA has also stepped up our audits to help identify any gaps in producers’ knowledge of the regulations.
“Past audits have highlighted that the level of detail recorded by producers is currently not always sufficient to be fully compliant with the new regulations.”
Mr McManus said Group I herbicides need to be viewed differently to other chemical groups, with an increased level of record keeping required.
These mandatory requirements for record keeping increase awareness by users of factors that can reduce spray drift, such as:
- using low drift nozzles and coarse droplet size
- slower travelling speeds
- spraying in suitable wind speeds, preferably in the range of 3-15 km/h
- wind direction not towards sensitive areas or crops; and
- the absence of a surface temperature inversion.
These are all key factors in the effective use of agricultural chemicals and reducing drift.
Spray drift can have a widespread impact, not isolated to immediate neighbouring paddocks including:
- human health (safety of workers, neighbours and the general public)
- product integrity
- the environment (native vegetation and waterways)
- the availability of agricultural chemicals for future use; and
- friction between neighbours and the communities who live and work together.
Mr McManus said the use of Group I herbicides, particularly anywhere near grapevines, required the utmost care.
“We cannot emphasise enough just how sensitive these plants can be to Group I herbicides,” he said.
“At this stage of the growing season concerns around grapevines turn to the risk of contamination rather than vegetation damage. For the first time a variable messaging sign has been placed at Clare this year to promote best practice spray management.”
Producers looking for more information on best practice for summer weed control can go to Biosecurity SA Rural Chemical Operations or contact 1300 799 684.