A GRASSROOTS campaign to tackle spray drift has kicked off in the Central West NSW Macquarie valley.
Those with crops in the ground are fed up with being hit by off-target herbicide damage.
Others are motivated by the knowledge that if the industry does not educate and regulate itself, bureaucratic restrictions and bans could be imposed.
Most importantly, participants realise any chemical, be it herbicide, fungicide or insecticide, drifting onto our communities is unacceptable.
While earlier in the year Walgett, NSW, growers called for restrictions on the use of 2,4-D over summer, farmers in the Macquarie have opted for education.
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Held across five locations, the sessions were the result of a team effort between farmers, agronomists, agricultural chemical suppliers, chemical resellers and the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA).
Coordinated by the newly formed SOS (Stop Off-Target Spraying) committee, the meetings were held free of charge to participants, with sponsors from across the supply chain footing the bill.
Chemical spray expert Mary O’Brien and Adama Territory manager Harry Pickering presented at the events.
Mr Pickering said the farmer turnout and engagement had been fantastic.
“We’ve had about 450 people attend across the five workshops,” he said.
“It’s allowed us to get key messages out, regarding how to manage spray application to avoid drift.”
Mr Pickering said there were three key take-home messages from the workshops.
“Firstly, sprayer setup and operation will determine how much product is left in the air,” he said.
“How we set up the boom, how we operate the boom will set how much product is left in the air, susceptible to spray drift.
“Secondly, the weather conditions will determine how far the drift-able fraction of spray droplets will go.
“Thirdly, air-movement at night and at sunrise is very different to air-movement during the day.”
“During the night and at sunrise spray drift can move a lot further, we need to reinforce that message so applicators can make better decisions.”
SOS Committee Coordinator, Tony McAlary said the meetings were a result of discussions held with the EPA about how landholders could work together to address spray drift issues after several reports of crop damage in the Warren region earlier this summer.
“A range of grain and cotton farmers, agronomists and chemical re-sellers have joined forces to address an issue that is affecting our environment and cannot be sustainable in the long term,” he said.
During the night and at sunrise spray drift can move a lot further
“The accreditation program is a voluntary process, highlighting changes in best practice for applying chemicals and showcasing the technology available to support good spray decision making.
“The committee is also investigating what technology is available, including access to weather stations and detailed alerts that are available to support good decision making before spraying.
“We recognise that current practices are not sustainable and if we want to drive change, rather than having new rules enforced on us, we need to act now.”
Don’t use Delta T to decide
During the workshops, Mr Pickering touched on the idea that Delta T was a poor measure of spray drift risk.
“Delta T is a guide, it should not be utilised as a decision making tool as to whether you should, or shouldn’t go spraying,” he said.
“I think the industry has got it wrong, by over-focusing on Delta T.
“If you use it as your primary tool to decide whether to spray, you will get it wrong.”
At the workshops, a chart, developed by chemical company Nufarm, was recommended as a better way for farmers to better understand the risks associated with spraying.
For more information on spray application, see the Grains Research Development Corporation (GRDC) GrowNotes – Spray Application.