Why should I be interested in changes to pesticide regulations?

Published 9 May 14

Why should I be interested in changes to pesticide regulations?

A working group has been established to help the grassland and forage sectors understand and deal with new regulations (via Sustainable Use Directive). The group will cover pesticides (weed killers, insecticides and slug pellets) and highlight the need to use them responsibly so they do not get into the drinking water supply.

The objectives of the working group are to raise awareness of new regulations and the importance of protecting water. The new regulations will be included in the Red Tractor Standards and failure to reduce pesticide levels in water may result in product restrictions. The working group members will be responsible for raising the awareness of the pesticide issues in the grass and forage sector in the next few years.

Jon Harrington (representing the Voluntary Initiative) will be available between 11:00-12:00 and 14:00-15:00 on 21 May 2014 on the EBLEX/DairyCo/BGS stand (number 329) at Grassland & Muck to answer any specific queries or questions.

The grassland and forage sectors are challenging as they tend to be infrequent users. However, weed killers are vital tools in effectively controlling common grassland weeds such as docks and thistles. 

Weed killers applied to grassland and forage are among those most frequently detected in water courses. For water companies, there is a significant additional cost, which runs into millions of pounds, installing and maintaining equipment to remove these products so drinking water meets EU standards. It is possible that, if this sector does not improve application standards, the use of these weed killers may be restricted further.

The highest risk scenario, for pesticides getting into water, is poor management in the farmyard when filling and cleaning the sprayer. Just one foil seal contains enough pesticide to breach the water quality standards in a 20 mile stream. 

Another risk occurs during application. Spraying clumps of weeds adjacent to ditches while newly sown crops with bare and loose soil (such as maize, new leys and spring barley), may lose pesticides from surface run-off following heavy rain. In general, established grass swards with a good soil structure will capture the product well and pose a lower risk.   

Summary of the regulations

During 2014, farmers and land managers need to develop ways to demonstrate that Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is being practised. This can be achieved by completing an IPM plan – see the VI website or the NFU website for a template. This will affect every farm where professional crop protection products are applied.

Currently anyone who uses professional pesticides (herbicides, insecticides, fungicides or slug pellets) needs a certificate of competence (eg PA1 and PA2/PA6), except farmers who were born before the 31/12/64 as they have “grandfather rights”. From 26 November 2015, everyone will need a recognised certificate, even if they want to use pesticides on their own land. Farmers who previously sprayed under grandfather rights will no longer be able to do so and need to obtain a certificate. This means more producers will decide to use contractors to perform these tasks. 

From 26 November 2016, all pesticide application equipment (except hand-held sprayers) needs to be tested (before they are next used) by the National Sprayer Testing Scheme(NSTS). For most application equipment the test needs to be repeated every five years, for some smaller machines (<3m boom mounted or trailed) there is a six year interval. Hand-held sprayers need to be regularly checked by the person responsible as a minimum.

Members of the working group include: The Voluntary Initiative, Chemicals Regulation Directorate, NFU, AIC, Agricultural Engineer Association, Natural England, AHDB, HCC, NFU Cymru, BASIS, Water Companies (South West Water, Severn Trent and United Utilities) and the Crop Protection Association. 

For more details contact Rosemary Dodgson on rosemary@dodgson.info or visit The Voluntary Initiative