Key active ingredients, like metaldehyde to control slugs and metazachlor herbicide for oilseed rape crops, are now coming under scrutiny. Monitoring of the 486-drinking water protected areas in England shows 202 (42%) are at risk from pesticide pollution.
“The microscope is on us as food producers. We need to preserve crop protection products for the future and will only do so with careful stewardship. We must all demonstrate that we are acting responsibly and doing everything we can to keep products out of water courses,” she says.
The situation means Adama is pushing on all fronts to promote best practice. Adama works closely with agronomists, officials at water companies and other pesticide manufacturers. It is also part of the Crop Protection Association water group, the Get Pelletwise campaign and the industry-led Voluntary Initiative. Groups meet regularly and joint-fund information to the industry, says Alison.
Adama has also funded the development of its own smartphone app to give farmers real-time, practical advice on when it is safe to apply pesticides. The WaterAware app is a simple-to-use tool that advises farmers whether it is safe to apply pesticides during a 24- or 72-hour period. The app carries out a field-based assessment, using GPS data for soil type, soil moisture deficit and Met Office weather information. A complex algorithm then calculates the risk of a selected pesticide’s movement from the field into water courses and gives a yes-or-no guide to the sprayer operator.
The WaterAware app was first developed in 2014 and beta tested with
agronomists and farmers.
Their feedback was incorporated in the development to make the app quicker and simpler to use. “In the recently updated version, it’s now possible to override GPS data for soil type and provide your own information,” Alison explains. The latest upgrade also includes Adama’s new #SlugAware feature which gives a real-time risk assessment on slug activity. The app uses a colour code (red, amber and green) to show the likelihood of slug activity - red means there is a high risk of activity and pellets should be considered and green means there is a low risk. The app is available on both iOS and Android operating systems.