Cutting out the danger of stray spray
Adama’s crop manager Terry van Loon explains that pesticide residues are still appearing in surface water across Europe, causing public concern over drinking water quality and the potential risks to aquatic life. “The residues simply should not be there so even though growers think there are enough measures being taken, such as low drift nozzles and spraying in good weather, there is still more work we can do. The more attention to detail growers can focus on reducing pesticides losses, the better we can demonstrate that we care and are acting responsibly,” he insists.
That is why Adama has sponsored, and joined up to, a key awareness campaign for flower bulb growers called Clean farmyard, clean ditch. The project is run by the Dutch Water Preservation Board (Hoogheemraadschap Hollands Noorderkwartier) and the KAVB - the trade body for flower-bulb sector.
The campaign focuses on looking in much greater detail at every area where pesticides could be lost to the environment. It was developed for bulb growers because of their relatively high use of plant protection products, which provides more opportunities to find areas where differences could be made quickly. For example, growers immerse boxes of bulbs in pesticide dipping baths to control the fungal pathogen fusarium before planting.
When the boxes are lifted out, the pesticide solution can continue to drip small amounts of water across the yard. Because the amounts are so small it is an area of loss that growers often overlook. Yet, when combined with other small losses from different areas of flower bulb production, like storage and transport of equipment, the collective impact on surface water can be significant. It is this message, that no area of loss is too small to ignore, that is being driven home through the campaign by Adama and its partner organisations at grower seminars, meetings, product presentations and on websites.
The attention-to-detail ethos behind the clean farmyard, clean ditch campaign, has now been taken and used in a separate surface water protection initiative for arable growers. The venture, known in the Netherlands as the “Farmyard Emission Scan’”, targets farm managers and promotes a risk-analysis checklist of potential pesticide losses to surface water.
Adama works alongside partner organisations and participates through its network of distributors to spread the ‘best-practice’ message of the campaign. Areas that the Farmyard Emission Scan programme highlights include tasks like tank filling and equipment cleaning. It provides practical advice and notes to farm managers to ensure they are a safe distance from water courses when filling pesticide tanks. And, for equipment cleaning, it highlights good practice such as using a designated safe place where waste water and any soil that may contain residues, can be collected and disposed of safely.
Evidence of the lengths which the campaign is encouraging farmers to go to, can be seen in advice for storing tractors undercover. “Even the small residue that might collect on the sprayer or tractor and then be washed off by the rain, is an area where we can cut down on the risk of pesticide residue loss,” adds Terry.