Livestock farmers must not ignore the new pesticide regulations that are coming into play over the next few years via the EU‘s Sustainable Use Directive. This is because they cover weed killers, insecticides and slug pellets, which are used frequently on grassland.
Herbicides applied to grassland and forage are among those most frequently detected in water courses. For water companies, there is a significant additional cost, running into millions of pounds, of installing and running equipment to remove these products so that drinking water meets EU standards.
The new regulations will be included in the Red Tractor standards and it is possible that if farmers do 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 water quality standards in a 20-mile stream.
Other risky operations include spraying clumps of weeds adjacent to ditches and newly-sown crops with bare and loose soil (such as maize, new leys and spring barley), which may lose pesticides from surface run-off following heavy rain. In general established grass swards on soils with good 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 – visit the Voluntary Initiative (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, i.e. herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, slug pellets, needs a certificate of competence, e.g. PA1 and PA2/PA6, except farmers who were born before the 31 December 1964, as they have Grandfather Rights‘.
From the 26 November 2015, everyone will need a recognised certificate, even if they want to use pesticides on their own land. Current holders of Grandfather Rights‘ will need to do a course. It is likely that more producers will decide to use contractors to perform these tasks.
From the 26 November 2016, all pesticide application equipment (except hand-held sprayers) needs to be tested before they are next used, under the National Sprayer Testing Scheme (NSTS).
For most application equipment the test needs to be repeated every five years; for some smaller machines, ie <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.
More information can be found on the VI website.