Golden rules to remember for preventing spray drift

With weeds thriving following summer storms, farmers are reminded to monitor changing wind conditions when spraying this season to avoid damage to neighbouring properties.

NSW Farmers Walgett Branch secretary and spray contractor Dr Enid Coupe said there were a few golden rules farmers should be mindful of when planning to spray. 

“In my experience, if I notice the wind starting to die off around the district, I make that my last load when spraying so as to minimise any risk of spray drift onto neighbouring properties,” Dr Coupe said.

“We all want to spray as much as we can in one day, but if that wind’s going away, you’ve got to stop.”

Off-target spray drift can occur when agricultural chemicals or vapour become airborne and drift outside the intended area when sprayed. This can happen if chemicals are applied at the wrong time of day, or during the wrong weather conditions.

Dr Coupe said making use of all the available weather tools when spraying is key to staying on top of any changes in the weather.

“Monitoring numerous weather stations in your district — not just the closest ones — is essential so you can make informed and appropriate decisions around whether to put on your next load or not,” Dr Coupe said.

“Tools you can use to monitor conditions include the new Weather and Networked Data (WAND) system for alerting you to hazardous temperature inversions, as well as the Oz Forecast weather stations, which can provide real-time data on weather changes,” Dr Coupe said. 

NSW Farmers Agricultural Science Committee chair Alan Brown added that paying attention to spray setup was also vital to preventing spray drift.

“Simple measures such as using the appropriate spray nozzle and spraying as close to the target as possible also go a long way when it comes to preventing drift,” Mr Brown said.

“Crops such as cotton, grapevines, vegetables or pulses can be up to 10,000 times more sensitive than the crop you are spraying, so your neighbor will thank you for being cautious.”

As growers look to control weed pressure this summer, Mr Brown said caution was key to preventing damage to crops when spraying. 

“The 2022-23 season saw significant damage as a result of off-target spray drift incidents, so it’s vital that we take the relevant precautions to prevent further instances,” he said. 

“Failing to do so can have extensive repercussions, on not just production and profitability but livelihoods, relationships and communities for years to come.” 

Under the Pesticides Regulation 2017, compulsory record keeping of pesticide use is required in NSW, with the record made within 48 hours and kept for three years. Pesticide and application details including weather need to be included in the record. A sample pesticide application record is available via the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) website.

If you have been affected by a spray drift incident or pesticide misuse, you should report the incident to the NSW EPA Environment Line on 131 555 as soon as possible.    
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Media Contact:  

Eliza Fessey  |  0427 411 220  |  [email protected]

Date: 25 January 2024
Ref: MR/003/24