Spray drift is the movement of pesticide dust or droplets through the air at the time of application or soon after, to any site other than the target area. Conflict arises when this spray drift
- harms human health
- harms companion animals or livestock
- damages the environment, nearby crops or land on other property
The EPA regulates mismanagement of spray drift under the Pesticides Act 1999 and works with communities to reduce spray drift by providing guidance and advice. One education campaign involved the EPA working with the NSW Farmers Association, Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) and Cotton Australia. These agencies jointly informed farmers
- on how to avoid spray drift
- about technical and regulatory requirements when using 2,4-D
See Cotton Australia’s best practice guidelines on spray drift.
Avoiding spray drift
To help reduce the potential for conflict between farmers and neighbours, use this four-point checklist when preparing to spray.
1. Know what to do
- Read and follow pesticide label instructions and where relevant follow conditions on an Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) permit – it is a legal requirement.
- Ensure spray applicators are fully trained and accredited.
2. Check the conditions before spraying
- Always check for neighbouring susceptible crops and sensitive areas before spraying.
- Monitor conditions before, during and after spraying. Avoid spraying when it’s too hot or too windy or there are pesticide label constraints that cannot be complied with.
- Do not spray when there is a surface temperature inversion – strongest between midnight and sunrise – or when wind speeds are very low.
3. Consider your neighbours
- Notify your neighbours of your spray plan. Sometimes this is out of common courtesy, while at other times notification is required by law.
- Cotton Australia has a map on its website showing the current season’s cotton crops, to help neighbours identify potential risks.
4. Adjust your spray equipment
- Select nozzles that produce medium to coarse or larger droplets and use them in accordance with the manufacturer’s specifications.
- Minimise boom height when spraying and slow down – high speeds significantly increase potential for drift.
- Information on reducing pesticide spray drift can be found on the NSW Department of Primary Industries (NSW DPI) website.
- The Grains Research & Development Corporation (GRDC), have created a manual and fact sheet providing farmers with information on spraying pesticides.
- The EPA has a short video to help NSW market growers and horticultural workers understand how to use pesticides safely and legally
- The APVMA has developed Operating principles in relation to spray drift risk which describes the methods and scientific principles that the APVMA uses to assess and manage spray drift.
Examples of land use conflicts
The blueberry industry is a growing industry on the north coast of NSW, producing 84% of Australia’s blueberries. Land use conflicts could arise due to pesticide spray drift where blueberry farms are near other landholders including sensitive locations such as homes or schools.
Read the NSW DPI fact sheet which includes information on what blueberry farmers need to be aware of when spraying pesticides.
Managed bees play an important role in agriculture by producing honey and beeswax and pollinating many food crops. Beekeeping relies on native flora for approximately 80% of its production and beekeepers often need to move hives large distances to be successful. The proximity of hives to agricultural fields can lead to land use conflicts. Exposure to some pesticides can be deadly to bees.
For more information, read the NSW DPI fact sheets
- Pesticides – reducing damage to honey bees describes ways for crop growers and bee keepers to reduce poisoning bees and manage poisoned hives.
- Pesticides – a guide to their effects on honey bees describes symptoms of pesticide poisoning.
- There is also information on the NSW DPI website
- Croplife Australia have developed a free app called BeeConnected that allows registered farmers, spray contractors and bee keepers to notify each other about their activities, to protect bees.