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Stackyard News Jun 07

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Wet weather blamed for pesticides setback

The very wet autumn of 2004, combined with a change in number of sampling sites, is being blamed for a small increase in the proportion of water samples exceeding 0.1 microgram per litre threshold for farm chemicals.

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According to figures from the Environment Agency (EA) which were reported in the Pesticides Forum report on pesticide indicators, there was an overall failure rate of eight per cent. However, after excluding sample failures caused by the amenity weed killer diuron, the number of samples that exceeded the threshold was 6.62 per cent in 2005 compared with 5.20 per cent in the low year of 2004.

Voluntary Initiative manager Patrick Goldsworthy said high rainfall in the autumn of 2004 was the most likely explanation for the increase.

He said: “What seems to have happened is that the very wet weather of autumn 2004 delayed pesticide applications until late in the year, so that the impact was not picked up until samples were taken in 2005. That had the effect of both deflating the 2004 results, and inflating the 2005 ones.

“The biggest increase was in failures caused by the amenity herbicide diuron – which is used by local authorities in the spring to kill weeds on paved areas and hard-standings and is therefore particularly at risk of being washed off into drains.

“There is absolutely no suggestion that farmers have become less careful or less responsible in the way they apply pesticides. Given the vagaries of our weather it is inevitable that there will be fluctuations from year to year. The really important thing is the long-term trend, and this is still downward, despite this setback.”

The VI pilot catchment project shows that significant improvements can be made by farmers working with agronomists and water companies.

“In some catchments 98 per cent reductions were achieved in the number of days where exceedances occurred,” explains Mr Goldsworthy. “This work is continuing, so as to consolidate on what has been achieved and make improvements in other catchments.”


1. The Voluntary Initiative is a programme of measures, agreed by Government, to minimise the environmental impacts of pesticides. The signatories to the Voluntary Initiative are the National Farmers Union, NFU Scotland, the Country Land and Business Association, the Ulster Farmers Union, the Crop Protection Association, the National Association of Agricultural Contractors, the Agricultural Engineers Association and the Agricultural Industries Confederation.

2. The sponsors of the Voluntary Initiative are the Agricultural Engineers Association, Agricultural Industries Confederation, Country Land and Business Association, Crop Protection Association, National Association of Agricultural Contractors, the NFU, NFU Scotland and the Ulster Farmers Union.

link Pesticides forum focuses on a wide range of important issues
link BCPC helping you to spray within the law
link Change one thing on World Environment Day

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