Avoid pesticide contamination from the field

31 January 2019

Chafer sprayer, pesticides, glyphosate, pest, arable, machinery

Pesticide losses come from both arable and grassland farms, with field losses through drain flow and run-off thought to account for 60% of losses - or more in arable areas. By following best practice guidance in the field you can reduce the risk of water pollution and the waste of crop protection product.

What can I do?

There are several things you can do when applying pesticides to protect watercourses:

  • Establish at least a 6m grass buffer strip or 5m no-spray zone adjacent to any watercourse - see the information on grass buffer strips below.
  • Do not spray if ground is waterlogged or frozen.
  • Do not apply pesticides if heavy rain is expected within 48 hours of application.
  • Avoid conditions where spray drift can occur - use nozzles and a spray quality which reduce drift.
  • Do not overspray buffer zones and watercourses.
  • Spray headlands last to avoid driving over sprayed area and picking up mud and pesticides on tyres.
  • Spray tank washings on to the crop or target area.
  • Wash the outside of the sprayer before leaving the field.
  • Clean mud from tyres before leaving the field, keep tyres as mud‑free as possible, as mud on tyres can carry pesticides out of the field.
  • Ensure all cleaning activities take place away from watercourses.
  • At the end of the day park the sprayer under cover.

Pesticide-specific advice is available in Water Protection Advice Sheets.

Watercourse buffer strip_36281

Grass buffer strips

Grass buffer strips can reduce surface run-off losses of pesticide by at least half.

Grass buffer strips should be a minimum of 6m wide measured from the top of the watercourse bank. The wider, the better. Fields with slopes of more than 5% or with long runs to the field edge may need buffers of up to 20m or more. Get more guidance on establishing a grass buffer strip.

You could also consider planting a winter cover crop on land left fallow over winter, which can prevent pollutants reaching watercourses as well as reducing nitrate leaching and soil erosion.

Download the CFE guide to crop protection for arable and livestock farms for further guidance.

You can also visit the Voluntary Initiative website for information on aquatic buffers and the LERAP scheme.

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