Spring spraying tips: With Spring soon upon us, now is the time that equipment is being prepared for the busy period ahead.
Along with the usual maintenance and service schedules, you will probably already have in place, I want to focus your mind on sprayers to help ensure they are in top condition before use, and which in turn will help reduce downtime during the season and keep you within the law.
The Sustainable Use Directive (SUD) is a legal requirement and must be met by everyone using and applying professional pesticides. This includes completing an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) plan, operator training and qualifications and the testing of all pesticide application equipment. I am sure you are aware of the requirements but the SUD, which came to force in 2012, brought in mandatory testing from 2016 of all machines over 5 years old.
When the Directive was introduced, sprayers over 3 metres wide had to have a re-test every 5 years. From November this year they must be tested at least every 3 years. It is important to remember this move to more frequent testing to ensure you do not get caught out. Along with boom sprayers there is the need for boat mounted equipment, weed wipers and seed treating equipment, as well as other types, to be tested by the relevant dates – see the decision tree to check when your equipment needs testing.
Equipment that does not require a National Sprayer Testing Scheme (NSTS) test are knapsack, handheld and pedestrian sprayers. The minimum obligation here is that they are inspected on a regular basis, repairs are made as necessary and that a record should be kept of the checks carried out – a checklist is available from the NSTS website. Having said this, several knapsack sprayers are NSTS tested, especially where they are used in areas with high public access.
The National Action Plan (NAP) is currently under its 5-year review and it has widely been expressed there is a need to show far more determination within the new document. Because the plan covers all areas of pesticide use, we do not know what changes will be made but I believe IPM will feature heavily, with protecting the environment and watercourses at the forefront. Protecting British waterways is becoming increasingly important and with regular monitoring of water quality already being carried out we need to ensure that pesticides are applied safely and accurately to help avoid any exceedances, which in turn will help ensure that we retain the pesticides currently available.
We always advocate best practice and would always recommend annual testing of sprayers. We have an operator check sheet available on the NSTS website to download and use, both during the spraying season and in preparation for an NSTS test. Included in the 50 checks carried out on each machine is the condition of hoses, leaks and drips and the accuracy of gauges and nozzles, to name a few. Over application must be avoided; not only does it risk crop damage to the area being sprayed but it is expensive. With some tank mixes costing in the region of £1,000 each, if nozzles are worn by 10% the maths are easy to see.
The NSTS test, which is carried out by qualified examiners, not only gives peace of mind that you are operating your sprayer within the law but also that safe and accurate applications are being made, potentially saving you money from over application, and reducing downtime on the few ideal spray days available.
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