Greater transparency and communication between primary industry sectors, as well as the surrounding rural communities, is the main solution to alleviate the risks of spray drift, according to industry leaders.
A new campaign, Hit Your Target, launched by Grain Producers SA to encourage growers to maximise the effectiveness of spray applications while minimising any unforeseen crop protection risks, has kick-started an industry response to a nation wide issue of spray drift damage.
GPSA chairman Wade Dabinett said the use of sprays was fundamental to many cropping systems and the campaign aimed to support operators by collating the research into best practice techniques, technology and equipment.
“To assist growers, the campaign provides information to help grain producers successfully co-exist with their cropping, horticultural and viticultural neighbours, while achieving their own crop protection needs,” he said.
“Recent incidents of off-target spray damage show just how easily spray drift can occur. It is always unintentional but the consequences can involve hefty penalties in both crop loss and fines.”
There are a lot of cases not detected or reported. We really need a system to create data about when spray drift is occurring.
But, Mr Dabinett said the campaign was also about communicating to the public that the grains industry was serious about the way it operated, and ensuring that educational tools and processes were established so that growers understood what the minimum industry benchmarks were.
“Farming is reliant on certain practices, whether it be tillage or fertiliser, chemical usage, so to ensure we can use them in our farming systems well into the future, it needs to occur in line with social standards, either as an industry code of practice or a social license that people operate with,” he said.
“There are social aspects upon any industry and we need to make sure we are meeting those demands and the campaign is very much about addressing this part of the issue.”
Bulla Burra operations manager Andrew Biele, a graingrower in the Riverland and northern Mallee regions, said if industry communication did not improve then the problem would not be fixed.
“It is crucial that all growers pull together because we know it is an issue agriculture has caused but at the same time we need assistance from other industries to know just how bad it is, especially if it is worse than we realise,” he said.
“There are a lot of cases not detected or reported. We really need a system to create data about when spray drift is occurring because although horticulture and viticulture growers are trying, we also need re-education for entire rural communities about chemical use in agriculture.”