GRAIN growers across the country have said they were generally comfortable with proposed changes to application rules surrounding the popular herbicide 2,4-D.
Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) deputy chief executive, Amy Fox said changes designed to minimise the risk of spray drift would come into play across all classes of 2,4-D herbicides, including both amine and ester formulations, as soon as the start of October.
She confirmed the changes would relate to application technique and it is believed farmers will now have to use a coarser nozzle for 2,4-D application in order to minimise the risk of spray drift.
Coarse nozzles create larger droplets meaning the spray does not travel on the wind as far.
There is some uncertainty about how the new provision will impact farmer choice in terms of nozzles, with concerns about the options available to apply very coarse droplets across a range of pressure, but farmers are optimistic it will be manageable.
“By and large I think growers are very good and professional with their spray application,” said GrainGrowers director Brett Hosking.
“They understand if it is not used correctly it will end up getting banned altogether and are happy to try and do the right thing.”
He said droplet size was a critical method of minimising risk of spray drift but added there were other considerations.
“With summer spraying, where a lot of 2,4-D is used, inversion is a big risk and it can be hard to assess in terms of risk, it is definitely something people need to be aware of when making the decision whether it is safe to spray or not.”
The news is a particularly big deal in mixed farming regions where there is either summer cropping or horticulture.
Cotton producers petitioned for tighter regulations on 2,4-D products earlier in the year after a series of drift incidents involving 2,4-D products caused millions of dollars of damage.
Previously, in Victoria exclusion zones for the use of 2,4-D products have been imposed over summer for areas near vineyards after grape growers also reported damage.
Ian Trevethan, chairman of farmer research group Riverine Plains, said at this stage he did not think the changes would present massive problems.
“Most farmers are using a coarse droplet anyway in order to minimise drift, I don’t know exactly what the requirements will be but at face value it should be OK, we’ve always had to be pretty careful about how we use it, especially in this region near vineyards and recently near cotton.”
Mr Trevethan said tightening application regulations may mean more work in terms of changing nozzles and potentially in record keeping but said it was better than the alternative.
“It’s better to have a bit of extra work than have the product taken off us altogether.”
However, there are some within the agronomy community who said they were waiting for the final draft of the changes before supporting the move.
There were also questions asked as to the timeframe, with such a short time between the announcement of changes and it being implemented.
Ms Fox said the decision had been made in conjunction with impacted parties.
“We have been working closely with grower groups, state and territory authorities, and registrants to develop new label instructions to reduce the likelihood of off-target damage due to spray drift.”
While not detailing the full new label instructions Ms Fox said they would support the activities of grower and other industry groups in promoting good application practice and minimising spray drift.
She said the APVMA had a number of steps that it must follow before these changes can be implemented.
However, she stressed that the changes would only relate to record keeping and application technique and do not change or restrict other aspects of the currently approved use patterns and should not affect product availability.
2,4-D is used for the control of broadleaf weeds and is particularly popular as part of a mix used to control summer weeds.
It is part of the phenoxy family of herbicides and classed as a Group I product.