“It’s got to stop”: Spray drift hits NSW cotton farms
By Christopher Kelly | 11 December 2023
Over 1000 hectares of cotton crops have already been impacted by spray drift in New South Wales, pushing growers, agronomists and industry leaders to call for vigilance.
Summit Ag agronomist Emma Ayliffe has visited three farms between Lake Cargelligo and Condobolin in Central West NSW, reviewing three separate incidents ranging from minor damage to severe.
“Some of the crops have been hit hard, but the positive is that it’s only early days and they may recover, avoiding a total loss,” Ayliffe said. “We were hit hard last season, and we are all sick of it. It’s got to stop.
“We can’t afford a repeat of the damage and if everyone uses the tools and resources available, this can all be avoided.”
There have also been reports from Griffith and near Moree with Cotton Australia (CA) regional managers concerned that conditions may lead to an escalation of damage and further incidents.
The reports, combined with the recent rains boosting weed growth, indicate spraying activity is about to ramp up significantly.
CA policy officer for stewardship Doug McCollum said there is a perfect storm brewing.
“With hot conditions, growers might be tempted to delay spraying during the day to avoid evaporation and instead spray at night.
“Unfortunately for growers, the inversion conditions are mostly prevalent during nighttime and that could lead to unintended drift over a large area.”
In New South Wales the EPA has signalled they won’t hesitate to take action against anyone spraying pesticides irresponsibly or deliberately causing harm.
They have stepped up site visits with recent pesticide campaigns in Moree, Narrabri and Walgett, and are undertaking active investigations in Carrathool, Forbes, Griffith, Narromine, Moree, Warren and Yallaroi.
McCollum urged all those spraying their crops to fully utilise preventative tools to help prevent millions of dollars’ worth of lost production, including Weather and Networked Data (WAND) towers and SataCrop.
In March this year, both the Grains and Cotton Research and Development Corporations in conjunction with Goanna Ag, confirmed all 100 Weather and Networked Data (WAND) spray hazard identification towers were up and running stretching from Emerald in Queensland to the Victorian border.
Over 2,000 cotton and grain growers and spray operators have registered to use WAND towers to identify whether a hazardous inversion is present.
Meanwhile, SataCrop can map all crop types, including cotton, grains and tree crops. Growers log in and plot the location of fields they have planted with different crops each season, allowing others to review the site when planning spray applications to see the location of potentially sensitive neighbouring crops.
“It’s fantastic having these tools and this year if people use them, remain vigilant around spray and wind conditions, and strictly adhere to the instructions on the label then we can avoid tens of millions worth of damage,” McCollum said.
“The vast majority are doing the right thing and those who flagrantly break the rules can expect to be caught.”