2016 January: Darling Downs (Qld) Spray Drift. Pesticide: 2,4-D

COTTON growers across the Darling Downs have been hit hard by off-target spray drift incidents, causing millions of dollars in damage and threatening farm businesses.

Records have shown that more than 20% of cotton crops in the past month across Queensland and NSW have been threatened by Phenoxy (2, 4-D-type) spray.

The cereal fallow sprays have also travelled during temperature inversions, moving tens of kilometres from intended target fields.

Cotton Australia General Manager, Michael Murray said the environmental conditions over December-January period combined to produce a ‘perfect storm’ for off-target spray drift damage.

“Heavier-than-usual seasonal rainfall has encouraged weed growth which, in turn, led to more spraying by farmers and applicators, and this has combined with temperature inversions to produce substantial off-target spray drift,” he said.

“This is the worst year in memory for spray drift damage to cotton crops, so we are taking this issue extremely seriously.”

Cotton Australia Board member and Cecil Plains (Wamara) cotton farmer, Stuart Armitage said the problem happens yearly, but fortunately his crops weren’t affected this year.

“People have been taking risks and we can’t afford to do this with this chemical because otherwise it could be banned,” he said.

Mr Armitage said it was important for farmers to educate themselves and utilise workshops to update their knowledge continuously.

“99% of people follow the rules but it also needs to be the right conditions to spray and managed properly,” he said.

“I am urging farmers to spray according to the label because if they don’t then they potentially jeopardise other neighbouring crops and the livelihood of farmers.”

Whilst Cotton Australia has estimated the damage across Australia to cost the industry more than $20 million, some areas have been affected more than others.

Mr Murray says the national chemical regulator, the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA), was aware of the severity of the issue, and is currently conducting a review of 2,4-D pesticide and an assessment of environmental risks.