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Spray drift addressed as grain groups launch online hub to improve industry training

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Aidan SmithCountryman
Peak grain groups are launching an online hub aimed at preventing spray drift.
Camera IconPeak grain groups are launching an online hub aimed at preventing spray drift. Credit: John Deere/John Deere

Australia’s peak national grain producer groups are calling for increased vigilance on spray drift prevention to safeguard the industry’s high productivity and strong performance as they launch a new online hub focussed on the issue.

With summer weed spraying coming into focus, Grain Producers Australia and GrainGrowers have urged members to brush up on best practice and make use of available resources after spray drift damage reported in the Eastern States earlier this year caused $100 million damage to cotton crops, as well as to vegetation on neighbouring properties.

GrainGrowers is set to launch the grower-focussed online hub, which is aimed at providing growers with easy access to up-to-date resources from GPA, the Grains Research and Development Corporation and others on spray drift management, including a new video training series.

GrainGrowers chief executive Shona Gawel said the grains industry was committed to meeting the challenge and minimising issues by ensuring best practice was always followed.

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“The majority of growers take their land stewardship responsibilities very seriously and follow procedures that allow them to spray weeds effectively and efficiently and in a way that protects the surrounding environment,” Ms Gawel said.

“Knowing what to do, checking your conditions, and considering your neighbours by notifying them of your spray plan are three simple steps to follow.”

The two peak grains groups said they were committed to working co-operatively to drive positive and practical changes which help to protect the industry’s ability to remain productive and sustainable, especially controlling weeds.

Grain Producers Australia Southern Grower director and research, development and extension spokesman Andrew Weidemann.
Camera IconGrain Producers Australia Southern Grower director and research, development and extension spokesman Andrew Weidemann. Credit: Supplied/supplied

GPA Southern Grower director and research, development and extension spokesman Andrew Weidemann said it was critical to manage spray drift properly and be vigilant with application, and to ensure growers could maintain access to critical on-farm tools that helped drive productivity and sustainability.

Mr Weidemann is also the independent chair of the National Working Party on Pesticide Application — which was established in March 2010 to conduct targeted research relating to spray drift and inform the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority’s policy on spray drift.

Mr Weidemann said most growers did the right thing most of the time and followed product labels — but complacency on pesticide application was not an option, in the modern Australian grains industry.

“Spray drift is an ongoing challenge for industry, and there have been substantive investments in practice improvement, training and education opportunities and technology to reduce off-target incidents from spray application and improve stewardship, but there are no excuses,” he said.

Grain Producers Australia northern director Matthew Madden.
Camera IconGrain Producers Australia northern director Matthew Madden. Credit: Supplied/supplied

GPA northern director Matthew Madden said growers and their representative groups recognised a strong and effective regulatory system was also needed, to protect the majority of growers who are compliant and doing the right thing, by weeding out offenders with precise action and penalties.

“At the end of the day we need to recognise effective enforcement activity is also a key ingredient of success which supports and encourages best practice, by ensuring there are real consequences for those who aren’t upholding the same high standards as others,” Mr Madden said.

“If the speed limit says 60 kilometres per hour and 999 out of 1000 drivers are following the law and driving within the limit, it would be an injustice if the police shut down roads just because they can’t catch and fine the speeding drivers.

“We need a system that protects those operating within the rules and penalises those putting other growers at risk, with non-compliant activities.”

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