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Giving nematicides a secure future

23 April 2015

New Nematicide Stewardship Programme (NSP) guidelines are essential for these pesticides to have a sustainable future.

This is one of the key messages that the newly-formed Nematicide Stewardship Programme (NSP) group is keen to highlight to the potato industry and to European regulators.
Nematicides have come under considerable scrutiny recently, not only from European regulators but from environmentalists, health professionals and the general public.  However, nematicide manufacturers say the use of these products will remain critical to many growers in producing a quality product and maintaining current rotations.
To address concerns, the NSP has been formed to work alongside farmers and operators to ensure adherence to ‘best practice’ for all nematicide applications this spring and into the future.  
The NSP group is a joint initiative that brings agrochemical companies Certis, DuPont and Syngenta together for the first time and includes cross-industry support from Agrii, AHDB, FPSA, NFU, PPA and Richard Austin Agriculture Ltd, all geared towards ensuring these important products remain available for future use on potatoes and other key root crops.
Importantly, all operators must already be qualified to apply nematicides and need to have NPTC PA4 or PA4G certification.  But by March 2017 those applying nematicides must also have completed the Industry Stewardship Training Module.  This essential extra training will educate everyone involved to ensure safe stewardship of these crucial products.
“We’re coming together to work proactively within the industry to demonstrate best practice,” says Neil Beadle of DuPont, one of the NSP’s spokespeople.  “There’s no doubt that we need to reach out to all operators, be they farmers, contractors or farm workers, to ensure they are fully up to speed with the correct way to handle and apply these chemicals.
“We must regulate ourselves and use every opportunity to ensure – as always – that products are used responsibly, cost-efficiently and in accordance with the manufacturers’ recommendations,” says Neil.
“We’re leading the market from the front.  For example, by March 2017, we’re saying that all applicators must be fitted with a device in-cab that allows the operator to shut off nematicide granule flow at least three metres from the end of each row.  This ensures no granules are left on the surface as the machine is lifted and turned.
“For those applicators fitted with a hydraulic or electric motor, this should already be possible.  For those applicators driven by a land or spider wheel, an electronic clutch can be fitted to the applicator drive shaft to enable remote shut-off.”
To help, here are key guidelines to ensure safe practice:
  1. When preparing a granule applicator for work, calibrate and operate it to ensure the correct application rate without risk to yourself, other people or the environment.
  2. Check the product labels to determine the approved uses for the product and its potential hazards to human safety, any non-target areas and the environment in general.
  3. Carry out daily and routine maintenance of the applicator.
  4. Follow the correct procedures for cleaning personal protective equipment (PPE) and application equipment which may have been contaminated with pesticide.
“Potato Cyst Nematode (PCN) is arguably the biggest long-term issue for the potato industry,” says AHDB Potatoes head of knowledge transfer, Dr Philip Burgess.  “It’s vital all available tools to control this pest are used effectively and responsibly.  NSP is an excellent example of the entire industry coming together to ensure this.
“PCN control requires an integrated strategy.  Having cross-industry experts developing a practical stewardship programme will ensure availability of some of the most important tools in the PCN toolbox, benefiting levy payers and consumers.”
A key benefit of all the manufacturers working together is being able to provide a single standard training workshop.  Operators will no longer have to go to a Vydate training session one week and a Nemathorin or Mocap workshop the next.  It means that operators who attend this workshop will get consistent messages on best practice and will be able to comply fully with responsible stewardship.
AHDB Potatoes has worked with supply chains and others to ensure successful delivery of these workshops – over 400 operators were trained last year.  We will continue work towards professionalising the applicators with another series of workshops next winter.
The NSP will be running a series of these workshops this spring and autumn, aiming to ensure all operators are fully up-to-date with the latest legislation and supplied with the correct information to ensure the products are applied accurately and safely.
The newly-approved protocol at the centre of these workshops will communicate the following key messages:
  • Growers must demonstrate that advice has been sought from a BASIS-qualified agronomist prior to the purchase and use of a nematicide.  Recommendation sheets must be available for each treated field;
  • Operators must be qualified to apply nematicides (NPTC PA4 or PA4G certification).  By March 2017, operators applying nematicides must have completed the Industry Stewardship Training module;
  • Growers must demonstrate that the granule applicator has been calibrated and checked by a qualified engineer within the last 12 months;
  • Rotors, cassettes and cartridges must be appropriate for the accurate application of each nematicide product;
  • When applying nematicides, growers must keep records to demonstrate that:

- The applicator is checked prior to each work-day, ensuring all pipework is correctly fitted, the hopper bungs are in place and the hopper lids are secure;

- The applicator is calibrated each week;

- The area treated matches the volume of product used for each field;

  • Nematicides must be applied and incorporated within a single pass.  Applicators with a working width wider than the rotavator should not be used.
  • By March 2017, all applicators must be fitted with a device in-cab that allows the operator to shut off nematicide granule flow at least three meters from the end of each row.  For those applicators fitted with a hydraulic or electric motor this should already be possible; for those applicators driven by a land or spider wheel, an electronic clutch can be fitted to the applicator drive shaft to enable remote shut-off.
To address concerns about pesticide granules remaining on the surface of the soil and to reduce the potential of this happening, a number of guidelines have been drawn up:
  • Service applicators need to replace pipe work and bungs annually before they perish and break;
  • Make sure there is an effective shut-off system on the applicator;
  • Ensure there is a pneumatic lift on the land-wheel;
  • Make sure there is a clutch system to disengage the rotor drive shaft;
  • Ensure granules are not left exposed on the surface at the end of rows;
  • Use a one-pass application and incorporation system;
  • Ensure cultivation is effective in removing granules from the surface;
  • Check filling areas and ends of rows before leaving the field;
  • After planting, ensure headlands are rotavated to ensure no granules remain on the soil surface.
Growers should use a single site for filling hoppers in each field which can easily be checked for spillages.  Smaller spillages should be buried immediately ensuring no granules are left on the surface.  In the case of a larger spillage, growers should use the original container to hold the product.
Operators are required to use the correct PPE in line with product labels and COSHH.  Operators and field supervisors must be aware of the procedures in case of accidental poisoning of a member of staff.
Peter Jones, Agrii regional roots development manager, said “To effectively protect the crop, granular nematicides need to be incorporated at exactly the right concentration and in the right place within the seedbed.”
So if you use nematicides, follow best practice guidelines and attend the forthcoming NSP workshops.  This will help ensure the future availability of these key products for your crops.
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