Local farmers have been warned to be vigilant of off-target spray drift, following widespread damage to CSIRO experimental cotton plots at the Australian Cotton Research Institute (ACRI) near Narrabri.
CSIRO Lead Cotton Breeder Dr Warwick Stiller, who leads the breeding program, reported severe damage to all of CSIRO’s experimental conventional cotton plots in November after a Group M herbicide drifted from its intended target.
The damage to the crop is so severe, it will impact the industry’s cotton breeding program.
“These plots underpin the Australian cotton industry’s entire breeding program and pipeline for the release of future varieties. The impact on these plants is so severe that I am not confident we will see these experiments through to the end of the season,” Dr Stiller says.
“I have been part of the CSIRO cotton breeding team for more than 20 years, and this is the worst spray drift damage I have witnessed on site. CSIRO’s conventional cotton breeding lines do not contain resistance genes for glyphosate, which makes our plots susceptible to damage.”
The NSW Environment Protection Authority’s (EPA) Adam Gilligan, Regional Director North, says spray drift often travels a considerable distance because of changes in wind strength or direction.
“Our message to all users is a simple one – read product labels carefully, monitor local weather conditions and tell your neighbours ahead of time if you are spraying,” Mr Gilligan says.
“If you are impacted, report it to the EPA’s 24/7 Environment Line on 131 555.”
“Herbicides and pesticides are important in agricultural operations, but it is vital these products are handled and used with care.”
Cotton Australia Regional Manager Paul Sloman says all farmers, regardless of what chemical is applied, are encouraged to use best practice guides and tools to prevent damage to nearby farms.
"Unfortunately, this event serves as a timely reminder about the potential dangers of spraying,” Mr Sloman says.
“All spray applicators should adhere to label requirements, check the conditions and – if unsure – seek additional advice. You should also check the CottonMap website before undertaking crop protection activities. Look out for surface temperature inversions that may cause spray drift, particularly from sunset to after sunrise.”
All farmers can use this four-point checklist when preparing to spray:
1. Know what to do:
- Read and follow label instructions – it is a legal requirement
- Ensure spray applicators are fully trained and accredited
2. Check the conditions before spraying:
- Monitor conditions before, during and after spraying
- Do not spray when there is a surface temperature inversion – strongest between midnight and sunrise – or when wind speeds are very low
3. Consider your neighbours:
- Check www.cottonmap.com.au for cotton fields that could be impacted by drift – spray droplets can travel further than 20km
- Notify your neighbours of your spray plan
4. Adjust your spray equipment:
- Select nozzles that produce coarse or large droplets and use them in accordance with the manufacturer’s specifications
- Minimise boom height when spraying and slow down – high speeds significantly increase potential for drift
More information on spray drift is available at the following sites:
- CottonMap website: www.cottonmap.com.au
- Cotton Australia website: www.cottonaustralia.com.au
- Spraywise Decisions website: www.spraywisedecisions.com.au
- CropLife Australia best practice reference guide: www.croplife.org.au
- Grains Research and Development Corporation website: www.grdc.com.au
- NSW EPA: www.epa.nsw.gov.au/pesticides
CottonMap is a collaboration between Cotton Australia, Nufarm Australia Limited, the Cotton Research and Development Corporation (CRDC) and the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC).
Cotton Australia is the peak representative body for Australia’s cotton growing industry.
The NSW EPA protects the environment and community by being a leader, partner and protector.
Regional Manager, Cotton Australia
0448 094 883
NSW EPA Media Unit
02 9995 6415 or firstname.lastname@example.org