Protecting water bodies is a key focus of updated approach
Canada updated its buffer zone guidelines in 2011 with a more sophisticated approach that allows pesticide applicators to modify the buffer zone based on how they conduct their application.
One of the resources developed alongside this effort is a Buffer Zone Calculator to help applicators modify labeled no-spray buffer zones for the specific conditions of their site. Information on drift mitigation along with the buffer zone calculator can be found on the Health Canada website at http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/cps-spc/pest/agri-commerce/drift-derive/index-eng.php.
Jock McIntosh of Alberta Environment and Water was involved in the overall effort. He says the calculator is a valuable learning tool and encourages applicators to test drive it. As more feedback is received, it will help decisions on potential options to make the calculator a more valuable tool and available in more field-friendly versions, such as a smartphone application.
"This whole thing is about being more specific on the buffer zones with the different products we are using, to protect environmental components such as water bodies and just be more targeted and efficient in all aspects of spraying," says McIntosh. "The calculator is a good tool to test drive, to get a feel for how different factors such as wind speed and sprayer configuration really play an important role in determining the best approach. Over time there will be the opportunity to make the tool more specific and more of a practical in-field option based on feedback from industry. The aerial industry in particular is one group that is providing some very constructive feedback."
Variables such as wind speed, relative humidity, temperature and spray equipment are considered by the calculator and provide applicators with a spray buffer zone specific to their spray site and conditions at the time of application.
"I think it's a real nice tool to get familiar with, even if it just helps to understand the concepts behind the updated guidelines," says McIntosh. "You see how these factors add up to allow you to get closer or push you further back, and you see how there's a real dynamic to getting more sophisticated about buffer zones. Then when you see choices on a product label, you have a better sense of what they mean. It's all part of the process of continually improving our approaches, which will benefit everyone involved."
Producers have additional resources available to help them protect water bodies and other environmental components, says McIntosh. For example, completing or updating an Environmental Farm Plan (EFP) is a good process for producers to make sure they have thought about and have a plan for all aspects of environmental protection. "An EFP is a great tool to support farm management and environmental stewardship. Not just in relation to buffer zones, but covering all the fundamentals producers should be aware of and have a plan for."
More information on EFPs in Alberta is available at www.albertaefp.com.