Imagine a situation where there are no pesticides to spray - no total herbicide for use on hard surfaces such as pavements, highways, car parks etc, no selective herbicides for turf areas, football, rugby and cricket pitches or golf courses - no fungicide for turf diseases - no insecticides for pests. This is a situation we could be faced with if we don't change the way we currently manage pesticide application.
Changes in legislation, changes in product availability, changes in budget and climate, all contribute to a need to review current pesticide application methods.
Changes in Legislation
The EU Thematic Strategy into Pesticide Use has already had an impact on how we need to manage pesticide application. We came very close to losing pesticides in public areas last year and are now under close scrutiny to ensure all legal compliance is met, and that we show pesticide reductions going forward. This can only be achieved by everyone currently applying pesticides adopting 'best practice' and following the guidelines laid down in the Code of Practice for using Plant Protection
Changes in Product Availability
Over recent years we have seen the withdrawal of many active ingredients, for many different reasons. Triazines were withdrawn in the early 1990's because they were found in water, due mainly to being blanket sprayed onto hard surfaces and run off into drains. Fifteen years later we are faced with the withdrawal of Diuron for the very same reason - we did not learn our lesson. We cannot allow this situation to arise again, Glyphosate is currently the only active available for use on hard surfaces, it's vital this is used sparingly, only targeting the weed. Blanket spraying will use up to 80% more product than needed and will lead to excess residue finding its way into water. Using the most advanced application technology we must target only the weed and avoid drift to none target areas.
Changes in Budget
Budgets have been based on history when active ingredients were in abundance and weed control was 'cheap', they have not altered with the times. The withdrawal of traditional hard surface residual products mean more dependence on contact herbicides, and thus more sprays leading to increased labour costs. Like most other things Glyphosate has increased in price by up to 50%, due to material costs but also the increased demand from around the world. We must pre-empt the future, budget accordingly, link with other in-house operations and establish small dedicated teams to undertake the work.
Climate change is happening; almost every week we see evidence from around the world. unseasonal snow in New York, drought in Australia, floods in Bangladesh, the polar icecaps melting and, most, recently the cyclone in Burma. Even in this country we are having extremes of weather, 2006 saw drought conditions in the South East and 2007 saw flooding in many parts of the country. Warmer winters and wetter summers mean a much longer growing season, and the loss of seasons as we know them. The effect of the longer growing season has seen more invasive weeds, new species of weed and a greater volume of more difficult weeds to control. This means a need for change in working patterns, weed spraying now needs to be undertaken nearly all the year round and contracts need to be adapted accordingly. No longer (especially with the demise of all residuals on hard surfaces) is one or two sprays enough. To achieve a satisfactory level of control up to five sprays per year are required.
Due to the need to meet all the strict legislation as demanded by the EU Thematic Strategy, and thus ensuring a future for pesticides, all applications need to be undertaken by qualified professionals. All operatives must be fully trained and up to date with current legislation. No longer can weed control operations be tagged onto grounds maintenance contracts; they need to be managed by specialist teams able to meet the legislation, with budgets allowing them to offer the increased number of sprays demanded, and able to adapt to the ever changing climatic conditions.
Richard Minton Associates