Spray drift hits cotton hard

Off-target spray drift costs the cotton industry millions


More than 20 per cent of Australia’s cotton crop has been damaged from off target spray drift.


RELATED: Communicate before spraying

A WHOPPING 20 per cent of Australia’s cotton crop has been damaged from off target spray drift this season, costing the cotton industry $20 million to date.

Cotton Australia chief executive Adam Kay said all cotton growing regions in Australia have been affected by off target spray drift this season, with about 60,000 hectares reporting damage.

“I've been in the cotton industry for 30 years, and this is the worst year in memory for spray drift damage to cotton crops, so we are taking this issue extremely seriously,” he said.

Heavy rainfall spurred rapid weed growth across the country, prompting cropping farmers to spray their fallow country.

Temperature inversions, which mostly occur at night, than caused off-target spray drift, moving Phenoxy (2,4-D-type) chemical in some cases, up to “tens of kilometres” away from the target field.

Cotton Australia general manager Michael Murray said at present the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) are reviewing 2,4-D pesticide and an assessment on the chemical’s environmental risks.

Mr Murray said there is concern that if drift instances continue, the APVMA may be pressured to make changes to the frequency and timing of phenoxy chemicals use, which could negatively impact growers.

“When applied properly and appropriately, it’s a very useful and effective chemical,” he said.

“No one in the farming industry would like to see it banned.”

The extent of damage caused to cotton crops before Christmas is varied and Mr Murray said there were some cases of irreparable damage already.

There’s a concern if people continue to apply phenoxy chemicals carelessly, cases of irreparable damage to cotton crops would increase dramatically as we near the end of the season.

“Given the rain we’ve had, the likelihood of a new round of fallow spraying is likely,” Mr Murray said.

“If these chemicals aren’t applied properly, the damage could be catastrophic.”

Any growers  affected by off target spray drift should contact their Cotton Australia regional manager to report the damage.

Mr Murray said they should also report it to the Environment Protection Authority (EPA).

With the chances of inversion conditions occurring so much more likely at night, Mr Murray urged phenoxy users to cease night time spraying. 

He also urged phenoxy users to be careful when spraying the chemical and to check necessary things like wind speed and reading the chemical’s label.


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