THE ISSUE of spray drift has been a hot topic in recent years, especially in the northern cropping where there have been high profile cases of summer spraying damaging neighbouring crops.
One group of cotton producers, however, is getting on the front foot to demonstrate their commitment to reducing drift to the wider community.
A group of cotton growers in NSW's Upper Namoi Valley have committed to sharing important weather data to allow all sprayers in the region access to information that will help stop them potentially drifting chemical across off-target crops.
Central to the push is an app developed by ag-tech business Goanna Ag.
The free app, Goanna Telemetry, available either via Apple or Google Play, allows people who download it free access to the data from 13 private weather stations.
In particular, the Upper Namoi Cotton Growers' Association (Upper Namoi CGA) is hoping the information will allow sprayers to more accurately identify conditions where there is the risk of inversions.
An inversion occurs when air temperature increases, rather than decreases with altitude.
Spray can be lifted up in the inversion and deposited many kilometres away, with damaging impact on off-target crops.
The phenomenon can frequently occur in still conditions when farmers would otherwise think would be suitable for spraying, especially in the summer.
Cotton grower and Upper Namoi CGA president Nick Beer, Spring Ridge, said reducing the risk of spray drift was a priority across all of agriculture to ensure the safety of communities and environments and that his group was happy to contribute to minimising the problem.
He said the Upper Namoi CGA had invested $26,000 on the project.
"This is about farmers doing their bit to protect environmental systems, wildlife, bees, their neighbour's crops, plants and livestock," Mr Beer said.
There will be a publicity campaign in the area to try and get sprayers to download the app.
"We will be distributing stickers to be placed in tractor cabs, spray rigs and vehicles reminding people to check the app for any relevant data when planning spraying activities," he said.
Cotton Australia regional manager Alec Macintosh congratulated the Upper Namoi CGA for proactively working to mitigate the risk of spray drift and support their community.
"To see all the landholders who have weather stations on their properties make the data publicly available is a positive step forward for our community," Mr Macintosh said.
"The cotton growers involved have also agreed to cover the ongoing upkeep and maintenance costs for each weather station, to ensure they provide as much use to the community as possible," he said.
"This is a great example of cotton growers working collaboratively with the community to understand, navigate and assist each other through the challenges faced when planning spraying activities."
Quirindi agronomist Ben Leys hoped the release of the technology and opening it up to the public will improve all aspects of spray application.
"Off-target chemical drift of any kind is not acceptable, no matter the product being used or industry it is being used in," Mr Leys said.
"One of the hardest things to predict and overcome is temperature inversions, especially in summer when spraying windows can be limited due to hot weather," he said.
"Any tool that helps with this will be invaluable to the whole community."
Breeza farmer Dave Tudgey has a weather station on his property that will be part of the project.
He said all the growers involved in the project are committed to mitigating the risk of spray drift incidents.
Mr Tudgey said the data collected from the weather stations was an priceless resource when making spraying decisions.
"The inversion network gives everyone a valley wide view of what conditions are doing and what to expect as your progress through the day while conducting your spray operations - this is an invaluable tool for everybody to have at their disposal," Mr Tudgey said.
Landholders who are interested in being involved in the program are invited to register their details at www.goannaag.com.au and reference 'Upper Namoi Cotton Growers Weather Network.'
The story Cotton growers get on the front foot to prevent spray drift first appeared on Farm Online.