Avoiding spray drift
Spray drift is when airborne droplets or vapour of a chemical spray move away from their intended target crop, weed or location to a neighbouring area.
It can cause damage or injury to plants, animals, the environment or property and can also adversely affect human health.
To minimise spray drift you must maintain constant vigilance while you are spraying, and follow the chemical manufacturer's directions about how to apply it.
If you are not a professional spray operator and are intending to spray agricultural chemicals, consider doing the ChemCert, SMARTtrain or equivalent national chemical national accreditation course to AQF level three.
Planning to avoid spray drift
Preventing spray drift starts when you first start planning to plant your crop, and it should take into account the need to spray.
Map the possible areas of spray drift and establish an awareness zone around the property that identifies all sensitive areas. This can include your or a neighbour's crops and livestock, neighbouring properties, houses, schools, waterways, areas of native vegetation or parks and reserves.
If possible, establish a buffer zone between the area to be sprayed and areas where spray drift could cause damage.
If you employ a professional spray operator, make sure they know about the sensitive areas and buffer zone.
Talk to your neighbours
Early communication with your neighbours reduces the chance of conflict.
Before the start of the spray season, contact them to discuss your planned spraying program and agree on a way of communicating during the season.
Give them as much information as possible including chemicals to be used, when and where you plan to spray and how often.
Use the right applicators and nozzles and follow the manufacturer's directions for use. Make sure it is properly calibrated to produce the right size droplet and deliver the right amount of spray, and the boom is at the correct height. Smaller droplets are more likely to drift .
Choosing the right weather conditions is key to minimising spray drift. Only spray in favourable conditions.
Check the weather conditions before, during and after spraying. If weather conditions change during the operation, stop and check them again to make sure it is okay to continue.
Use the wind
The ideal wind speeds are 3-15 kmh. Choose a time where there is a steady breeze in a predictable direction and away from your identified sensitive areas. Light and variable or gusty winds make it difficult to predict where spray will go.
Do not spray in calm conditions as chemical droplets can remain suspended in the air and not reach the target.
Temperature is important
Avoid spraying when the temperature is near or above 30°C and when humidity is low as this can reduce the size of spray droplets and increase the risk of spray drift.
Do not spray if there is a temperature inversion over your property. An inversion is indicated by a lack of wind, the presence of fog, dew or frost and smoke or dust hanging in the air or forming distinct layers.
Before you start spraying, check you have taken all of the following steps:
- notified the neighbours
- chosen the right chemical for the job
- you have the right equipment for the job
- the weather conditions are right
- you have identified sensitive areas and know how to avoid them
- you have protected your own safety.
Making a complaint about spray drift
A farmer or spray operator can be fined if spray drift damages agricultural land or produce.
To make a complaint about spray drift call the Pollution Response freecall number 1800 064 567.
If you have experienced damage to agricultural produce, animals or agricultural land from spray drift, put your complaint in writing.