To decrease the risks with the use of pesticides, education projects are underway to ensure safer handling during pesticide use and research projects are underway to find methods for decreasing the load on the environment.
Education is important
Focus on Pesticide Use is an information and education project being run by the Federation of Swedish Farmers in collaboration with the Swedish Board of Agriculture, the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency, Lantmännen, the Swedish Chemicals Agency and Svenskt Växtskydd and the Swedish Work Environment Authority. The aim of the project is to improve the handling of pesticides in Swedish agriculture. This project has developed a ‘Helper in wind-adapted protection zones’, which is intended to decrease the risk of wind drift.
Certain projects are also being conducted within the association Farming in Balance. A project of this kind has been the development of the Swedish biobed for safe filling of spraying equipment.
Within EU there is a project, called TOPPS, for the training of farmers in how to minimise risk when using plant protection products, e.g. the risk of spillages when filling and clearing of spraying equipment, but also for minimising wind drift and surface run-off to the surrounding environment.
In another EU project, WATERPROTECT, training initiatives for farmers are combined with ground and surface water measurements in order to develop optimal strategies for minimising the risk of contamination of drinking water resources from agriculture.
Since most of the pesticide residues found in water are transported through the soil profile or via surface run-off, this can be difficult to counteract by only implementing measures for the actual spraying occasion. It is therefore important to find measures that can restrict these transport pathways, on which much research is underway.
For example, SLU and the Swedish Rural Economy and Agricultural Societies have access to a number of experimental sites where drainage water from individual experimental plots can be collected and analysed and the effect of different measures studied. One such study has shown that structure liming decreases leaching of glyphosate through the soil profile. Glyphosate is one of the pesticides most frequently found in water.
Protection zones along water courses are among the methods used to decrease the risk of pollution through surface run-off and through wind drift. Research has shown that these zones can have a good effect, but it is important that they are positioned correctly in the landscape if they are to be cost-effective.
The risk of losses of plant protection products to surface water is affected by the structure and texture of the soil. Research into this can be used to better identify high-risk areas in the agricultural landscape. The CKB is working on this as part of the activity areas of Risk assessment tools and Distribution pathways.