WINEGROWERS ANXIOUS OVER SPRAY DRIFT Southern winegrowers are turning militant over the issue of spray drift from farmland and could soon demand a ban on certain types of spray in the region, the Central Otago Winegrowers Association is warning. In the wake this summer of requests to farmers to be extremely careful from the time of grape-bud burst in mid-October to leaf-fall in mid-May, the association says it is close to asking the Otago Regional Council to prohibit farmers from using some of the chemicals that damage grapes at certain times of the year. The association is also about to circulate a map to farmers showing where 1750ha of grapes are located so spray operators can plan their activities accordingly. But James Dicey, head of the association and chief executive of Grape Vision which oversees the operations of more than 30 vineyards in the region, says a ban can’t come soon enough, with winegrowers regularly losing hundreds of thousands of dollars from spray drift. “As an industry, grapes are particularly sensitive to glyphosate, metsulfuronmethyl and growth hormone-based sprays whilst they are actively growing,” Dicey says. “While we fully respect the right of our agricultural neighbours to farm, we are also looking for the same level of respect. While we have talked to a number of our local farmers, we are still getting incidents of spray drift occurring every year and while grapes are quite hard to kill, the crops are easily compromised. “This has happened on two properties in Central Otago this year, with well over $600,000 of crop lost or compromised. The industry cannot sustain this level of damage in perpetuity. If our education programme does not work, we’ll be looking hard at legal remedies.” Farmers can be generally unaware that hormone sprays on non-viticultural crops can drift more than 30km after vaporisation, and grapes are particularly sensitive to certain types of chemicals. The three widely-used ones - glyphosate (broad-spectrum herbicide sprayed on weeds and grasses), metsulfuron-methyl (broadleaf weeds and grasses), and hormone-based sprays used by farmers on briar, broom and matagouri (also known as wild Irishman) – will settle on herbage and cause extensive damage. Agritech at Lincoln has been aware of the problem for some time and says it’s an ongoing problem. Crop protection scientist Rory Roten says when pesticides are used on farms and in forests, the wind can carry droplets of the sprays far away from targeted areas. “Spray drift has wreaked havoc on wine grapes and kiwifruit in several New Zealand orchards recently, causing several hundred thousand dollars’ worth of damage. Agrichemicals can cause severe damage to natural ecosystems as well, especially when they land in surface waters, as most aquatic species are very sensitive to these chemicals,” Roten says. Agritech’s Chemical Application, Research and Training group (CART) has conducted a six-year Governmentfunded research programme to find out more about pesticide spray drift movements and how to mitigate them. Funded by the Ministry of Business, Innovation 40 MARCH 2016 Spray drift has wreaked havoc on wine grapes and kiwifruit in several New Zealand orchards recently, causing several hundred thousand dollars’ worth of damage.
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