Three training events have been organised in an effort to highlight best management practice in the use of herbicides and pesticides by farmers.

The events have been organised by the Animal and Plant Health Association (APHA) in conjunction with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Teagasc, Irish Water and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

These training events are directed at farm advisors, farmer leadership and others concerned with improving the management of herbicides and pesticides to ensure their effectiveness and prevent any risks to the environment, and water quality in particular.

The training events will take place at the following locations:
  • Tuesday, May 28, Teagasc Agricultural College, Ballyhaise, Co. Cavan;
  • Wednesday, May 29, Teagasc Agricultural College, Kildalton, Co. Kilkenny;
  • Thursday, May 30, Teagasc Agricultural College, Pallaskenry, Co. Limerick.

Each event will comprise a morning of classroom-based learning followed by a practical demonstration in the afternoon using a fully functioning demonstration sprayer.

These events have been specially tailored to Irish farming enterprises and practices with the training intended for agricultural advisors, farming organisation leadership and local authority water specialists.

Speakers will include:
  • Train Operators to Promote best management Practices and Sustainability (TOPPS) programme leader, Manfred Roetelle;
  • Per Erik Mellander, principal scientist, Teagasc;
  • James Caplis, Department of Agriculture;
  • Cliona Ní Eidhin, EPA;
  • Andrew Boylan, Irish Water.

Commenting on the events, chief executive of APHA John Keogh said: “Pesticide contamination of drinking water has become a significant focus of environmental concerns.

“While the overall quality of drinking water in Ireland is very high, testing has revealed a number of drinking water supplies where pesticide contamination has been detected, including a small number of locations which have shown persistent exceedances of the permitted levels.

“In Ireland, most of the contamination issues concern herbicides and, in particular, MCPA which is used in the control of rushes in grassland.

It is important to recognise that the permitted levels are set considerably below levels which would impact on people’s health.

“These events will examine best management practice in the use of sprays customised for Irish farming conditions.

“In particular, the pathways by which pesticide contamination can occur will be examined, including diffuse sources of contamination through soil erosion and runoff, and spray drift, and point source contamination which can occur from farmyards and other locations where sprayers are filled or washed out.

A specially constructed demonstration sprayer will be used to examine and re-enforce correct methods of filling, calibration and cleaning of the sprayer.

Concluding, Keogh said: “Our objectives are to increase awareness of farmers and their advisors of the environmental risk factors, and to support farm advisors in their understanding of the pathways by which contamination of drinking water can occur and how these may be prevented through good management practice.”