VI WARNING – Observe buffer zones when spraying oilseed rape and beans


20 November 2009


VI WARNING – Observe buffer zones when spraying oilseed rape and beans

As farmers are making their post emergence weed control applications to oilseed rape, The Voluntary Initiative (VI) has issued a timely reminder to observe voluntary 5m no spray zones between the crop and any water course.

“This summer we started a campaign to encourage farmers to establish permanent 6m grass buffer strips between oilseed rape crops and water courses as this will help reduce the risk of pesticide losses in surface run-off,” said VI Manager Patrick Goldsworthy. “While such strips already exist on many farms, we recognise that the very dry conditions in many parts of the country have not been ideal for establishing grass margins.”

“Whether the strips are established or not, it remains good practice when spraying herbicides to observe a voluntary 5m no-spray zone in oilseed rape crops adjacent to any water course – and that even includes small ditches.”

In recent years key OSR grass weed herbicides, such as carbetamide, propyzamideand metazachlor, have been found in raw water at levels that exceed the EU Water Drinking standard of 0.1ppb. Through the VI, the whole industry – manufacturers, suppliers, agronomists and farmers – have committed to changing practices to reduce the chance of this happening.

“It is a hard balancing act,” said Mr Goldsworthy. “Optimum performance usually comes from these herbicides when the soil is moist and cooling, but this carries increased risk of run-off and loss of active ingredient through field drains. A 5m no spray or a grass buffer strip at least 6m wide can help reduce the risk of these products reaching water through surface run-off and help keep them available to the industry.”

Best practice advice on water protection is being promoted by the VI in partnership with the England Catchment Sensitive Farming Delivery Initiative and further advice can be found in the Crop Protection Association’s Best Practice Guide on Grass Buffer Strips and Oilseed Rape and the VI’s H2OK? Water Protection Advice Booklet, these can be obtained from the library of

Notes to editors:

  1. The grass buffer strips advice applies to winter beans and winter oilseed rape.

  1. Grass buffer strips may need to be up to 20m wide where fields slope down to water courses.

  1. The Crop Protection Association represents companies in the UK engaged in the manufacture, formulation and supply of crop protection products for use in agriculture, horticulture, forestry, home gardening, industrial, and local authority outlets.

  1. The sponsors of the Voluntary Initiative are the Agricultural Engineers Association, Agricultural Industries Confederation, Country Land and Business Association, Crop Protection Association, National Association of Agricultural Contractors, the NFU, NFU Scotland and the Ulster Farmers Union.

The England Catchment Sensitive Farming Delivery Initiative (ECSFDI) is a partnership project between Defra, Environment Agency and Natural England which offers advice and support to farmers to reduce diffuse water pollution from agriculture. For further information see