We look at the requirements of the Sustainable Use Directive with Duncan Russell, NSTS Manager

Sprayer testing in the UK has been around for some time. The National Sprayer Testing Scheme has been part of the agricultural scene since 2003 an important part of the VI and a requirement of the major UK crop assurance schemes.

That however is about to change. The Sustainable Use Directive (SUD) requires that all pesticide application equipment must be tested by 26th November 2016. NSTS are the delegated body for testing in the UK, so, if you are not currently having your sprayer and other application equipment tested then you should be by the 26th November this year. On the positive note for those who are already having their sprayers tested annually by NSTS then it is business as usual.

NSTS test around 16,500 pieces of pesticide application equipment annually, the vast majority being sprayers. NSTS has 270 independent test centres, many of those have additional branches who offer sprayer testing to a wider area. A visit to the NSTS website www.nsts.org.uk allows the entry of a post code to display the nearest 10 test centres to that location. All NSTS machine examiners have been trained and hold the City & Guilds qualification in Sprayer Examining; they also have the necessary equipment as specified by NSTS.

Going back to the SUD, details of the requirements are:

  • All pesticide application equipment must be tested by 26th November 2016 unless it is less than five years old on that date. Machines that are less than 5 years old will require a test on their 5th anniversary.
  • Equipment with boom widths of more than 3 metres, air blast sprayers, train sprayers and sprayers mounted on aircraft require testing at no more than five yearly intervals until 2020. After 2020 they will need testing every three years.
  • For machines with a boom width of 3 metres or less, slug pellet applicators, granular applicators and other vehicle mounted specialist equipment. These also require a test by 26th November 2016 and then a re-test every six years. Machines that fall into this category are classed as ‘low scale of use’ and can be found listed in Annex 4 of the UK’s National Action Plan.
  • Knapsack, hand-held and pedestrian controlled machines do not require a formal test, but must be inspected regularly by a competent person. The results of that inspection are to be recorded along with any repairs or rectifications made.

Duncan Russell, Manager of NSTS says ‘For those owners who are having their sprayers tested annually to satisfy crop assurance requirements the new rules will have little impact. But do be aware that the requirements now include slug pellet and granular applicators. There are many more sprayers on farms than we are currently testing and it’s important that the message gets to the occasional’ he adds.

The SUD may be seen as another layer of bureaucracy but there is a real need to have machines tested. A well maintained and tested machine is less likely to breakdown during a busy spraying period, helps application accuracy and contributes to operator and environmental safety.

Mr Russell reports that ‘Leaks and drips are the most common problem found and along with other quite easily fixed issues, should be picked up during regular maintenance and easily remedied by the operator. Other faults found like worn nozzles, those which are giving more than 10% above the manufacturers output can have significant financial implications for farmers and growers. A new set of nozzles is a small cost compared with the cost of potential miss-application of product. Having a sprayer that is tested regularly by one of our qualified technicians makes it less likely to break down during a busy spraying period and confirms it as being safe for both the operator and the environment’ says Mr Russell.

One last point Mr Russell makes ‘the new rules apply to all those applying pesticides commercially, so as well as farmers it applies to golf courses, local authorities and utility companies’.