The need to eliminate spray drift within farmers’ own boundaries, let alone to neighbouring properties, is becoming more and more prominent as crop rotations become more diverse, according to Mallee grower Andrew Biele.

Andrew is the operations manager for Bulla Burra, a collaborative enterprise spread over 15,000 hectares on properties between Loxton and Alawoona.

With vineyards and almond and citrus orchards dotted throughout the Riverland and northern Mallee, Andrew is conscious of the effect off-target chemicals could have on neighbouring enterprises.

However, with up to 50 per cent of Bulla Burra’s planting now consisting of legumes and oilseeds, he says they cannot afford to have off-target issues within their own enterprises, let alone anywhere else.

“We’ve got many different crop types within our own boundaries now, so we want to look after our own crops,” Andrew said.

“But it’s also important agriculture and horticulture work together. We’re all producing food for the community and need to ensure this is produced to the highest standards.”

There are a number of measures Bulla Burra takes to help eliminate the potential for spray drift.

“Temperature inversions are a risk for spray drift and these can place us and our neighbours at risk of off-target damage so spraying should be avoided if certain conditions arise,” Andrew said.

“In our region, dawn and dusk are the highest risk times, particularly if it is very calm and warm. You can guarantee there will be an inversion of some sort during these periods. For our operators, we recommend simply not spraying or stopping spraying in any of these conditions arise.

“Wind direction and speed at the time of spraying are also key.

“We continually monitor wind direction with a hand-held weather meter. We are looking for speeds above 3 kilometres an hour because some wind is needed to ensure the spray hits the ground.

“We are that cautious that we continually monitor weather throughout our application period. It might take us five days to finish spraying one paddock, but we are dedicated to safety.

“Our staff are required to check the online server for weather and then ground truth it with our internal weather monitoring devices, such as the hand-held Kestrel. We check and record conditions every hour and respond according to the changing conditions. If in any doubt, we stop.

 “We keep individual paddock diaries and record all details on an hourly basis. Our systems are both hand written and electronically kept for best practice.

“Keeping equipment up-to-date is also important, particularly when it comes to nozzle technology. We use air induction nozzles for our summer spraying which have a coarse to very coarse droplet size so there is less chance of drift. We also use additives to reduce the spray fines.”

Andrew says reducing ground speed when spraying has also made a huge difference in regard to spray drift.

“We have reduced our ground speed to ensure we get better droplet size management,” he said. “So long as we are still working within the pressure parameters of the nozzles we are using then it works well.”

All Bulla Burra staff participate in training so they are aware of best practice spray application techniques.

“All our staff are ChemCert accredited, this give them an insight into droplet sizes, speeds, weather and how to predict weather conditions which helps our team become best practice operators.

“We are also very strict with our staff adhering to the label requirements of any chemicals used, this ensures they understand the operation requirements of the specific chemical and keep our team and our neighbours safe.”

Details: Andrew Biele, 0439 927 782, andrewbiele@bigpond.com

View the Hot Topic: Hit Your Target

Hit Your Target champion: Peter Cousins