Chemical damage to grapevines caused by spray drift is once again being investigated by PIRSA Biosecurity SA in the Clare Valley and Riverland regions.

Off-target damage to grapevines adjacent to broadacre cropping has been an ongoing issue over the past decade, prompted by a move away from cultivation and towards herbicides for summer weed control.

“Certain weather conditions, such as inversions, can result in spray drift damage tens of kilometres from the application site, so producers must consider that sensitive crops may be located some distance away when planning a spray operation,” said Michael McManus, manager of Rural Chemicals Operations at Biosecurity SA.

“Extensive education programs about chemical use are run by both Biosecurity SA and industry groups, and it is disappointing to see spray drift incidents still occurring through ignorance, negligence or poor management practices.

“We rely on the entire farming community to use chemicals as per the mandatory label requirements. Biosecurity SA therefore reminds farmers to consider their neighbours and abide by regulatory requirements when spraying.”

Biosecurity SA encourages growers to notify the hotline immediately when they suspect spray drift has occurred.

“Reporting chemical misuse in a timely manner is critical to protecting our crops and achieving compliance. If farmers don’t report incidents, we can’t stop poor practices by those few who are letting the whole industry and community down,” Mr McManus said.

“PIRSA through Biosecurity SA takes this issue very seriously. While investigations can be time consuming and spray drift origins difficult to trace due to rapidly changing weather conditions, Biosecurity SA will pursue all reports of anyone who has either deliberately or negligently caused damage to others by not following regulatory requirements. If caught offences can carry a maximum penalty of $35,000.”

In April 2017, Biosecurity SA successfully prosecuted a Naracoorte farmer, who was found guilty of three charges in relation to the spray drift of herbicides and fined $15,000.

Anyone who suspects spray drift damage is encouraged to call the Chemical Trespass Hotline on 1300 799 684. You can read more about the Riverland spray drift incidents here and here.