Healthy Environment, Healthy Community, Healthy Business

Environment Protection Authority

Spray drift warning to landholders spraying crops this summer

Media release: 8 January 2016

The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) is urging landholders across the state to be aware of the risks and potential impact of spray drift and to use herbicides carefully this summer.

The reminder comes after the EPA received a report from Cotton Australia that close to 40,000 hectares of the state’s cotton crops have been damaged since summer spraying began in November 2015. Cotton Australia estimates the loss to the industry to be about $20million.

Most of the damage is reported to be related to the spraying of phenoxy herbicides, a group of herbicide chemicals commonly used by farmers to control weeds on fallow country, ahead of winter planting, particularly in wheat and barley growing areas.

Director of the EPA’s North Branch, Gary Davey, said pesticide products containing phenoxy chemicals can cause extensive damage to non-target crops, including cotton, grapes, tomatoes, oilseed and ornamentals. Spray. drift can also cause considerable environmental damage to native vegetation, waterways and wildlife.

“Some landholders are likely to take advantage of the recent wet weather to carry out spraying on their fallow areas, so our message to take care and follow all necessary instructions and precautions is a timely one,” Mr Davey said.  

“Herbicides are an important part of agriculture, but the misuse or mishandling of these chemicals can pose a danger to the community, environment and impact on agricultural enterprises. Landholders must ensure they understand the rules and know their responsibilities.

“Many phenoxy products contain label instructions that stipulate that the product is not be applied under weather conditions, or from equipment, that may cause spray to drift onto nearby, susceptible plants or crops, cropping lands or pastures. The EPA urges growers to not to spray during temperature inversions, as such conditions may increase the risk of spray drift.

The EPA regulates the use of pesticides in NSW, including those used in agriculture, on public land and in commercial and domestic premises, through the provisions of the Pesticides Act 1999.

Under the Pesticides Act and Pesticides Regulation landholders are required to:

  • Have appropriate training in the use and handling of pesticides and herbicides
  • Check the product label carefully before spraying
  • Comply with the directions for use on the label
  • Keep accurate records
  • Check weather conditions before spraying.

The EPA investigates reported herbicide misuse and has the power to carry out site inspections, and check people’s record keeping and levels of training. Failure to meet any of the above requirements can result in regulatory action.

There are a number of sources of information to assist landholders with the correct use of pesticides and how to avoid spray drift. These include:

The EPA encourages people to use these resources when planning any spraying operations.

Anyone with a concern, or knowledge of a spray drift incident or pesticide misuse in their local area, should contact the Environment Line on 131 555. 


Contact: Public Affairs Unit

Page last updated: 08 January 2016