As farm operations of all sizes and types get into the full swing of planting season, the Maryland Department of Agriculture and the University of Maryland Extension is encouraging anyone who will be applying herbicides to be mindful of best management practices and to use good communication with their neighbors.
Bryan Butler Sr., a regional fruit educator working with the University of Maryland Extension's Carroll County office, said the movement of herbicides from the site of application — referred to as drift — can cause harm to desirable plants located in adjacent fields, or property.
"Drift is our No. 1 issue during application," said Butler.
Spray drift is typically the result of small spray droplets being carried off-site by air movement. The main weather factors that cause drift are wind, humidity and temperature changes. Drift can injure foliage, shoots, flowers and fruits resulting in reduced yields, economic loss and illegal residues on exposed crops.
Butler said the number of complaints have diminished with tools like MDA's Sensitive Crop Locator database.
MDA Secretary Joe Bartenfelder, in a news release, encouraged producers to participate in the free, voluntary database that allows those with pesticide sensitive crops, organic crops and beehives to report their locations.
Herbicide applicators can review the site to gain an understanding of the locations of specialty crops in their area in order to take extra precautions to prevent the potential exposure of these crops to spray drift from neighboring fields. Applicators will also have access to maps and aerial photographs.
"For example, Maryland's vineyards are currently beginning 'bud burst,' or the official start of the vines' annual growth cycle, so these plants are extremely vulnerable right now," Bartenfelder said in the prepared statement. "It's also time for our commodity crop growers to ready their fields for planting, including herbicide applications. Communication between all parties right now is important to ensure successful crop production for everyone."
Dennis Howard, MDA's chief of Pesticide Regulation, said between the years 1998 and 2000, the department received a total of 36 agricultural complaints regarding possible pesticide drift. Of those 36 complaints, four applications were made by aerial applicators, 21 were made by ground application equipment by commercial pesticide applicators and 11 were made by private applicators.
Carroll County Breaking News
In 2012 through 2014, Howard said MDA received a total of 25 agricultural complaints regarding possible pesticide drift. Of those complaints, three applications were made by aerial application, 13 applications were made by ground application by commercial applicators and nine applications were made by private applicators.
The Sensitive Crop Locator map, application and user guide can be found online at http://mda.maryland.gov/plants-pests/Pages/pesticide_regulation.aspx
For more information, contact Pesticide Regulation at 410-841-5710.