• clarebutlerellis

What you need to know about spray drift


There are many articles, tweets, opinions and pronouncements about drift and how to control it. Not all of these are true, and many ‘facts’ about drift are much less black-and-white than we are led to believe. My heart sinks sometimes when I read yet another article that is trying to be informative, but ends up just being confusing. Spray drift is a complicated process, with many interactions, and attempts to dumb it down to a few very simple soundbites can end up being misleading at best, and at worst just plain wrong.

I don’t think spray operators are daft and don’t need things to be reduced to the uttermost simplicity. Spray application should be a skilled job and requires balancing many competing requirements – logistical, environmental, economic and of course, regulatory. The only way to do a good spray application is to have a good appreciation of the principles and mechanisms involved, so that you can make good decisions about whether, when, and how, to do the job.

One problem is that researchers may not be good at explaining their findings in a way that can be easily used in practice, and I am sure I am often guilty of that. Another is that we have very little in the way of independent advice in the UK – most of the information I see in the public domain is sponsored or promoted by those with vested interests.

There is just about no public funding for research into spray application any more. Silsoe Spray Applications Unit is now in the private sector and we work primarily for those vested interests – whether agrochemical manufacturers and suppliers, or equipment manufacturers. However, the people who work here are still, at heart, academics whose mission is to answer scientific questions and to find solutions to scientific problems. Our results usually belong to our customers. But the generic knowledge and expertise we gain along the way can be shared more widely, and sometimes our customers are happy to share results too.

So we thought we should try to put some information into the public domain that might help provide a counter-balance to some of the nonsense that has been published in the past. We are not being paid to do this, so in that respect, it is completely independent. We will start with answering some questions, a bit at a time, about spray drift, and then move on to other topics – and feel free to contact us with your own questions, and we will do our best to answer them. So look again next week, when I will post the first question and answer.

We hope you enjoy reading this blog, and that it provides some useful, thought-provoking or, occasionally, controversial information!

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