What is spray drift?

Fruit and vegetable growers face a constant battle against pests and diseases that threaten their crops. To protect their yields, growers commonly resort to spraying crops with pesticides and herbicides. In recent years, advances in both technology and science mean growers can use spraying tools and practices in ways that are even more sustainable – environmentally and financially. Despite these new innovations, the risk of spray drift is something growers are always conscious of. In this blog, we’ll explore what spray drift is and the most effective methods growers can implement to minimize its occurrence.

Ontario farmers and spray operators take stewardship seriously, but sometimes spray drift can happen. It occurs when crop protection products, like pesticides and herbicides, unintentionally move away from the intended target. It’s an issue that can impact crop yield, crop quality and input costs. Spray drift can also have negative impacts on nearby fields and properties, livestock, sensitive natural habitats, and can cause tension with neighbours.

There are many reasons why drift can happen. Most can be avoided. To mitigate the risks of spray drift, it’s crucial for growers to understand the factors that contribute to spray drift and how to best mitigate these risks.

Main contributing factors to spray drift

  1. Wind speed: high wind speeds increase the likelihood that droplets will be carried beyond the intended spray area while dead calm conditions can mean a temperature inversion where droplets can move unpredictably.
  2. Droplet size: bigger droplets are more likely to reach their target due to their heavier weight.
  3. Distance to target: growers want to ensure the boom on spray equipment is at a distance that ensures complete coverage of the intended spray area, but is close enough that the risk of spray drift is minimal.

Even if growers follow the best practices to prevent spray drift, it’s impossible to eliminate it completely.

Potential consequences of spray drift

  1. Economic losses: poor spray coverage can lead to crop losses, along with damage to sensitive crops that may be affected.
  2. Environmental impacts: spray droplets could end up in unintended places, such as in waterways, forests, or residential areas.

Be Drift Aware

Recognizing the importance of spray drift awareness, the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers’ Association (OFVGA), in partnership with several other agricultural organizations recently launched a new initiative aimed to educate growers about spray drift. The initiative provides an abundance of resources including videos, educational materials, and even a quiz to test growers’ knowledge on spray drift!

By promoting awareness and being proactive with educating themselves, growers can mitigate the impact of spray drift, protecting both their crops and environmental health. For more information and resources on spray drift, visit www.bedriftaware.ca.