The Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) is set to commence aerial spraying to test proposed buffer zones based on a proposal which was presented today to Agriculture Minister, Noel Holder and representatives of the Pesticides and Toxic Chemicals Control Board (PTCCB).
The aim of the trial is to determine spray drifts during aerial spraying. Given several studies and review of international guidelines and buffer zones, GuySuCo stated that a buffer zone of 500m is suitable to adequately limit any negative effects of aerial spraying by aircrafts.
GuySuCo, being the only corporation in Guyana with uninterrupted experience in agrichemical and fertilizer applications, has always established clear guidelines for the safe use and handling of agrichemicals, which include procedures for aerial application. The corporation’s aerial operations have kept abreast with International Standards in equipment and environmental guidelines for drift management.
GuySuCo’s chemical applications are mainly herbicides for weed management, and applying fertilisers and cane ripeners whereas insecticides that are toxic chemicals are rarely used in the industry and are not applied by the corporation’s aircraft.
Dr. Harold Davis, a consultant scientist attached to GuySuCo, said the rationale for the proposed buffer zones was based on buffer zones from other countries taking into consideration the capability of the equipment and the properties of the chemicals being applied; coupled with previous studies carried out by the corporation. “Based on a previous study carried out in 2011, the evidence supports the proposed buffer zone. Wind speed were taken into consideration.” Dr. Davis said.
However, Deputy Registrar of the Pesticide and Toxic Chemicals Control Board (PTCCB), mentioned seven instances between the period of 2009 to 2013 where personnel from GuySuCo, the National Agriculture Research and Extension Institute (NAREI), the Pesticide and Toxic Chemicals Control Board (PTCCB) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) were part of investigating teams that confirmed cases resulting from drift from aircraft spraying which had affected farmers. “In total, we would have had 24 reported cases for that period involving GuySuCo but only seven of those cases were found to be as a result of aerial spraying of chemicals.” Mr. Amichand said.
In response to those cases, Dr. Davis reassured that those cases would have occurred while aerial spraying occurred outside of the regulated guidelines. “If all the factors are favourable, meaning if a pilot operates within the time, wind speed and other guidelines, drift should not occur. Spraying should only be effected between 6hrs and 9hrs. You cannot use human error to define a buffer zone. If persons are operating outside of the guidelines, then the instances for drift will occur.” Dr. Davis said.
During the discussions, Agriculture Minister Noel Holder, in expressing concern for pilot error, said that the Pesticide Board had to work within a given framework to safeguard the health of persons. “For instance, if pilot error occurs in three out of every ten applications then it becomes an issue.” Minister Holder said.
Responding to Minister Holder’s concerns, Dr. Davis indicated that all efforts were being employed to avoid pilot error and in the event of an error the pilot will be held responsible.
Minister Holder indicated that in developing proposals policies have to be looked at in the light of what might be occurring in agriculture in the future. “As GuySuCo moves towards diversification, it wouldn’t be sugarcane alone under cultivation. Also, location specific issues should be taken into consideration. In our proposals we have to be general but at the same time we have to be specific in terms of both the location of estates and the chemicals being used.” Minister Holder observed.
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, George Jervis, indicated that realistic systems and guidelines need to be put in place to avoid error in every aspect of agriculture. “Every aspect of agriculture that the ministry intends to enter into on a large scale, in order to really develop the industry, can only be profitable if we employ aerial spraying. Buffer zones must be standardised so we need to be careful and factor in possible effects on people’s lives and livelihoods.” Mr. Jervis said.
Reducing Spray Drifts
Drifts can be reduced by applying adjuvants in the tank mixtures. Adjuvants are designed to reduce drift by increasing droplet size by increasing viscosity of the spray solution or by producing a larger particle or globule that contains the applied material. These chemicals can be classified as: (1) invert emulsions, (2) spray thickeners, (3) particulating agents, or (4) foaming agents.
Additionally, maintenance of equipment plays an integral role in drift spraying. It is important that all machinery and equipment used to carryout aerial spraying be maintained within recommended time periods. Faulty equipment can result in leaks and accidents that can result in serious effects to persons and the environment.
Registrar of the Pesticide and Toxic Chemicals Control Board, Mrs. Trecia David-Garnath committed to working along with GuySuCo and other related agencies to ensure that all guidelines are followed.
“The Board will fully support the proposal once there was supporting data to show that the proposed buffer zones are fine in terms of the drift. We look forward to joining with GuySuCo to test these proposed buffer zones and once the results are favourable we will be able to move forward.” the Registrar said.
Present at the meeting were Agriculture Minister, Noel Holder, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture, George Jervis, Registrar of the Pesticide and Toxic Chemicals Control Board, Mrs. Trecia David-Garnath, Deputy Registrar of the Pesticide and Toxic Chemicals Control Board, Suresh Amichand, Pesticide and Toxic Chemicals Control Board Chairman, Dr. Leslie Munroe, Consultant Scientist Dr. Harold Davis, Weed Agronomist at the Agriculture Research Station, Mr. Ravindra Persaud, General Manager at Agriculture Services, Mr. Raymond Sangster, Head of the Agriculture Research Center, Mr. Gavindra Ramnarin and Finance Director at GuySuCo, Mr. Paul Bhim.