Kieran Kenny - Teagasc Soils & Environment Adviser, Castlerea
In recent years, there have been frequent detections of herbicides in streams, rivers and lakes throughout the country, including some water bodies used for the supply of drinking water in Lough Forbes in Longford and Lough O’Gara in Roscommon for example.
These persistent cases are a continuous concern and clearly indicate that a small number of farmers are not handling products with sufficient care.
The two herbicides causing the greatest problems are MCPA (sold as Agritox, Agroxone 50, Mortone etc) and 2,4-D (sold as Bandock, Mortox 50).
These chemicals are commonly used on grassland farms to control rushes, docks, ragwort and other weeds.
We must all take greater care and adhere to the following best practices when spraying: Ensure the sprayer is fit for purpose and recently calibrated and inspected; never fill the sprayer directly from a water course; spray at the right time - a young healthy growing crop of weeds, suitable weather conditions and when land is reasonably dry (no surface water in field; always read and follow the label instructions; take great care to avoid spills; be aware of all water bodies and leave the required Buffer Zone (unsprayed area of 5m for MCPA); comply with Safeguard Zones (up to 200m) if located near drinking water abstraction points; tank washings must be sprayed in the field and not emptied in the farmyard; avoid spraying for rushes from October 1 – March 1; consider other options for rush control, such as topping, sward improvement, drainage works and weed wiping with glyphosate.
The Longford Central (Lough Forbes) area is identified as a priority catchment that will be targeted with extra measures in 2018. There will be increased water sampling within the catchment from March to October at 15 different locations to identify the source of the problem.
The farmers in the area will experience increased awareness activities including letters from the Pesticide Control Division of the Department reminding them of their obligations when using MCPA.
There will also be an increase in enforcement activities, involving higher number of inspections on farms and retailer outlets. This catchment area borders three counties Longford, Leitrim and Roscommon and includes the towns/villages of Rooskey, Dromod, Mohill, Termonbarry, Newtownforbes, Drumlish, Ballinamuck and Bornacoola.
It collects water from the Black River, Eslin River, Rinn River and parts of the Shannon.
It is important to note that if the situation with MCPA does not improve the product could be prohibited for use and a cost effective control measure for rushes will be lost.
Teagasc provides a Local Advisory and Education service to farmers. They have offices based in Longford Town (Tel: 043 3341021), Roscommon Town (Tel: 090 6626166) and Castlerea (Tel: 094 9620160).
You can find us on Facebook @Teagascroscommonlongford.