Using buffer zones and vegetative barriers to reduce spray drift
The following information outlines the potential value of buffer zones and vegetative barriers when applying pesticides to cropping and horticultural crops.
Often these are seen only of value to protect from herbicide spray drift between broadacre cropping and horticulture. However, the risk is equally important with fungicide and insecticide use in horticulture causing contamination of broadacre crops as well as other types of horticultural crops.
What is a buffer zone?
An area left designated as a no spray zone between a sensitive area and a crop being sprayed is known as a buffer zone. A buffer zone often forms a strip of unsprayed paddock, but may also contain a vegetative barrier within it.
The required distance of a buffer zone will vary a great deal and may be different from day to day as you must take into account:
- The product you are using, some require buffer to be used in order to legally use the product. When using products that specify a required buffer distance it is important to make a note that this was observed when making a record of use.
- The type of application equipment as a boom sprayer applying a COARSE droplet size is less prone to drift than a mister applying a FINE droplet size.
- The nature of the sensitive area you are trying to protect as different distances may be required for crops compared to residential housing etc.
- The environmental conditions on the day, especially the wind direction and speed.
What is a vegetative barrier?
A row of trees, or shrubs or tall grasses can be planted in strategic lines to reduce the extent of spray drift of agricultural chemicals. They can achieve this by filtering out spray droplets in air passing through their foliage.
Limitations of buffer zones and vegetative barriers
It is important to be aware of the following limitations:
- They are not a substitute for good agricultural practice (GAP). If it is too windy then you should not be spraying as either a buffer zone or a vegetative barrier may not be able to stop drift. They are intended to reduce the risk spraying in nearly ideal conditions and help protect against unpredictable gusts.
- They will not stop vapour drift or odour occurring, this is purely a consequence of the product itself and the weather conditions.
Why plant a vegetative barrier?
A good vegetative barrier works by allowing air to pass through foliage while filtering out spray particles and reducing possible damage to human health, the environment, crops and livestock.
Other benefits of vegetative barriers include productivity gains from improved crop and livestock shelter, filtered noise and dust levels, reduced complaints from concerned neighbours, lowered water tables, habitat for wildlife and increased aesthetic values.
Percentage downwind drift of a pesticide (trial conducted February 1997 using an eucalypt/wattle buffer).
Effective vegetative barriers
A good vegetative barrier should be:
- Semi-permeable - you should just be able to see through it. This allows air to pass through foliage, filtering out spray particles and dust.
- At least 50% taller than the target plant.
- Located in consideration of sunlight and prevailing wind direction.
- Multi-rowed if possible.
- Made up of species with long, thin, rough foliage, e.g. Casuarina.
What to plant?
Some examples are:
- Casuarina and she-oaks are ideal species.
- Tea-tree, e.g. Leptospermum, Melaleuca.
- Grass buffer belts are useful for low growing crops only.
- Rye corn.
Where to plant?
- On crop boundaries.
- Next to sensitive areas.
- Between blocks or paddocks.
- Along sprinkler rows (low growing crops only).
Your local nursery for advice on what to plant in your area.
Product labels and manufacturers or your local reseller, agronomist or consultant to determine what buffer zone distances may be required.
Chemical Use page
Chemical Standards Officers
Fax: (03) 5430 4590
(03) 5430 4463
(03) 5430 4591
(03) 5833 5203
(03) 5336 6616
(03) 5147 0832
Enquiries from other regions should be directed to the nearest of the above-named regional officers.
Published and Authorised by:
Department of Environment and Primary Industries
1 Spring Street
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The advice provided in this publication is intended as a source of information only. Always read the label before using any of the products mentioned. The State of Victoria and its employees do not guarantee that the publication is without flaw of any kind or is wholly appropriate for your particular purposes and therefore disclaims all liability for any error, loss or other consequence which may arise from you relying on any information in this publication.