The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine recently released a new document concerning guidance on good practice during sprayer operations.

The guide aims to provide tips to help operators comply with the Sustainable Use of Pesticides Directive (Directive 2009/128/EC1).

This directive established a framework to achieve the sustainable use of pesticides (SUD) by seeking to reduce the risks and impacts of pesticide use on human health and the environment. The use of pesticides is also governed in Irish legislation under Statutory Instrument (SI) 155 of 20122.

The SI regulates the training and registration requirements for pesticide advisers, distributors, equipment inspectors and users of plant protection products (PPPs) in Ireland. The following is advice distilled down and summarised from such legislation in a practical manner that is easier to digest.

Training and purchasing

  • Any person who applies PPPs designated for “professional use” (PU) on the product label, irrespective of the method of application or quantity applied, must be trained and registered as a PU with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.
  • To purchase professional use PPPs, a PU must produce their PU number or equivalent.
  • Farmers are advised as deemed appropriate to engage with a pesticide adviser (PA) to get advice on integrated pest management (IPM) and PPP application.
  • Select the best nozzle for application taking into account spray coverage while minimising spray drift

    Pre-empting risks

  • Check the weather and do not to spray if rainfall is forecast. Ask yourself is there an adequate window to carry out the application? It is not just rainfall which is of concern, the wind speed and direction should also be checked to establish if spraying is safe to take place.
  • Determine the correct amount of spray solution required for the target area to reduce the volume of spray remaining after application.
  • It is the responsibility of the PU to make themselves aware of the location of all nearby watercourses, including drains, wells, and springs. All pesticide handling operations must be carried out well away from these features. If an aquatic buffer zone is specified on the product label, it must be complied with during spraying Visit for more on this.
  • Pesticide safeguard zones (where no use or storage of pesticides is permitted) have been established for groundwater abstraction points, eg wells and boreholes. Visit for more on this.
  • Preparing equipment

  • Ensure pesticide application equipment (PAE) is within test certificate requirements before use. The initial test for all types of PAE will now fall due when the equipment is three years old. Re-testing is required at three-year intervals from the date of inspection with the exception of every year from the date of inspection for trailed sprayers.
  • All PAE must be calibrated regularly. A record of calibrations must be maintained for inspection purposes.
  • Select the best nozzle for application taking into account spray coverage while minimising spray drift.
  • Ensure availability of personal protective equipment (PPE) and use as appropriate.
  • Filling the sprayer

  • Firstly, half fill the sprayer with clean water, agitate and add PPPs as per label instructions.
  • Take the utmost care to avoid spills and never leave a sprayer unattended. It is recommended that a containment system should be in place, such as a bund or lip around the filling area.
  • Use a covered handling area, if available and suitable. This will help to minimise wash-off and drips from the filling operation.
  • Triple rinse empty containers into the sprayer. Never use an empty pesticide container for another use. Recycle triple rinsed containers.
  • After finishing spraying, and while still in the field, clean the sprayer thoroughly, inside and out, and spray out the washings on a suitable area of the same crop, ensuring that the maximum allowed dose for that area is not exceeded.
  • Storage and paperwork

  • Accurate and up-to-date pesticide application records must be kept by the PU of all PPPs applied.
  • All PPPs stored on farm must be kept in a secure, bunded chemical storage facility, which is clearly identified.
  • Integrated pest management (IPM) records must be maintained by the PU. Risk assessment records demonstrating the need for PPP use must be maintained for applications in specific areas including areas used by the public or vulnerable groups, (public parks and gardens, hospitals, public schools, public playgrounds, etc).
  • Additional guidance is available for Special Protected Areas (under the Wild Birds Directive) and Special Areas of Conservation (under the Habitats Directive).
  • Never fill a sprayer directly from a watercourse or mix, load or handle plant protection products (PPPs) adjacent to a watercourse.
  • Never fill/wash a sprayer on concrete or sealed surface areas where spillage/run-off to drains/watercourses is possible.
  • Always pay full attention when filling the sprayer and never leave a sprayer unattended during filling, mixing/agitating regardless of location.
  • Remember a single foil cap can contaminate a small stream for 30km. If pesticides get into a watercourse, they could ultimately end up in the drinking water consumed by the public.