Thousands of sprayers are out of test, with only 2,360 approved for use under the mandatory testing regime, the Department of Agriculture has confirmed to the Irish Farmers Journal.

The Pesticide Application Equipment Test was first introduced in November 2016, with testing required for all boom sprayers over 3m that were at five years old or more. Using an untested sprayer is a cross-compliance issue.

The test was initially valid for five years, but that changed to a three-year period. This meant equipment first tested in 2017, 2018, and 2019 all fell due for re-testing last year.

Sprayers first tested in 2020 need to be retested this year. New sprayers purchased in 2021 and 2022 don’t require testing this year.

There are over 150 approved testers around the country, according to the most recent list compiled by the Department of Agriculture.

Up to now, a cumulative total of about 12,000 sprayers have been tested since 2016, so there are thousands of previously tested sprayers now out of test.

New ATV sprayer test

The range of sprayer equipment that requires test approval has expanded. Initially, boom sprayers with a wingspan greater than 3m and bush/orchard blast sprayers needed testing.

This year, smaller sprayers with booms less than 3m need to be tested. These include ATV sprayers. In addition, fixed and semi-mobile sprayers, typically used in glasshouses, require testing, as do sprayers used for seed treatment.

From the end of this year onwards, granular/pellet applicators and weed wipers will also join the list.

The total number of sprayers on farms that are sanctioned for use would include all new sprayers purchased since 2020, as well as the 2,360 sprayers tested.

However, the figure of approved tested sprayers seems very low, considering there are about 5,000 tillage farmers in the country, and many dairy and drystock farms would once have had smaller sprayers on farms.

Professional users

There are 36,701 registered professional users (PUs), the Department of Agriculture has confirmed. It is a requirement for anyone who applies or sprays plant protection products to have PU certification.

There is currently no specific legal expiry date for registration, but PUs must comply with any additional training stipulated to maintain registration. There currently are 20 approved PU trainers.

There are more than 15 PUs for every tested sprayer. This high ratio is an anomaly, on the face of it.