Only 27% of farmer participants in a Mayo study who use MCPA to spray rushes were using the correct pesticide protective equipment (PPE).

The study by UCD masters student Emma Swan, was called Knowledge transfer on rush control to reduce instances of pesticide residue in drinking water sources.

Sixteen farmers in the Moher Lake area of Co Mayo took part in the study. Of the 16 farmers, nine had completed a pesticide training course and 12 of them were part of an agri-environmental scheme.

When it came to filling or washing out the sprayer, seven of the 11 farmers in the study who used MCPA, the key spray for rushes, washed out the boom sprayer according to best management practice.

Just three of the farmers said they wore the correct personal protective equipment (PPE).

There were three reasons for rush control – grassland management, land eligibility and appearance.

Buffer zones

In the interviews for the study, four of the nine farmers who had completed a pesticide course said they were unclear of the buffer zone distances for spraying rushes.

Four of the farmers with no course said they were completely aware of the correct buffer zone, but did not obey it when spraying and the remainder of farmers were aware of the correct buffer zone when spraying.

Swan conducted interviews with 16 of the farmers who were in the Moher Lake catchment and completed workshops with 12 farmers who were in the catchment.

I heard there some time ago that there was chemicals in the water but not in Mayo specifically

Farmers were also asked about their awareness of water quality and pesticide contamination, with the majority (13) aware of it at national level only. They were unaware of this being a local issue in Moher Lake.

“No I never heard of that here, I wouldn’t think it would be an issue. I heard there some time ago that there was chemicals in the water but not in Mayo specifically,” one farmer said.

Another farmer said: “We haven’t had any issues with it, it couldn’t be an issue in here because the amount of spraying we do in the area is very little.”

In relation to the attitude of farmers towards pesticides and water quality, Swan found a number of issues which gave rise to concern:

  • Health reasons – the lake is a public water supply.
  • The fear that MCPA might be removed from authorisation if it continues to enter water supplies.
  • However, overall there was a positive attitude amongst the farmers towards changing their practices to help with the issue. The study found that many of them were still adamant that pesticides are essential for managing rushes on their land.

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