Local farmers have been warned to be vigilant of off-target spray drift, following widespread damage to CSIRO experimental cotton plots at the Australian Cotton Research Institute (ACRI) near Narrabri.
CSIRO Lead Cotton Breeder Dr Warwick Stiller, who leads the breeding program, reported severe damage to all of CSIRO’s experimental conventional cotton plots in November after a Group M herbicide drifted from its intended target.
The damage to the crop is so severe, it will impact the industry’s cotton breeding program.
“These plots underpin the Australian cotton industry’s entire breeding program and pipeline for the release of future varieties,” Dr Stiller said.
“The impact on these plants is so severe that I am not confident we will see these experiments through to the end of the season.
“I have been part of the CSIRO cotton breeding team for more than 20 years, and this is the worst spray drift damage I have witnessed on site.”
The NSW Environment Protection Authority’s (EPA) Adam Gilligan, Regional Director North, said spray drift often travels a considerable distance because of changes in wind strength or direction.
“Our message to all users is a simple one – read product labels carefully, monitor local weather conditions and tell your neighbours ahead of time if you are spraying,” Mr Gilligan said.
“Herbicides and pesticides are important in agricultural operations, but it is vital these products are handled and used with care.”
Cotton Australia Regional Manager Paul Sloman said all farmers, regardless of what chemical is applied, are encouraged to use best practice guides and tools to prevent damage to nearby farms.
"Unfortunately, this event serves as a timely reminder about the potential dangers of spraying,” Mr Sloman said.
“All spray applicators should adhere to label requirements, check the conditions and – if unsure – seek additional advice.
“Look out for surface temperature inversions that may cause spray drift, particularly from sunset to after sunrise.”
- If you are impacted, report it to the EPA’s 24/7 Environment Line on 131 555.