Delaware growers are the first on the East Coast able to take advantage of a new online tool that helps protect sensitive crops from pesticides that may drift due to wind or weather.
Delaware is the newest participant in the DriftWatch program, which allows growers of certain crops or commercial beekeepers to alert pesticide applicators of sensitive areas before they spray.
"Proper pesticide use is an important part of agriculture, and we are pleased to provide this new tool to help applicators and growers communicate and share information,” said Delaware Secretary of Agriculture Ed Kee.
The Delaware Department of Agriculture regulates pesticide applicators through a rigorous training and certification process, registers all pesticides used in Delaware, and investigates complaints about pesticide drift or improper application. Drift onto neighboring parcels of land can occur because of high winds, certain weather conditions, or application errors.
The free DriftWatch program applies to such uses as commercial beehives, certified organic crops, fruits, grapes, nursery crops, greenhouses, pumpkins, melons, tomatoes and vegetables. The program is not designed for homeowners or for sites smaller than a half-acre.
Once the locations are registered online, pesticide applicators can then check the DriftWatch site to map out sensitive areas near their application sites and take precautions to avoid drifting onto those areas. Enrolling a sensitive site does not guarantee that pesticides are not sprayed near a property, but instead aims to improve awareness of pesticide use and reduce instances of drift exposure.
“The best way to reduce pesticide drift is for pesticide applicators and growers to communicate, and we hope the DriftWatch tool will open up dialogues,” said Dave Pyne, the Department of Agriculture’s environmental program administrator and pesticide compliance director.
Pyne said DDA handles a handful of drift complaints each year, with most dealt with amicably between applicators and growers or landowners.
“This mapping program will provide an easy-to-visualize tool to help reduce any incidents,” Pyne said.
Developed by Purdue University staff members, DriftWatch is now run by a Purdue-created nonprofit organization. Ten states are participating in the program, with most in the Midwest and West.
Delawareans can go to dda.delaware.gov/pesticides/Driftwatch.shtml for more information and to register.