What's the issue?
Five key herbicides used to grow oilseed rape and control blackgrass and other weeds in arable rotations are being detected with increasing frequency in surface water. As a consequence, the UK Government is considering introducing restrictions on the use of these herbicides.
Which OSR herbicides are affected
The OSR herbicides being detected are metazachlor, propyzamide, carbetamide, quinmerac and clopyralid. Propyzamide is the most frequently detected, while quinmerac and clopyralid are more difficult for water companies to remove.
How does this affect me?
These OSR herbicides are critical to weed control and growing a successful crop of oilseed rape, some of them are also important in controlling blackgrass across the rotation. Restrictions on the use of these herbicides threatens the economic viability of oilseed rape which is a valuable break crop and a means of fulfilling the three crop rule.
So what is being done?
The Voluntary Initiative is working with water companies and the farming and crop protection industry to raise awareness of the issue, improve practices and develop new tools that will support farmers in continuing their responsible use of these herbicides.
What can I do to help?
There are 5 steps you can take to help
1. Check the EA’s WIYBY website to see if any of the land you farm is in a Drinking Water Safeguard Zone and if any of the OSR herbicides you use have been identified as an issue.
2. Use the VI Integrated Pest Management Plan to discuss your approach to growing OSR and weed control with your agronomist. Identify if there are changes to rotation, cultivation and weed control practices that will reduce the risk of these herbicides reaching surface water.
3. Before applying OSR herbicides refer to VI Water Protection Advice Sheets (WPAS) and follow their advice. Do not apply if drains are flowing or there is a risk of heavy rainfall in the 48 hours after application. If in any doubt consult with your agronomist.
4. Ensure all surface water adjacent to oilseed rape fields is protected by at least a 5m grass buffer strip.
5. Make sure all your filling, handling and application practices are in order and that there is no risk of spills and splashes during filling or washing down reaching water. Use the VI's Check It Out tool.
Download the OSR Herbicides? Think Water Campaign Card.
Read the OSR Herbicides Guide.
For general best practice advice on keeping pesticides out of water visit our water advice page.