Spray Drift


August Weather Event 2022

Information relating to the recent weather event in Marlborough

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Spray Drift

Spray drift in vineyard by tractor.
Plane spraying crops.

Marlborough has a long history of horticulture and viticulture cultivation. In recent years, viticulture has undergone a rapid expansion. Marlborough is now world famous for its wines and is New Zealand's largest and best known wine growing area.

The plains of Marlborough are now characterised by the regular pattern of vineyard rows.

What is spray drift?

Horticultural and viticultural agrichemicals is a term for chemicals which are used mostly in farming industries. Agrichemicals are used to control the spread of insects, weeds, plant diseases and other pests. These chemicals are applied to crops and other target areas by a variety of means but are most often sprayed, either at ground level or by aerial means.

Spray drift occurs when spray drifts away from the target crop or area. It can cause problems if it comes in contact with non-target areas. These could be neighbouring crops or plants, residential areas, schools, waterways or other receptors that might be damaged by coming into contact with these chemicals. Some agrichemicals can be harmful to people and pets, or can harm other crops and plants.

Wind, air temperature, soil temperature, relative humidity, water volume, nozzle type, nozzle size and operating pressure all determine the potential for spray drift to occur in an area.

Why are we concerned about spray drift?

  • The dominance of viticulture in the region has led to increased use of agrichemicals
  • The windy nature of the open plains, particularly in spring
  • Spray drift can be a health risk to humans and animals
  • Spray drift can damage crops and other plants
  • Spray drift can harm the environment
  • Wasted spray is expensive
  • Spray applicators can be liable for damages if inappropriate use leads to health or environmental damages
Spray drift in vineyard by tractor.

Exposure to spray drift

If you are concerned that you have been exposed to spray drift, if possible you should:

  • Approach or phone the person on whose property the spraying is taking place and let them know of your concerns. Make a note of any such conversations.
  • Collect as much information as you can about who, what, when, where and how. Take weather details such as wind direction, wind speed, any rain and the air temperature. Take photographs of any visible signs of spray drift.
  • Seek medical attention if you are worried about symptoms of illness and explain your risk of being exposed to agrichemical spray drift.
  • Phone Council's Customer Service Centre on phone: 03 520 7400.

How can it be prevented or the effects minimised?

Good practice combined with biological and mechanical control can reduce the amounts of agrichemicals used and thereby reduce the risk of spray drift. Sustainable Winegrowers are dedicated to ensuring best management practices among members.

See Sustainable Winegrowers

  • Only apply agrichemicals according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Strictly follow the safety precautions and never mix with other chemicals or use more than the recommended amounts.
  • Allow for buffer zones between the spray areas and property boundaries.
  • Maintain shelter belts if the spray area is in close proximity to sensitive receptors, eg; schools and residential areas.
  • Do not spray in windy conditions.
  • Inform neighbours of spray events.
  • Maintain a spray diary.
  • Make sure you, or your contractor, is Growsafe trained. Growsafe training teaches you to apply agricultural chemicals safely and accurately.

Visit the Growsafe website

  • Spray Drift Report - 30 June 2007

    This report investigates potential air quality issues from viticulture spraying, including the potential accumulation of chemicals in the Blenheim area.