DriftWatch program protects farmers

While rural neighbors may live miles apart, what’s done on one farm operation can impact another, especially when it comes to pesticide application. That’s why the Illinois Department of Agriculture (IDOA) has introduced a new, web-based program, called Driftwatch™, to enhance communication between commercial pesticide applicators and specialty crop growers.

This online program, which was first used in Indiana and launched in Illinois in 2011, allows organic and specialty crop growers to enter the location of their fields on an Internet map that pesticide applicators can consult to avoid spraying sensitive crops. Every time a new field is added, the program sends an e-mail alert to registered applicators.

“Our objective is to reduce the potential for pesticide drift or the accidental application of farm chemicals to unintended areas,” says Warren Goetsch, IDOA bureau chief of environmental programs. “Applicators always take precautions, but they can make better decisions on how and when to spray if they know where the specialty growers are located.”

It’s a shared responsibility, Goetsch says. Growers must be certain they enter the locations of their fields – and enter them accurately. Pesticide applicators must be committed to checking the Driftwatch™ site before they spray and adjusting their application accordingly. That might mean selecting a day when the wind is blowing away from the specialty grower’s crop, for instance. Or it might mean accommodation by the specialty farmer.

Although it’s too early to measure the success of the program, since specialty crop growers are still entering the system, Goetsch believes that Driftwatch™ is a promising non-regulatory approach to solving concerns about pesticide risk and/or misuse.

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To learn more, visit illinois.agriculture.purdue.edu/index.html.


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