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Pesticide Drift Prevention: Communication Called Key

Rob and Tammy Faux of Genuine Faux Farm have been victims of pesticide drift. (PFI)
Rob and Tammy Faux of Genuine Faux Farm have been victims of pesticide drift. (PFI)
June 22, 2017

DES MOINES, Iowa -- Pesticide drift is not only unwanted and destructive, it is also illegal - and Iowa farmers are encouraged to learn more about the problem and take steps to prevent it.

Rob Faux owns Genuine Faux Farm, a certified organic vegetable and poultry operation. He happened to be outside when a plane spraying insecticides and fungicides flew directly over his field. To recover, they moved fences to relocate turkeys and hens, cleared vegetation and flushed out chemicals with overhead irrigation.

He said they lost a significant portion of their crop and could not sell eggs for nearly three months.

"We took the cautious route because the last thing you want to do is give somebody something that has chemicals on it that are not rated for human consumption,” Faux said. "That's part of the scariest part of this is what would have happened had we not been home when they decided to spray."

Faux said communication is key to prevent drift. He speaks with his neighbors and nearby co-ops who do applications to ensure they are aware he has sensitive crops. Farmers also can register their operations online at driftwatch.org, which applicators can check to identify areas that should not be sprayed.

Faux said another way to help mitigate the impacts of pesticide drift is to plant buffer strips.

"What we've started doing over the years is we've been trying to grow those buffer strips up vertically as well,” he said. "So we've added bushes in hopes that that will catch drift. Obviously it won't do anything if a plane flies directly over you and drops spray. You can't solve that."

Pesticide drift can be devastating for fruit and vegetable farmers, and could cause organic farmers to lose their organic certification. It also can cause health hazards for workers in the field and impact populations of pollinators.

But Faux explained that most of those who apply chemicals don't want them to go where they are not intended.

"It would make no sense to me if I were a farmer doing that to have any applicator spraying when it was too windy or have the nozzles on when they're not over the proper section of field, because you're paying for these things to be applied to your crops, not on anything else,” he said.

Faux and other farmers are featured in a Practical Farmers of Iowa video series on YouTube about pesticide drift and how to best respond. Details are available online at practicalfarmers.org.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - IA