An opportunity?

Times are tough; it’s almost annoying having to repeat it. We still can’t see the end of the tunnel clearly, and that’s what even more worrying. Those who manage to keep up a positive attitude try and find new opportunities to restart, when possible. Legislation sometimes seems to complicate matters even more, a further hurdle on an already bumpy road of its own. At European level, the legislation 128/2009/EC stipulates a series of criteria for the use of sustainable pesticide products in agriculture, which include the use of efficient and correctly regulated crop duster machines.

From a technical point of view, the legislation EN 13790 establishes the minimum requirements in this sense, specifying in details which inspections and tests atomisers and bars shall be subjected to in order to ensure smooth functioning. In reality, there is nothing new to this: this is a modus operandi already well known in the past years among those companies who adhere to one or more measures of the various regional Rural Development Plans (RDP) for eco-compliance, which means the management of agricultural production with particular respect for the environment.

With this in mind, it goes without saying that sustainable pesticides (carefully selected and programmed) need to be executed with fully operating and carefully regulated machines; therefore, RDP requests regular machine inspections, usually every five years. Therefore, in almost every Italian region, new functional verifications and calibrations of crop dusters services have been activated, in qualified Centres (represented by workshops, agricultural associations, cooperatives, etc…) where specifically qualified technicians operate. A National Working Group supported by ENAMA and composed by regional representatives is responsible for managing general technical-bureaucratic issues regarding the organisation of the service and the legal supranational updates in question.

A further interesting point about these verifications comes from the companies, mainly horticultural, which sell their products to GDO (supermarkets), which are then obliged to comply to the protocols GlobalGAP-EurepGAP, those organisations that have the development of the so called “good agricultural practices” as their mission and that, among other tasks, includes the periodic verification (in this case every two years or even yearly) of machines for the distribution of sustainable pesticides.

Where is the opportunity then? It’s very simple: the legislation predicts that by 2016 (meaning the day after tomorrow…) all crop dusters (both operating in the field as well as in specialised crops, with very few exceptions) will need to be subject to periodic functional verifications. In Italy, it’s estimated that approximately 400.000 machines are operative, and that at the moment only 9% of them is subject to checks in relations to the obligations above mentioned. In parallel, there are approximately 160 active qualified Centres across our national territory, in which approximately 450 qualified technicians operate. It’s not hard to imagine that in the near future the need for quality controls may increase up to 9-10 times more compared to the present figures, with a similar (although probably not as linear) increase of Centres and technicians. An interesting prospect for technicians… but the farmers are already complaining about this new generalised duty. However, it’s not just that: a well functioning crop duster, and above all well calibrated, produces the same agronomic efficacy with less product (= active principle), which means a lower cost. Many other tests have already proved that the savings are consistent! Obviously aside from the farmers, the environment would also be thankful for this, because by decreasing the drift and drips on the ground during the treatment and increasing the attention paid first during the loading and then during the washing of the machine, would greatly reduce very dangerous pollution traces. And how about consumers? They are also thankful, because in this way they know that they can enjoy a much more organic product, without any residues.

What do you think: is this an opportunity? You get the final say…

Domenico Pessina,

Department of Agricultural Engineering

University of Milan – Italy

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