Class 4

The organic agriculture, and even more the biodynamic agriculture, represent certainly alternative methods to conventional farming in terms of crop protection. Without details about ideological and philosophical disputes, it is therefore sure that the use of conventional pesticides is still by far the most adopted solution to guarantee a regular and efficient crops growing.

The health of foodstuffs intended for alimentary consumption, whether human or animal, has been rigorously guaranteed and controlled for a long time by the application of the so-called ‘times of shortage’, i.e. the minimum period after which the active ingredient(s) distributed on crops for their defence do not constitute a danger or a threat to health any longer. This time usually corresponds to the period between the last treatment and the harvesting of a given product.

Among other things, more or less rigorous regular inquiries, also promoted by organizations independent of the agricultural environment (e.g. the in-depth checks carried out in Italy on behalf of Altroconsumo, a well-known consumer magazine), provide in this respect very positive results. The operators of large-scale retail trade, too, are not less rigorous, as they impose to their suppliers of fruit and vegetables strict rules concerning the absence of pesticide residues, with heavy and immediate sanctions even if just a parcel of the product is not consistent with the requirements.

However, the impact of the part of pesticide which does not reach its target, or disperses into the atmosphere by drift and / or in the ground by percolation, is another problem. From this point of view, the sprayers and the distribution techniques need to be improved significantly. In Italy, the ‘PAN (Piano Agricolo Nazionale – National Agricultural Plan)’, which was recently issued and will be followed and strengthened at the local level by ‘PAR (Piani Agricoli Regionali – Regional Agricultural Plans)’ in publication, impose a general and functional verification of (almost) all types of sprayers, in order to guarantee their proper functioning, in time and space. In addition, in several regions this functional verification will be combined with the so-called ‘calibration’, i.e. the setting of the correct operating parameters of the tool according to the usual operating conditions declared by the farmer as well as the agronomic objectives the treatment aims at achieving.

Therefore, both final consumer and environment are considered. And what about the operators who perform these treatments?

Unlike what one might think, the most serious poisoning by pesticides does not happen by inhalation or ingestion, but by dermal contact. Therefore, it goes without saying that the operators must be adequately protected, also considering that they could be massively exposed to contact with pesticides, as they have to carry out several treatments along the growing season, often protracted for a long time. The protection can be direct, guaranteed by such individual protection devices (I.P.D.) as gloves, shoes, suit, mask, or helmet (with respirator), etc., or indirect, allowing them to work in a confined environment, in an atmosphere free of any harmful element. All this can be achieved if in the tractor (or the self-propelled spraying machine) a closed and pressurized cab is fitted, provided with activated carbon filters in the service of the ventilation system, in order to effectively stop not just powders, but also vapours and aerosols.

As for this specific case, in Italy EN 15695 standard (Agricultural and forest tractors and self-propelled sprayer machines – Protection of the operator from hazardous substances) establishes which are the requirements for these cabs, defined ‘Class 4’, the highest level in the growing scale of protection from air pollution.

All the most important manufacturers of tractors (as well as self-propelled sprayer machines) are proceeding with the homologation of their cabs, as they know that this is the solution that best combines practicality and effectiveness and allows the operator to have an optimal control of the process. So, it ultimately results in the best performance/cost ratio.

It is possible to effectively protect the operators. ‘All you have to do is want it’…

by Domenico Pessina,

Department of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, University of Milan – Italy

University of Milan – Italy


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