Environmental guidance for your business in Northern Ireland & Scotland

Agricultural chemicals: herbicides and pesticides

Using herbicides and pesticides in agriculture

If you dispose of waste pesticides to land, you must have an authorisation from your environmental regulator. You must comply with your authorisation in order to meet the cross compliance rules of the single farm payment scheme.

Cross compliance and agri-environment schemes

What you must do

Using pesticides

Only use pesticides under the terms of their approval. These should be clearly shown on their packaging.

If you use pesticides professionally you must have received adequate training in using pesticides safely. In some circumstances you will need a qualification called a certificate of competence. In general you will need to hold the certificate if you use agricultural pesticides. Agricultural pesticides are pesticides used:

  • in agriculture
  • in horticulture (including horticulture of amenity areas such as parks, streets, sports pitches)
  • in forestry
  • in or near water
  • as industrial herbicides

Details of when you will need a certificate of competence are included in section 2 of the codes of practice for using plant protection products.

DAERA: Code of practice for using plant protection products (Northern Ireland)

Scottish Government: Code of practice for using plant protection products

If you are using pesticides, apply to the City & Guilds Land Based Services (for Northern Ireland and Scotland) or the Scottish Skills Testing Service. If you are using fumigants, apply to the British Pest Control Association.

City & Guilds Land Based Services

British Pest Control Association

When using pesticide sprayers do not use water taken from the nearby streams, rivers, lochs or ponds unless:

  • a device preventing back siphoning is fitted to the system
  • the water is first placed in an intermediate container

You must prepare pesticides for application and clean your pesticide sprayers in a way that prevents spillages, washings and run-off from entering the water environment.

 From 26 November 2015 Grandfather Rights expire and pesticide spraying must be carried out by someone with the appropriate certificate.

Scottish Government: Changes to pesticide rules

Pesticide-treated plants must not be soaked in any part of the water environment.

SRUC: GBR 23 - Application of pesticide (Scotland)

Details on filling equipment used to apply pesticides are included in section 4 of the codes of practice for using plant protection products.

DAERA: Code of practice for using plant protection products (Northern Ireland)

Scottish Government: Code of practice for using plant protection products

Aerial pesticide application

Notify the relevant authorities before aerial spraying

If you carry out aerial spraying you must make sure that:

  • the spraying is done in line with an approved Application Plan
  • specific spraying operations have been permitted by the Health and Safety Executive's (HSE) Chemical Regulation Directorate (CRD).

CRD: Aerial spraying permitting arramgements

Requirements for spraying near watercourses

You must have approval from your environmental regulator before using herbicides on aquatic weeds or weeds on the banks of watercourses such as rivers, ditches or lochs/loughs.

For certain pesticides that you apply using ground crop sprayers or broadcast air-assisted sprayers you need to maintain an aquatic buffer strip between the area you spray and watercourses. The product label will specify the width of the buffer strip that you will have to maintain.

Under certain circumstances, and depending on the pesticide used, you may be able to reduce this aquatic buffer.

If you want to reduce the width of this strip you will also need to carry out and record a Local EnvironmentalRisk Assessment for Pesticides (LERAP).

CRD: Local Environmental Risk Assessment for Pesticides

In Scotland you must not apply organic fertilisers to:

  • land within 10 metres of any ditch, burn, river, loch, wetland or coastal water (on sloping ground a wider buffer zone maybe required)
  • land within 50 metres of any well, spring or borehole that supplies water for human consumption
  • land that is waterlogged or covered with snow
  • land with an average soil depth less than 40cm that overlies gravel or fissured rock

You must not apply livestock slurry on frozen land.

You must not apply inorganic fertilisers to land that:

  • is within 2 metres of any surface water or wetland
  • is within 5 metres of any well, spring or borehole that supplies water for human consumption or any well or borehole that is not adequately capped
  • has an average soil depth of less than 40 cm and overlies gravel or fissured rock
  • is frozen, waterlogged, or covered with snow.

In Scotland it is an offence to apply organic or inorganic fertiliser to land in excess of the nutrient needs of the crop.

SRUC: Storage and application of fertiliser

Check the codes of good agricultural practice

Northern Ireland: Code of Agricultural Practice for the Prevention of pollution of Water, Air and Soil

Scottish Government: Code of Practice for Using Plant Protection Products in Scotland

SRUC: GBR 23 information

Disposing of pesticides

You must never dispose of waste pesticide to a soakaway, watercourse or drain.

If you cannot apply dilute pesticide washings to a crop in accordance with the product label, you may be able to dispose of them to land under an authorisation from your environmental regulator.

Water pollution

You must comply with your duty of care when you deal with agricultural waste such as pesticide and pesticide containers.

If you dispose of pesticides using options other than disposal to land under an authorisation from your environmental regulator, you may need to treat pesticide waste as hazardous/special waste.

Duty of care - your waste responsibilities

Hazardous / special waste

In Scotland you may treat pesticide solution or washings in a lined biobed, but you must register an exemption with your environmental regulator before you do this. This is called a paragraph 42 exemption in Scotland.

Exemptions for agricultural waste recovery

In Northern Ireland you are no longer allowed to use a drum incinerator to burn empty pesticide containers.

In Scotland, you can use a drum incinerator in certain circumstances, but you must first register an exemption with SEPA. Contact your local SEPA office before you consider burning containers. You should first consider reusing or recycling plastic containers.

Burying and burning farm waste

SEPA: Contact details

Guidance on handling and disposing of pesticide waste, contaminated material and equipment and pesticide packaging is included in section 5 of the codes of practice for using plant protection products

DAERA: Code of practice for using plant protection products (Northern Ireland)

Scottish Government: Code of practice for using plant protection products

Good practice

Storing pesticides

Only store enough pesticide for your immediate use.

Keep pesticides in a locked, dedicated store which:

  • is as far away as possible from drains or watercourses
  • can contain spills of up to 110% of the volume of pesticide in your store, or 185% in sensitive areas such as groundwater protection zones or upstream of a water supply catchment
  • is at least 4m away from sources of ignition such as grain dryers
  • has a fire resistance of 30 minutes or longer
  • has raised shelving or pallets to put the containers on to prevent them getting damaged
  • does not have water pipes or tanks in or above it.

Check that your store does not contain pesticides that have been withdrawn from use, eg atrazine.

Further detailed guidance on how you can store pesticides safely and legally is available from the Health and Safety Executive's agriculture information sheet 16 and from section 3 of the codes of practice for using plant protection products.

Health and Safety Executive – Storing agricultural pesticides

DAERA: Code of practice for using plant protection products (Northern Ireland)

Scottish Government: Code of practice for using plant protection products

Using pesticides

To avoid wasting pesticide:

  • calculate the amount of pesticide you need for each field
  • regularly maintain and calibrate your spraying equipment

Specify an area on the farm where you will fill and rinse sprayer containers. Make sure this area is well away from drains, watercourses, wells, springs and boreholes. In Scotland this area may drain to a biobed.

Use a vegetative buffer strip next to watercourses. Do not apply pesticides to this area.

Do not apply pesticides:

  • to very steep slopes
  • when the soil is waterlogged, flooded, frozen or snow-covered
  • when heavy rain is due

Further information

The following codes of good practice provide more guidance on pesticides.

In Northern Ireland, see section 6 of the DARD 'Code of good agricultural practice for the prevention of pollution of water, air and soil', and the DARD 'Code of practice for using plant protection products'.

DAERA: Code of good agricultural practice for the prevention of pollution of water, air and soil (Northern Ireland)

DAERA:Code of practice for using plant protection products (Northern Ireland)

In Scotland, see section 9 of the 'Prevention of environmental pollution from agricultural activity (PEPFAA) code' and the 'Code of practice for using plant protection products', from the Scottish Government.

Scottish Government: Prevention of environmental pollution from agricultural activity (PEPFAA Code) 2005 (Scotland) (Adobe PDF 1.34Mb)

Scottish Government: Code of Practice for Using Plant Protection Products

The Voluntary Initiative is industry led and provides guidance on best practice, training and advice.

The Voluntary Initiative

Keep up to date with pesticides laws with our pesticides guidance.

Pesticides and biocides

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Permits

NIEA - Apply online

SEPA - Application forms