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Use precision pesticide application systems

The guidance on this page is for SFI pilot participants only. Please visit GOV.UK for the official Sustainable Farming Incentive scheme guidance.

Find out how land managers can improve water quality and protect wildlife habitats by applying pesticides more accurately.

If you’re completing this action as part of the Sustainable Farming Incentive pilot, how you do it is up to you.

The advice on this page can help you get better environmental and business benefits, but you do not have to follow it to get paid.

Why you should use precision equipment for pesticides

You can use precision systems whenever you use pesticides. You can use them in any location and at all scales of operation.

You can choose the best system to suit your farming, horticulture or forestry business.

Benefits of applying pesticide accurately

Precision systems help you to:

  • use less pesticide and save money
  • apply pesticides more accurately

You can use these systems to reduce:

  • the impact of weather and site constraints, like uneven ground
  • the risk of crop damage from over-application and double dosing
  • the risk of excess pesticide being detected in your crops or products
  • weed pesticide resistance

Accurate pesticide use also helps the environment by reducing the risk of:

  • pesticides reaching surface and ground water
  • contamination of drinking water
  • harm to aquatic life
  • harm to plants or animals you do not want to kill

Before you start

Research the various precision pesticide application systems to see which would be best for your current and future pesticide use.

If you need specialist machinery you could:

  • buy it yourself
  • retrofit new parts to existing machinery
  • use a contractor to carry out the operation

Check if you can get funding for new precision pesticide application equipment.

Choose the right precision system to apply pesticides

Global positioning system (GPS)

GPS uses satellite navigation and works with many types of precision technology. It’s useful when working in the dark or where there are no tramlines to follow.

GPS helps spread pesticide evenly.

You can use GPS with:

  • automatic steering, which enables the tractor or self-propelled sprayer to steer itself across the field
  • pulse width modulation (PWM) sprayers, which adjust pesticide flow rate from each nozzle

Low drift nozzles

Low drift nozzles:

  • reduce spray drift
  • are simple and cheap
  • can be retrofitted to many different types of sprayer

You can use them across the whole field or just in sensitive locations like:

  • next to surface water
  • alongside sensitive crops
  • in areas with public access

Spot sprayers

Spot sprayers apply pesticide to the target weed or a patch of weeds, rather than the whole field. You can use a:

  • vehicle with a single spray nozzle or short boom
  • handheld sprayer

Advanced spot spraying systems are available. They use technology like cameras, computer recognition, GPS or artificial intelligence. They can recognise target weeds and apply pesticides only to them. You might pass over the whole field, but individual nozzles apply the spray only where needed.

Weed wipers

A weed wiper has a wick soaked in herbicide. It wipes the herbicide against the target weeds as it passes over them. A weed wiper is usually towed behind a tractor or quad bike.

You can only use a weed wiper when the target weeds are at least 10cm taller than the non-target vegetation. In grassland you can achieve this by grazing beforehand. You can use glyphosate in a weed wiper because the herbicide only touches the target weeds.

Weed wiping causes zero spray drift so you can use it:

  • near water
  • on sensitive sites