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Environmental Services Newsletter

Battelle Environment Matters

July 2016 - Issue 2

Industry Insights
Male farmer bending down to look at crops in field.

Meeting New EPA Guidelines for Agrochemical Drift

Herbicides, insecticides and other crop protection products are critical to maintaining and improving agricultural yields. But when they end up downwind of their intended target, they can cause unanticipated risk to the natural environment and present dangers to people, livestock and wildlife. In recent years, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has put increasing attention on these unwanted off-target affects and urged the agricultural industry to find technologies and formulations that reduce spray drift.

Battelle has developed testing protocols to determine particle size and model spray drift transport to help agrochemical companies and agricultural equipment manufacturers meet EPA regulations. Using methods that have been accepted by EPA, Battelle researchers conduct spray drift tests to determine particle size of different formulations in combination with drift control nozzle types and other parameters that affect the rate of drift for sprayed active ingredients. Battelle’s spray drift testing facility in West Jefferson, Ohio is one of only two facilities in the country that are currently equipped to conduct these studies using the protocols accepted by EPA and is the only fully GLP-compliant facility in the U.S.

EPA’s Office of Pesticides Programs (OPP) announced the Drift Reduction Technology Program (DRT) in 2014. The program, which is currently voluntary, seeks to document the effectiveness of spray application technologies on reducing pesticide spray drift. Studies must be conducted using an EPA-accepted verification protocol to determine the percent drift reduction. Once completed, the manufacturer must submit the study to EPA for review and evaluation. If the study is accepted, EPA will use the results to modify the environmental risk assessments used to develop the drift reduction measures appearing on the label of the pesticide product. Companies who are able to demonstrate a substantive reduction in the risk of spray drift for their products will be able to modify their product labels to reflect this reduction.

Battelle conducts a range of spray drift studies.

  • Indoor studies in custom internal wind tunnels can be used to screen technologies and formulations in an environment that is strictly controlled for wind speed, temperature and humidity.
  • The ambient breeze tunnel, an outdoor semi-enclosed tunnel, allows studies to be conducted using controlled wind speeds in a more natural environment.

Battelle’s spray drift testing builds on more than 30 years of work in the aerosol sciences. Battelle brings deep expertise in air quality assessment, agrochemical formulation, and engineering and manufacturing equipment design. The spray drift testing team uses protocols accepted by EPA to accurately characterize particle size and predict drift potential for pesticides. These studies help companies understand how applicator design and chemical formulation impact droplet size and, ultimately, the potential for the chemical to drift. Controlled studies are used to quantify spray drift risks under different environmental conditions. All studies are conducted using approved quality programs and applicator safety regimens. 

This fall, Battelle will participate in an industry consortium workshop to help refine the testing protocols. The goal is to develop an updated set of testing standards and protocols for EPA approval. Battelle has plans to work with EPA to improve the current accepted testing protocols. The refined protocols will be made available to the industry so that other facilities will be able to conduct spray drift studies that meet EPA requirements for acceptance.