On the Etiquette of Crop Sprayers and other Countryside Users

Usually, when I walk the dog over the fields and I see some agricultural work going on, be it sowing, ploughing or spraying, I will chose an alternative, rougher route through the flood meadows along the river’s edge. However, this week I found myself trapped in a corner of a field by a stealthy, fast crop sprayer.

When I started round the field there was nothing about, no machinery of any kind. It was just a quiet, bright sunny day. The dog and I were wandering along looking for interesting things: on Sadie’s part pheasants (probably) and for my part, damselflies and butterflies. In fact, the Salsify and Goatsbeard has just started to flower, so I was fairly engrossed in looking at a plant that I thought might be a hybrid, when I realised that there was a droning sound that was getting louder. I glanced up to see tractor, with its spraying boom spread wide, coming over the brow of the hill and racing towards me. So I grabbed the dog, put her on a lead and moved as far from the path and field as I was able, into some rough meadow area (I was lucky that there was a bit of space there). The tractor passed, got to the end of the field and turned for the next side and then just sat there.

Mobile phone picture of the crop sprayer

Mobile phone picture of the crop sprayer from my cornered position

I found myself trapped in that corner, since it was the only bit of rough meadow around. The path round the rest of the field was not wide and had little clearance from the field edge. Of course the way I had come was now wet and sprayed. I also wasn’t sure where the tractor was going next, up and down or just round. So I stood and waited. And waited. I contemplated approaching his cab to ask where he was headed, but I was too nervous that he would start up as I got close. Was he waiting for me to start up the other side? Honestly I don’t know what he was up to, but I felt intimidated and stuck. I hoped that he would lean out of his cabin to tell me to hurry up the next side, but no such courtesy. So I took a picture on my mobile phone.

There is no moral to this tale, or indeed a right and wrong I suspect. Eventually he moved on round spraying the rest of the edge of that field and then he raced (they can really shift) away on up the path until he disappeared. He didn’t stop anywhere else. The rest of the walk was unpleasant and stunk of chemicals. I came home and googled toxicity of herbicides (for that is what I assume he was using). I only found very vague things like the spray is less dangerous than the amount of chemicals found in supermarket food.

Still, I can’t help thinking that since it was a public path there should be some rules for spraying along the edge to protect other countryside users, or some etiquette to let walkers/riders pass by unsprayed.

About Frogend_dweller

Living in the damp middle of nowhere
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8 Responses to On the Etiquette of Crop Sprayers and other Countryside Users

  1. Julie says:

    Well said, a similar thing happened two weeks ago, I was out walking with my husband and dog and we heard the familiar sound of tractor, then smelt the chemicals, finally saw the vehicle, we think the farmer was spraying for ragwort as horses graze in the field, but there is also a public footpath through the field which is part of the Greensand ridge walk. We were left with no choice but to walk through as quickly as possible.

  2. Christina says:

    That sounds dreadful, I’m sure it probably depends exactly what chemical was being sprayed but they are all toxic to some extent. You should try to contact the farmer to find out what it was and maybe the ramblers association? Check the FAO website for details about the chemicals being used.

    • Thanks Christina. Luckily, apart from a dry throat all that day I’ve not felt any effects and the dog seems fine. Tracking the farmer is complicated by leasing agreements with the university college who owns it, so after checking a bit on the HSE website I’ve let it drop.

  3. Chloris says:

    It is one of the drawbacks of living in East Anglia. It sometimes happens to me when I am out cycling and I cannot cycle fast enough to escape it. It smells horrible and I don’ t believe it can be harmless to breathe or to eat when it lands on our plates.

    • Yes, it is nasty stuff and I think that the farmers are entirely too cavalier when they apply it, skirting the edge of the guidelines. I guess that they get hemmed in by days when it is too windy etc to apply and so cut corners to do it.

  4. Robbie says:

    I HATE spraying:-) I know they have to do their thing but it is so bad for the environment. I live in the city and today, I looked out and there were two men spraying the LARGE wall to wall carpet at my neighbors house across the street. I closed all the windows and did not venture outside. I don’t grow any food out front but berries up near the house for they just spray their lawns…When will we get smart about this stuff! All my edibles are behind the house and I have bush barriers between my neighbors yards. I have a lot of bees and butterflies, but when I see that stuff it saddens me for I never see anything on their flowers near their homes:-)

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