Environmental guidance for your business in Northern Ireland & Scotland

Applying pesticides and biocides

Applying pesticides and biocides

What you must do

Have a certificate of competence

You may need a qualification called a certificate of competence if you use agricultural pesticides.

In Northern Ireland you should read chapter 6 of the Code of Good agricultural practice.

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

In Scotland, read section 2 of the code for using plant protection products to find out if you need a certificate of competence.

Scottish Government: Code of Practice for Using Plant Protection Products

From 26 November 2015 Grandfather Rights expire (they may have applied if you spray on your own or your employers land) and pesticide spraying must always be carried out by someone with the appropriate certificate.

Maintain your spraying equipment

In Scotland you must make sure that your pesticide application equipment is tested at least once by 26 November 2016 unless it is less than five years old on that date. Knapsacks and handheld sprayers are exempt from this regulation but must be kept in good condition.

Scottish Government: Changes to pesticide rules

In Scotland you can find details of your nearest sprayer test centre on the National Sprayer Testing Scheme website

In Northern Ireland you should follow the guidance in section six of the Code of Practice.

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

In Scotland you must comply with the requirements of GBR 23 - As of 01 January 2018 GBR 23 has been revised. It now only applies to the storage and application of pesticides that are plant protection products and a new rule has been included to allow the application of herbicide to control non-native species of plants on river banks. For more details on the revision of GBR 23 go to the future legislation pages.

You must apply pesticides in accordance with the terms and instructions of the product approval, follow the instructions carefully. You must also spray pesticides in a way that the risk of pollution is minimised.

Prepare the pesticides for spraying, and clean and maintain equipment at least 10 m away from any burn, ditch, river, wetland, loch, estuary or coastal water. If you use water from any of these sources to dilute the pesticide you must use an intermediate container, or fit a device that prevents back siphoning.

You must avoid spraying:

  • When it is raining, or when the wind could cause the spray to drift outwith the target area
  • Onto frozen, snow covered or waterlogged soil
  • Within 1 metre of any river, burn, ditch, wetland, loch, estuary or coastal water (unless, in Scotland, it is for the control of invasive non-native species under GBR 23g)
  • Onto ground that is sloping, unless there is a way of intercepting the runoff
  • Within 50 metres of any spring that supplies drinking water, or any uncapped well or borehole
  • Onto impermeable surfaces that drain to the surface water drainage,
  • Onto roads, railways, permeable surfaces or other structures

Aerial spraying

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.

In Scotland:

Pesticide must not be applied within 1m of any river, burn, ditch, wetland, loch, transitional or coastal water unless:

  • the pesticide is approved for aquatic use and are applied according to the approval
  • they are applied for the control of invasive non-native species
  • no pesticide enters the water environment
  • the ground is not frozen, snow covered or waterlogged
  • it is not applied to impermeable surfaces that drain into water unless measures are put in place to prevent runoff entering the water.

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

Good practice

Check the codes of good agricultural practice

DAERA has produced a guide to help farmers understand the requirements of Integrated Pest Management.

DAERA: Integrated Pest Management Guidance

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: Using pesticides information leaflet

The HSE provides a database of pesticides (includes herbicides, fungicides, molluscicides etc.) where you can find:

  • if a product is still approved
  • approved products for specific purposes
  • details of application rates and methods of delivery
  • alternative products for a range of applications.

and a wide range of other information relating to pesticide use.

HSE: Pesticides Monitor Search

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NIEA - Apply online

SEPA - Application forms