The effects of plant protection products on the environment and users not only depend on their composition but also on the way they are applicated.
Modern and well-maintained plant protection equipment can help to prevent the entry of plant protection products into the environment and minimize possible health risks for users and bystanders. At European scale, the directive on machinery for pesticide application (2009/127/EC) and the directive on the sustainable use of pesticides (2009/128/EC) have introduced harmonized requirements for the inspection and maintenance of plant protection equipment. In Germany, Paragraph 16 of the Plant Protection Act (Pflanzenschutzgesetz - PflSchG) and the Regulation on Plant Protection Equipment (Pflanzenschutz-Geräteverordnung - PflSchGerätV) implement and specify the European regulations.
New plant protection equipment must fulfil the requirements of the directive 2009/127/EC with regard to its functionality and safety. Manufacturers guarantee that these requirements are met by issuing the CE certificate including a declaration of conformity. In addition, manufacturers are offered a voluntary and independent testing of their machinery by the Julius Kühn-Institute (see below).
Paragraph 16 of the Plant Protection Act stipulates the required condition of plant protection equipment: if such equipment is used properly and as intended, the application of plant protection products must not have any harmful effects on humans, animals, groundwater and the environment that are avoidable according to the state of the art. However, after a certain period of time, technical defects such as leaks or worn nozzles can occur in used machinery, so that a proper and environmentally friendly use is no longer guaranteed. Therefore, according to the Regulation on Plant Protection Equipment, plant protection equipment in use must be inspected in officially approved inspection workshops at least every six calendar half-years. New plant protection equipment must be inspected no later than six months after its first use. If the inspection is successful, the equipment receives a sticker (see picture) and an inspection report. A valid inspection sticker is mandatory for equipment in use. Handheld equipment or knapsack sprayers are exempt from this inspection requirement.
The Julius Kühn-Institute (JKI) offers voluntary tests for new equipment (model testing) with varying degrees of testing. Successfully tested plant protection equipment is registered in the "Descriptive List".
The listed equipment fulfils the legal requirements according to §16 Plant Protection Act. Additionally, equipment is tested and included in the "Descriptive List", if it fulfils special requirements with regard to the reduction of drift or the loss of plant protection products in accordance with § 52 Plant Protection Act.
Furthermore, the JKI coordinates the inspections of plant protection equipment in use. For this purpose, the JKI develops standards and guidelines for the inspection procedure. The regular inspections take place in inspection workshops approved by the federal states.
By using innovations and technically improved plant protection equipment, possible risks related to the application of plant protection products can be reduced. . Examples are equipping plant protection equipment with a fresh water tank or the use of drift- or loss-reducing technology.
When used correctly, drift-reducing nozzles help to significantly reduce drift onto non-target areas, such as field margins and surface waters, during the application of plant protection products. This helps to reduce the risks for humans, animals, groundwater and the environment. Many plant protection products have application regulations that allow to reduce the distance to water bodies or other non-target areas such as hedges when using drift-reducing technology. This has contributed significantly to the spread of drift-reducing technology.
One objective of the National Action Plan for the Sustainable Use of Plant Protection Products (NAP) is to increase the use of drift- and loss-reducing plant protection equipment. The indicator “plant protection equipment” was defined for this purpose.