The curse of chemical users – pouring the first few litres from a 20L drum

The curse of chemical users – pouring the first few litres from a 20L drum

Pouring Chemical from 20L drum

One of the most hazardous tasks when handling chemicals is getting the first few litres out of a 20 litre container. As if the job of lifting and balancing the 20kg+ of weight in the drum is not risky enough, if you’re not careful the first few litres will glug and gurgle their way out of the drum, splashing undiluted chemical onto you, contaminating your clothing and potentially poisoning you.

Amazingly, it’s one of the few areas of agvet chemical handling and use that the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA, the government regulator) has little or no control over.

Here are a few tips that can decrease the risk to you:

  1. Buy your chemicals in containers that are easier to handle, for example:
    Enviro transfer pump
    Buy larger envirodrums, where a pump is required to draw out the liquid.
    Pouring chemical from 10L drum
    Buy smaller containers. Not only are 5L and 10L drums easier to lift, they can more easily be held at the correct angle to reduce glugging.
    Pouring chemical from 20L drum with vent
    Buy drums that have a vent hole as well as the pouring hole, allowing air to enter the drum as the liquid is poured out, preventing glugging.

    Pouring chemical from bag-in-box
    Some chemicals come in plastic bladders within a cardboard box. The bladder collapses as liquid is drawn from it, preventing glugging.
  2. Pouring chemical from 20L drum with spoutScrew-on spouts can make it easier to pour liquid without having to hold the drum close against the measuring jug, giving you more space to hold the drum at the ideal angle for pouring. Pouring into a container on an elevated surface can help too.
  3. Drum pumpDrum pumps can be used to draw liquid from the drum without the need to lift and tip the drum. Be careful as some chemicals can degrade the seals in the pump; and be careful to avoid cross-contamination if using the same pump for different chemicals.
  4. Drum tipping frameTipping frames will remove the risk of trying to manipulate the drum at the same time as lifting the weight of the full drum.

Ask your chemical supplier where you can obtain some of these devices; or use your search engine to find them on the net.

Reducing off-target damage when using tree/vine sprayers

Reducing off-target damage when using tree/vine sprayers

Vegetative barrier

Drift of airborne spray droplets onto adjacent areas is always an issue when spraying fungicides and insecticides into the canopies of tree and vine crops; the risk is exacerbated when the orchard or vineyard is adjacent to urban areas.

Research commissioned by PIRSA in SA, and conducted by the Centre for Pesticide Application and Safety (CPAS) of University of Queensland, compared the effect of two different sprayers and two different barriers on spray drift.

One of the sprayers was an air-shear machine, where high speed air is directed into the canopy at various angles. The other sprayer was fitted with a tangential fan, where lower-speed air is directed horizontally into the canopy.

The barriers were (1) an artificial barrier consisting of a vertical plastic mesh (shadecloth), and (2) a growing vegetative barrier consisting of mostly Acacia (wattle) species

The full report, with colour photographs and graphs of results, can be read on PIRSA’s website – Spray Buffer Report 2009.

In summary, the vegetative barrier was more effective than the artificial barrier at reducing drift, and the sprayer with a tangential fan produced less drift than the air-shear sprayer.

Table 1. Deposition of spray droplets 10 metres and 80 metres downwind from the barriers.

No barrier Artificial barrier Vegetative barrier
Distance downwind from barrier 10m 80m 10m 80m 10m 80m
Air shear sprayer 180* 20 20 4 7 7
Cross-flow (‘tunnel’) sprayer, with tangential fan 25* 0 11 4 3 4

* Spray droplets were collected on vertical pipe cleaners, then washed into known volumes of water and analysed in a fluorometer. The numbers in the table are micrograms of ‘chemical’ per litre of water (µg/L) –higher numbers mean deposition of more spray droplets.

Pest Suppressive Landscapes

Pest Suppressive Landscapes

Pest suppressive landscape.jpg

We’ve been told for a long time that biodiversity in the landscape is good because it encourages natural predators of crop pests, thereby potentially decreasing the need for chemical pest control; but there has been a shortage of hard evidence to back up this claim.

A recent research project by GRDC (Grains Research & Development Corporation) has looked at the effects of native vegetation and introduced weed species on the populations of insect pests and their predators, in grain cropping environments. This research has been reported in the GRDC Fact Sheet Pest Suppressive Landscapes. Some key points in the Fact Sheet are:

  • Insect pests are more commonly found on exotic weeds than on native vegetation.
  • Native vegetation in good condition (ie with an intact understory of native species, and with few exotic weeds,) may reduce the number of pests, while supporting populations of beneficial insects.
  • Weedy pasture and weedy remnant vegetation can provide habitat for insect pests. Controlling exotic weeds in these situations may be beneficial in tipping the balance between pest and predator populations to favour the predators.

The Fact Sheet lists a number of exotic weeds and the pests that thrive on them; as well as a list of native plants and the predators that they are hosts to. This information can be very helpful when planning a revegetation program. Download the Fact Sheet.

This story doesn’t just apply to broadacre cropping situations. Watch out for the next issue of AgChemNews, where we will report on a vegetable grower who has saved thousands by controlling exotic weeds (which harbour insect pests) and replacing them with native saltbush (which do not host the pests, but support populations of beneficial insects).

New Online course – Control Plant Pests, Diseases and Disorders

New Online course – Control Plant Pests, Diseases and Disorders

Vegetative_barrierDo you need to get a license to be a spray contractor?

Or, have you ever wanted to know more about protecting crops, turf, etc from pests and diseases, but don’t want to enrol in a lengthy, expensive course; and don’t want to travel to your capital city once a week for months?

Smith & Georg has just released its third Online course, Control Plant Pests Diseases and Disorders, which helps you meet both these needs. It will give you the background information to help you understand information about pests and diseases in Fact Sheets and other information bulletins.

The course gives the learner an understanding of insect pests, diseases including fungal, bacterial, virus and nematode diseases, and other disorders of plants; covering what they are, how to find them, how to identify/diagnose them, and how to control them using both chemical and non-chemical methods. The course consists of a series of multimedia presentations; loads of links to relevant websites; a slide show of chemical application methods; two detailed case studies; and for those who want a formal statement at the end of the course, workplace-relevant assessments.

The course is self-directed and self-contained. While it can be completed without any outside interaction, Smith & Georg has a Freecall help-line for anyone who would like some assistance with the course.

Whether you need to do it to become licensed, or whether you’re just interested in the course because it will help you in your work, the Online option is convenient, flexible and easy. You can now complete all the training required to become a licensed spray contractor in Qld, SA, NT, Victoria and Tasmania – all done online; when and where it suits you.

For more information, or to enrol in Control Plant Pests Diseases and Disorders, go to, or call 1800 991 985 and speak with a friendly Smith & Georg staff member.

Accreditation vs Licensing – Wot the ..?!

Accreditation vs Licensing – Wot the ..?!

Two similar-sounding terms, but quite different when you’re talking about the requirements to purchase and/or use agricultural and veterinary (agvet) chemicals in a range of situations.


Accreditation is a legal requirement in many states to purchase and/or use certain chemicals in a commercial situation on your own land, or on land owned by your employer. Many quality assurance programs also require a current accreditation to be held by people who handle chemicals. Smith & Georg’s Chemical Accreditation course meets the requirements for chemical accreditation in all states.

Pest Management LicenseA License is required in most states if you want to apply chemicals as a contractor; for a fee or for some other type of reward in lieu of payment. In Queensland a license is also required to use specified herbicides in regulated Hazardous Areas. The table below provides a summary of training required to become a licenced spray operator in each state.

In some states an extra, different, licence is required by the business that undertakes contract spraying. Check with your state’s licensing authority whether this applies to you.

A brief summary of general requirements for licensed spray contractors in each state – for information specific to your own situation, always contact the licensing authority.

State Course(s) required Licensing authority / Comments
Chemical Accreditation1 Control Weeds Control Plant Pests, Diseases & Disorders
NT 2 DPIF Ph: 08 8999 2344
Qld - DAFF Ph: 132 523
In Qld often referred to as the ACDC Licence
NSW - - There is no requirement for a contractor’s licence in NSW; however all commercial users of agvet chemicals need Chemical Accreditation1
Vic - - DEPI Ph: 136 186
Tas 2 DPIPWE Ph: 03 6777 2133
SA 2 Dept of Health Ph: 08 8226 6186
WA 3 3 3 Dept of Health Ph: 08 9222 4222


  1. The Smith & Georg Chemical Accreditation course covers the following Level 3 Units of Competence:
    • AHCCHM304A Transport, handle and store chemicals
    • AHCCHM303A Prepare and apply chemicals
  2. This course is not required in these states if the contractor is only applying herbicides.
  3. There are additional courses required in WA – check with the WA licensing authority.

For more information about these courses, or to enrol in them, go to or call 1800 991 985.

Familiar chemicals are now illegal

Familiar chemicals are now illegal

The APVMA (Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority) has a program of reviewing the registrations of chemicals that were approved for use many years ago; starting with those chemicals that present the highest risk.

Sometimes a review will result in increased restrictions on availability and/or use of the chemical; and sometimes the outcome is that a particular chemical, or group of chemicals, is withdrawn from legal use in Australia. Two recent examples are:

  • Insecticides containing the active constituent parathion-methyl. It has been illegal to use these products since 26 July 2013.
  • Herbicides containing the active constituent 2,4-D in the High Volatile Ester (HVE) formulation. It will be illegal to use these products after 31 August 2014.

Remaining stocks of these chemicals should be disposed of appropriately. The chemical industry’s ChemClear program is a suitable way to dispose of all unwanted chemicals. More information can be obtained at or by calling Chemclear on 1800 008 182.