Chemical Smart by Alex Nicol

Broadacre farmers are hurrying to catch up with their peers in the horticultural industries when it comes to chemical user training and accreditation, according to John Kent, who coordinates the nationwide Chem Cert program.
"It's market-driven," he says. "We're getting closer to the day when all grain farmers will need to have a quality assurance program in place and be able to demonstrate that they have produced grain which is of high quality and in a way that safeguards the environment.
"That may mean that they'll need to have a recognised qualification like Chem Cert to be able to sign off on a quality assurance program."

New crops, new challenges

The use of fungicides on pulse crops is presenting fresh 'know-how' challenges to farmers. "People who for years have been using herbicides to control weeds in broadacre crops suddenly find they need fresh skills to effectively apply fungicides or insecticides. It's a challenge right through the industry, even back to the research arm," he says.
"Scientists also need to master new skills if they're to provide accurate results on developing crops. We have the chemicals and the technology needed for the developing pulse industry but right now the human element is the weak link in the chain."

About Chem Cert

In the last ten years Chem Cert has trained 137,000 operators around Australia in the correct use of agricultural chemicals and related equipment. Mr Kent describes the course as "a competency-based training program aimed at ensuring that operators have the basic skills for chemical use".
"Now," he says, "Chem Cert is introducing a specialist, advanced one-day course in spray application for the grains industry."
"Risk management is high on the agenda," says Mr Kent. "Even when a producer employs a specialist contractor, he remains responsible for any impact the chemicals he uses have on his neighbours or the environment. We'll also take the technical side of the business further, making a study of such things as nozzle types, spray patterns and droplet size and how to manage spray drift while still applying chemicals.

Application errors cost $$

"Our participants will be competent in matching the right technology to the job. It's a big problem in the industry. We're consistently finding, in particular, that reports of fungicides failing to do their job can be tracked back to problems with application. We'll aim to put that right."
Chem Cert is a national initiative. The Chem Cert Groundrig Spray Application in Cotton and Grains Industry Short Course, also a national initiative, builds on the basic Chem Cert course. It has been supported by growers and the Federal Government through the GRDC in conjunction with the Cotton Research and Development Corporation.
The courses will be run from Charles Sturt University where Mr Kent is Senior Lecturer in Agricultural Protection.
Growers interested in either the basic Chem Cert course, or the Chem Cert Groundrig Spray Application course, should contact their state Chem Cert coordinator.
Program 3.3.1 Contact: Mr John Kent 02 6933 2489 email
Chem Cert state coordinators
NSWJulie McAlpin02 9387 471402 9387
VictoriaBronwyn Penna03 5622 205503 5622
QueenslandTony Heidrich07 5460 129507 5460
SAMeredie Johnson08 8226 051408 8226
WATerry O'Beirne08 9341 532508 9341
NTAlison Scott08 8946 632808 8946
TasmaniaMaxine Watson03 6331 213103 6331

Region North