Specialty crop growers and beekeepers have tool to avoid chemical drift

The Nebraska Department of Agriculture and Nebraska Extension are encouraging produce vendors, nurseries, beekeepers, organic growers and other businesses that could be affected by chemical drift to avoid inadvertent drift by registering their specialty crops and beehives on-line with DriftWatch/Beecheck website.

The website is at https://fieldwatch.com/.  FieldWatch Inc. is a non-profit company that operates the website, which include both the DriftWatch Specialty Crop Site and BeeCheck Apiary Registry.

FieldWatch’s mission is to develop and provide on-line mapping tools to enhance communications between producers of specialty crops, beekeepers and pesticide applicators to reduce incidents of pesticide drift.

DriftWatch and Beecheck allow users to map their commercial specialty crops, organic crops and beehives to report their field locations online. It’s voluntary, free, easy to use, accurate and secure. Growers can go on the site to register their contact information and crop locations on the online map, and farmers and other pesticide applicators check the map to see where specialty crops are located.

Specialty crops include grapes, other fruits, vegetables, beehives, greenhouses/high tunnels, nursery crops, tree/nut orchards, fish farms, non-specialty certified organic and transition to certified organic crops, and an “other” category, which could include plants grown for seed, cut flowers, flowers for scented products, woody florals, etc.

At the website, growers can create an account, map their site, and communicate with others. The Resources section has a user guide for specialty crop growers. In addition to the website, both registries can be accessed by mobile apps launched last year.

Because some product labels now require applicators to check DriftWatch, survey adjacent properties for specialty crops or beehives, and take special precautions nearby, more applicators will be using DriftWatch in the coming year.

The Nebraska Department of Agriculture NDA sent letters earlier this spring to producers to spread the word about fieldwatch.com. In the letter, Craig Romary, Environmental Programs Specialist in NDA’s Animal & Plant Health Protection section, said NDA would like to have the most current, complete, and beneficial registry possible by including every specialty crop operation that might be affected.

More than 20,000 sites representing more than 34 different specialty crops are registered with FieldWatch. Since 2008, the numbers of acres registered has increased more than 90 percent. More than 17,000 individuals use the FieldWatch registry. Certified organic (or transitioning to certified organic), grapes, vegetables and other fruits are the leading crops on the registry, and 60 percent of the locations on the registry are apiaries.

States that currently have registries with FieldWatch include Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia, Wisconsin and the Canadian province of Saskatchewan.