By next summer, ag retailers and farmers could find language on some pesticide labels that recommends verified use of drift reduction technology (DRT) equipment or products for spray applications, according to Jay Ellenberger in the Environmental Protection Agency Office of Pesticide Programs.

During an online presentation this week, Ellenberger explained how the EPA is nearing completion of protocol in working with the ag industry of the U.S. and regulators in other countries to finalize a program verifying drift reduction claims. Discussions and protocol development began at least six years ago to bring the program to its current point.

The voluntary program for manufacturers to cooperate with the EPA has the title of “Verification of Pesticide Application Spray Drift Reduction Technology” for row and field crops. For one thing, the protocol will assure that drift reduction claims of DRT are made using the same baseline and procedures so comparisons are for oranges to oranges rather than apples to oranges as in the past.

A draft protocol for companies to use in wind tunnel testing and field test programs has been made available to manufacturers, and some early test work by manufacturers has begun, according to Ellenberger.

The easiest aspect of the verification program will be equipment such as nozzles, Ellenberger admitted. Nozzles were the example that Ellenberger used throughout his presentation. Test results that follow the protocol will be reviewed by the EPA, and he explained what will happen using the nozzle example.

“Based on a comparison between a reference nozzle and their [new equipment manufacturer] nozzle, we will look at the difference potential for drift and assign a rating to the DRT nozzle,” Ellenberger explained.

“If the company’s nozzle shows that it has a drift reduction potential of at least 25 percent compared to the standard, we will give it a rating of one star. The idea of using stars comes from the UK [United Kingdom] system; we want to keep things consistent globally. If the nozzle has a spray drift reduction potential of up to 50 percent, then we will give it a two-star rating, and if it has a drift reduction potential of 75 percent or more we will give it a three-star rating.

“We will post the results on our website, and we will have a website that not only describes the program and how companies can get involved but also link to the protocol. There will be a page for the results to show equipment companies’ names that have tested their equipment, the specific equipment tested and the DRT rating that is assigned to it.”

Pesticide registrants are also being encouraged to work with the EPA so that they label products with information recommending alternatives for application using various DRT equipment and products. An example might be the progressive reduction in buffer zone required depending on the use of a one star, two star or three star DRT nozzle.

Additionally, EPA would be more favorably inclined toward a pesticide registrant company when it does a risk assessment and risk management analysis of a pesticide if DRT is provided as alternatives for use by applicators.

As Ellenberger also explained about the initiation of the verification for drift reduction being focused at the equipment manufacturers, “This is kind of a way to drive the application equipment market to manufacture and sell nozzles that produce less and less fines.”

As earlier noted, the star rating of DRT is already being used in the UK and about 100 nozzles have been listed with a star rating. Those ratings may be applicable to the U.S. market and included on the EPA website in the future.

Adjuvant manufacturers are also extremely interested in testing their products because drift reduction is a major claim for the use of various adjuvants.

Multiple tank mixing of active ingredients and adjuvants with different formulations will be highly complicated to be part of the DRT verification program in the beginning stage.