Driftwatch, a new Web site designed to make applicators aware of what's around them when they are making pesticide applications and help reduce drift incidents, is now accessible at www.driftwatch.org.

"Drift is something that occurs every year," said Fred Whitford, director of Purdue Pesticide Programs. "When considering that every crop acre is sprayed with either a herbicide, insecticide or fungicide at least once - and more than likely, multiple times, including organic acres - growers are really doing a good job about not drifting.

"However, every drift incident is serious. A single drift can be devastating, whether it's on a cantaloupe farm, a tomato farm, a beekeeper's farm or a flower grower's farm. It impacts their livelihood and their lives."

Driftwatch is a Web site where Indiana pesticide applicators can check before they spray near sensitive areas that are susceptible to drift. Sensitive sites include beehives, certified organic fields, fruits, fish farms, grapes, floriculture or greenhouse production, organic livestock, nursery crops, pumpkins and melons, and tomatoes and vegetables. Sensitive fields or habitats can be located on the Web site by entering an address, town or ZIP code.

Driftwatch uses a Google Maps interface that allows applicators to easily locate registered sites. Registrants of sensitive crops and habitats may have a bright black and yellow sign placed near the roadside or field, marking it as a drift-sensitive area.

The Web site, developed by the Office of Indiana State Chemist (OISC), serves two groups. Growers with sensitive crops and habitats can sign up and register their crops, while applicators can find out about these sensitive acres.

Leighanne Hahn, Driftwatch coordinator and water quality specialist with the OISC, said she hopes the Web site will help growers respect each other by opening up the lines of communication.

"Right now we are getting ready to move into the postapplication season," Hahn said. "Also, there is the potential for a lot of acreage to be sprayed with fungicides this month.

"Fungicide application has continued to increase each year and now makes up more than half of the complaints we receive. Pesticides contain products that can have a significant impact on sensitive crops and habitats."

Whitford said that he recently responded to a woman who made her living from selling fresh cut flowers but was hit by drift earlier this year. As a result, she lost her contract because she could not deliver product. The woman is looking at a $50,000 loss just this year, which is justified, Whitford said.

To avoid causing losses to other growers, it's important for applicators to visit the Web site and see what sensitive areas are near them, Hahn said. In the future, she hopes to have the site set up so that each time a new area is registered within a certain radius, it will automatically notify the applicator so they don't have to keep checking the Web site.

Red Gold has required all of its growers to register their fields on the Driftwatch Web site. More than 500 Indiana pesticide-sensitive crops and habitat sites are registered.

Cress Hizer, president of the Indiana Plant Food & Agricultural Chemicals Association, said that his organization has embraced the principles of professionalism, technology and stewardship since its founding in 1966.

"I think you will find that the Driftwatch Web site embodies all three of these principles - professionalism, technology and stewardship - and it just makes sense for us to support it. We've considered ourselves to be the first 'green industry' in Indiana by being a good neighbor when we apply products."

The number of acres in organic production is on the rise. According to the 2007 Census of Agriculture, small farm production -- fewer than 50 acres -- went up 97 percent from 2002.

"It's a challenge for applicators to know where all these small acres and specialty crops, which are very susceptible to drift and pesticide products, are at," Hahn said. "The whole goal of this Web site is to help growers and applicators better communicate with each other and prevent drift incidents from happening."

For specialty crop producers who have not registered their fields, it's not too late, Hahn said. Specialty crop growers are encouraged to go to the Web site , and register their fields or sensitive habitats. To register, click the "Register here" button on the left side of the screen. Then follow these steps: join the producers list; log in; enter the type of crop, street address and ZIP code; and then plot the field or sensitive habitat. For help with the registration process, a guide and video tutorial are available here.

Driftwatch Web site sponsors include the OISC, Purdue's Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering, Indiana Vegetable Growers Association, Red Gold, Syngenta Crop Protection, and the Indiana Wine and Grape Council. It's also supported by the Indiana Department of Transportation.

SOURCE: Purdue.