The rules and regulations relating to the sustainable use of pesticides in Ireland were established under Directive 2009/128/EC and are incorporated into legislation under Statutory Instrument (SI) 155 of 2012.

The latter legislation regulates the training and registration requirements for pesticide advisers, distributors, equipment inspectors and users of authorised plant protection products (PPPs).

Farmers should note that the sustainable use of pesticides is also governed under Statutory Management Requirements (SMR) 8 Conditionality. This means that Department of Agriculture inspectors are required to verify compliance with the regulations, with potential penalties imposed for any non-compliances identified.

The following points are a summary of what grassland farmers need to be aware of to comply with the rules.

Step one

Individuals who use authorised plant protection products (PPPs) labelled for ‘professional use’, regardless of the method of application or quantity applied, must undergo training and be registered as a professional user (PU) with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. Experience alone does not qualify an individual to register. A current list of training providers is available by on the Department website.

Step two

Under Irish law, pesticide application equipment (PAE) must be tested by a registered equipment inspector (EI). This includes both horizontal boom sprayers and bush/orchard blast sprayers.

Testing is required after three years from new and at three-year intervals thereafter.

Penalties will apply where PAE has been used and found not to have been tested. Table 1 details a user-friendly guide to testing.

Step three

Boom sprayers including those less than 3m, which may be fitted to ATVs, bush/orchard blast sprayers and spraying systems integrated into sowing equipment (like maize planters), which are in use and over three years old require an initial test before 31 December 2024. This requirement stands irrespective of usage frequency.

Step four

Between tests, ensure sprayers are well maintained, and perform calibration checks on nozzle flow rates and forward speed.

These checks must be carried out at least once per annum by the operator/professional user (PU) and a record of calibrations must be maintained for inspection purposes.

Step five

Completion of an appropriate ‘boom sprayer’ course and subsequent registration with the Department will allow you to use a weed-wiper on your own holding, but not on any other holding.

Completion of an appropriate boom sprayer course and subsequent registration with the Department will allow the use of a mounted boom sprayer both on your own holding and for contracting. The “boom sprayer” course also allows for the use of an knapsack on your own holding.

Step six

Completion of an appropriate ‘knapsack sprayer’ course and subsequent registration with the Department will allow you to use a knapsack sprayer on your own holding, or if you wish to offer a contracting service.

It does not allow for the use of a mounted boom sprayer on your own holding or for you to offer a contracting service for a mounted boom.

Step seven

There are no plant protection products (PPPs) authorised for use by ditch sprayers and therefore they must not be used.

Step eight

Increasingly, grassland farmers are using weed-wipers (weed lickers) to control weeds on their holdings, especially rushes.

The only products approved for use in weed wipers are those based on the active substance glyphosate – check the product labels for recommended methods of application and dilution rates.

Step nine

As appropriate, engage with a pesticide adviser (PA) to get advice on integrated pest management (IPM) and PPP application.

Employ IPM strategies to minimise reliance on chemical pesticides, thereby preventing the development of resistance and preserving future control options.

Step 10

Under conditionality (CAP), it’s not permitted to apply plant protection products (PPPs) within 3m of a watercourse. All pesticide handling operations must be carried out well away from these features.

If an aquatic buffer zone is specified on the product label, it must be complied with during spraying.

Step 11

Pesticide safeguard zones (where no use or storage of pesticides is permitted) have been established for groundwater abstraction points, eg wells, boreholes.

Step 12

Under conditionality (CAP), the application of PPPs within 3m of a watercourse is prohibited. A PPP authorisation may prescribe a buffer zone which is greater than 3m.

In this case, the buffer zone prescribed on the product authorisation/label may be reduced to 3m, only where it can be verified that the Department’s Surface Water Tool for Reducing the Impact of Pesticides on the Environment (STRIPE) initiative is used by the professional pesticide user. The STRIPE initiative currently cannot be used to reduce the 3m no-spray buffer zone as per the GAEC 4 (establishment of buffer strips along watercourses) standard.

Step 13

Never fill your sprayer directly from a watercourse, or mix, load, or handle PPPs adjacent to a watercourse. When adding PPPs to the sprayer tank, the PU must wear PPE.

Firstly, half fill the sprayer with clean water, agitate and add PPPs as per label instructions.

Take the utmost care to avoid spills and never leave a sprayer unattended. It is recommended that a containment system should be in place, such as a bund or lip around the filling area.

Use a covered handling area, if available and suitable, to help minimise wash-off and drips from the filling operation. Triple rinse empty containers into the sprayer.

Never use an empty pesticide container for another use. Recycle triple-rinsed and punctured containers.

Step 14

After finishing spraying, and while still in the field, clean the sprayer thoroughly, inside and out, and spray out the washings on a suitable area of the same crop, taking care not to exceed the maximum permitted dose for that area.

Step 15

Further information on the use of PPPs and guidance on sprayer operation is available on the Department website or by emailing

Step 16

Risk assessment records demonstrating the need for PPP use must be maintained for applications in specific areas including areas used by the public or vulnerable groups (public parks and gardens, hospitals, public schools, public playgrounds, etc), Special Protected areas (under the Wild Birds Directive) and Special Areas of Conservation (under the Habitats Directive).