By Richard Wilkins, Provincial Specialist – Pesticide Regulatory, Regina
All agricultural producers want to bring safe, high-quality products to market and provide for their families, whether they come from the organic side or the conventional side of the sector. Growing and building good neighbourly relationships in our communities is important and can further reinforce our traditional prairie values and mutual respect.
To help with this, Saskatchewan producers have a unique tool at their disposal - FieldWatch. FieldWatch is a program which is beneficial to producers of specialty crops (certified organic, fruits, and vegetables), beekeepers and pesticide applicators. The focus on specialty crops and beehives is intended to improve communication between specialty crop producers, beekeepers and applicators. The program is free to producers and applicators to register for and use.
FieldWatch registries (DriftWatch and BeeCheck) use location and contact information provided by specialty crop producers and beekeepers. To register, you create an account on the FieldWatch website first and then, verify your field boundaries on the map for specialty crops or mark points for your beehive sites for beekeepers. There is a tutorial on the website, you can follow, step by step.
This program is very popular with beekeepers in Saskatchewan, which currently account for over 900 of the 1,400 registered sites. The program allows them to map their apiaries and if a beekeeper knows an applicator is going to be in the area on a particular day, the producer can take appropriate action to protect their colonies.
Applicators need this information so they can operate in the safest manner possible while reducing the chance of drift. Prior to heading out to spray, an applicator can simply check the website and see if there are any sensitive areas in close proximity to their work area. Therefore, they can take the necessary precautions to protect the integrity of specialty crops in the area and plan their work accordingly.
Now, FieldWatch offers an app for smart phones that is capable of notifying when you are entering an area with a sensitive site. This application has now been integrated into some equipment as a part of the pre-loaded programs as manufacturers have seen the value in the program.
The ministry encourages both specialty crop producers and applicators to participate in the program because the more producers involved, the more value the applicators find in it, and vice versa.