How much contractors should be assessed and monitored in terms of pesticide use was addressed during a panel debate at IoG Saltex.
The Amenity Forum debate, chaired by forum chairman John Moverley and held at the Institute of Groundsmanship's new hub stage, featured panellists Adrian Kay, head groundsman at York Racecourse, and St Albans School grounds manager Ian Smith.
They were quizzed on pesticide use and recording. Both said they only buy from official suppliers and keep meticulous records, but added that the temptation for some contractors, particularly those with tight budgets, is to buy cheap unregulated pesticides online.
Medway Council contracts officer Chris Moor asked what he and others in his position should be doing. Moverley said the forum is working to convince all contractors to sign up to the amenity assured standard and councils can use that as a benchmark when tendering. "What we've got to do is to drive standards up," he said.
While there is no current obligation on local authorities to monitor contractors' pesticide use, implementing the UK action plan of the EU Sustainable Use Directive relies heavily on voluntary adoption of best practice.
Denise Ewbank, representing BALI, said she expects local authorities to ensure that they give tenders to contractors with the right practices. "BALI contractors are qualified and have qualified staff who administer pesticides," she said.
Speaking after the debate, Moor, who is a former golf greenkeeper and estate manager, pointed out that monitoring pesticide use was part of his job. "There's a duty of care that you should have to monitor everything" irrespective of whether a company has "got BALI to their name", he added.
Moor said the key is good communication with the public. "If someone has a white suit on, the public grows very concerned. You have to be careful to keep the public aware of what's happening on a public field."
Moverley said it is very important that local authorities check standards when awarding tenders and monitor pesticide use throughout the contract. This is the only way to avoid onerous legal requirements, he added.
Paperwork - Now built into job description
York Racecourse head groundsman Adrian Kay, who looks after publicaly-accessible open land as well as sports turf, pointed out that he makes sure to collect all the correct documentation and keep accurate records, despite not being required by law to do so.
"I used to do paperwork voluntarily, now it's in my job description," he added. "It's when things go wrong that it is necessary. We had a dog die after we had been spraying. It was nothing to do with us - we were only spraying a wetting agent and we had that written down."