Grandpa's Last Rites

A wind of change is on the way towards the end of this year, for those who apply professional plant protection products (PPP’s) approved by the government.  It is almost thirty years since the Control of Pesticides Regulations (COPR) were introduced in 1987 following the enactment of the Food & Environment Protection Act of 1986 (FEPA).  Under the rules introduced in COPR, users of pesticides approved for professional use in agriculture horticulture and amenity horticulture need a certificate of competence to apply them.  

To facilitate the ‘easing in’ of these new regulations the Minister of Agriculture of that era made an exception which became known as the ‘grandfather rights’ – to give time for all spray operators to get qualified.  In the 28 years since these rights were first allowed, many  litres of chemical have flowed through the sprayer pipework and now it is time for them to end!   This and other changes to the way we use pesticides, are part of the UK’s programme to implement the Sustainable Use of Pesticides Directive 2009/128/EC (known as SUD) issued by the European Parliament.  This directive called for all member states of the EU to draw up plans to make the continued use of pesticides sustainable for the future.

1/4 – Spray equipment mounted on golf course utility vehicles


2/4 – Spray equipment mounted on golf course utility vehicles


3/4 – Pedestrian controlled and knapsack sprayers will not need a test certificate but should be checked regularly

4/4 – Pedestrian controlled and knapsack sprayers will not need a test certificate but should be checked regularly

Statutory Instrument No 1657  “The Plant Protection Products (Sustainable Use) Regulations 2012”       (SUR 2012) were laid before the UK Parliament on 27th June 2012 and came into force on 18th July 2012.  These regulations will bring an end to the grandfather rights and introduce the requirement for regular testing of application equipment.  In this short article I will discuss the implications these changes will make to the sports and amenity turf market. 

The grandfather rights allowed uncertificated spray operators to continue to apply PPP’s on land that they or their employer owned, if they were born before the 31st December 1964.  The rights did not apply to spray contractors.  These rights are being laid to rest on the 26th of November this year (2015).  After this date it will become a legal requirement for everyone applying PPP’s,  authorised for professional use, to hold an appropriate certificate of competence. 

With regard to the responsibilities of employers and managers,  there are new rules relating to the purchasing of PPP’s and delegating their application.  It is now an offence for anyone to purchase PPP’s, if it is known that the person carrying out the application is not qualified to do so, unless they are to be supervised during the whole process by a suitably certificated person.   The regulations also state that  “No person shall cause or permit any other person to use a plant protection product authorised for professional use unless the person using the product holds a specified certificate or works under supervision”.

Individuals who are already qualified to use application equipment will not be affected by these new rules, as their certificates meet the requirements of the Directive  and will remain valid.  However, anyone who has attended spray application training but has not yet taken the test will need to do so before the 26th November this year if they wish to continue to apply PPP’s in the future.  For those affected by the loss of grandfather rights there will be a special training course to ensure they meet the standards set out by the Directive.  City and Guilds Land Based Services has developed a new Level 2 award in the “Safe Use of Pesticides, replacing Grandfather Rights”.  This course will not be the same as that for candidates new to spraying,  as it will take account of previous experience.  As a consequence it will take significantly less time and should also cost less than the full course. More details are available on the National Proficiency Test Council website at:

Inspection of specified plant protection product application equipment

The new rules in SUD 2012 detail the requirement for routine testing of certain types of application equipment.  This includes sprayers mounted on aircraft and trains and those that are vehicle mounted or trailed with a boom greater than 3 metres in length.  The testing requirement also relates to the age of the kit; if it was purchased or leased for the first time (i.e. not second hand) on or before 26th November 2011 – then it will need to be tested before the 26th November 2016,  when the requirement for routine inspections comes into force. 

Sprayers that were first purchased after 26th November 2011 must be tested before they are five years old.  Equipment will need re-testing every five years until 2020 when the cycle will be changed to every three years.  Hand held and pedestrian controlled sprayers, such as knapsacks and the small electric or peristaltic pumped sprayers do not need to be tested but they should be checked by a competent person to ensure their efficient operation, keeping records of when they were examined. 

Properly maintained and adjusted application equipment is safer to the environment and the spray operator,  more reliable and potentially more economical.  Regular examination of application equipment can be arranged through the National Sprayer Testing Scheme who have 230 test centres across the UK and over 600 qualified examiners itching to get a look at your pumps and pipework!  They have a presence on the web at:

It is unlikely that the loss of grandfather rights will affect many of those working on golf courses in the UK, as the vast majority of course maintenance staff are trained and tested in pesticide application as part of their greenkeeper training programme, usually at a local college of agriculture.  However,  they will need to address the issues of sprayer testing as most use some form of vehicle or tractor mounted sprayers.  Under the regulations users have a responsibility to make sure the equipment they use is properly maintained and has a test certificate where appropriate.  The parts of the turf market where most grandpas operate are in the village sports clubs such as football, cricket, tennis and bowls and also on schools playing fields.  These are the area’s most likely to be affected by the demise of the grandfather rights.