First-year N.C. response to FieldWatch mapping programs has been positive
One year ago, North Carolina became the 14th state to partner with FieldWatch, an online mapping service designed to help prevent crop damage and bee deaths due to accidental or unintended pesticide drift.
The BeeCheck and DriftWatch programs allow beekeepers, specialty crop growers and pesticide users to use a website to plot or view hive locations and areas where pesticide-sensitive crops are planted.“Beekeepers have really gotten on board with the BeeCheck program part of DriftWatch,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “In just over a year, we have surpassed every state except Illinois in the number of registered apiaries. Our number of registered specialty crop acres has really started to grow since the first of the year. A lot of this new growth in registered specialty crops is due to the mandatory auxin herbicide training that the department and N.C. State University have conducted throughout the state. I expect to see this number continue to increase as more and more people hear about the program.”
Conrad Draughn, a tobacco farmer from Mount Airy, recently signed up for Driftwatch, the part of FieldWatch for producers. “I grow 100 acres of tobacco that is sensitive to the new 2,4-D product,” he said. “I wanted to mark my crop because it is sensitive to spraying.” Draughn signed up for Driftwatch after hearing about the program at a Good Agricultural Practices training workshop for tobacco growers. “It was very easy to plot my fields, especially after getting the first outline drawn,” he said. “I could use that to help plot the rest.”
Frank Fowler, vice president of McNeely Pest Control in Winston-Salem, found out about the program at the Winter Pesticide School. “We signed up for it because it is a good fit for us,” Fowler said. “We do a lot of mosquito spraying under our public health license and want to make sure there are no bee hives around when we use foggers.” Fowler had not heard of the program until seeing the booth at the training. He was eager to get his company signed up. “Any tool we have in our toolbox that helps us be a more responsible, environmentally-friendly company is a good thing.”
For the past year, department staff, with the help of NCSU and N.C. Farm Bureau, have been attending conferences, club meetings and other events to get the word out. And the outreach has worked. In the first year, nearly 1,000 producers, 1,300 apiaries and 66 pesticide users have registered.
“Our goal for year number two is to increase our registered pesticide applicators and registered specialty-crop acres,” Troxler said. “As more growers and applicators hear the success stories of Driftwatch, I think it will increase in number and be an even more useful tool for agriculture.”
Growers, beekeepers and pesticide users can access DriftWatch and BeeCheck at www.ncagr.gov/pollinators. The website offers detailed instructions on how to sign up and use the mapping tools. Producers of high-value specialty crops, such as tomatoes, tobacco, fruit trees, grapes and vegetables, can map their sites and provide contact information about their operation on DriftWatch. Using BeeCheck, beekeepers map their hives online using pins and half-acre circles and can choose which details of hive information are displayed on the map.
FieldWatch Inc. is a nonprofit company created to develop and expand the operation of the DriftWatch Specialty Crop Site and BeeCheck Apiary registries. This program was purchased with a grant from the N.C. Pesticide Environmental Trust Fund. It is part of the department’s ongoing efforts to protect and increase valuable pollinators in the state.