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J Toxicol Environ Health A. 2009;72(15-16):921-9. doi: 10.1080/15287390902929667.

Spray droplet size, drift potential, and risks to nontarget organisms from aerially applied glyphosate for coca control in Colombia.

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The University of Queensland, Centre for Pesticide Application and Safety, Gatton, Australia.


A wind tunnel atomization study was conducted to measure the emission droplet size spectra for water and Glyphos (a glyphosate formulation sold in Colombia) + Cosmo-flux sprays for aerial application to control coca and poppy crops in Colombia. The droplet size spectra were measured in a wind tunnel for an Accu-Flo nozzle (with 16 size 0.085 [2.16 mm] orifices), under appropriate simulated aircraft speeds (up to 333 km/h), using a laser diffraction instrument covering a dynamic size range for droplets of 0.5 to 3,500 microm. The spray drift potential of the glyphosate was modeled using the AGDISP spray application and drift model, using input parameters representative of those occurring in Colombia for typical aerial application operations. The droplet size spectra for tank mixes containing glyphosate and Cosmo-Flux were considerably finer than water and became finer with higher aircraft speeds. The tank mix with 44% glyphosate had a D(v0.5) of 128 microm, while the value at the 4.9% glyphosate rate was 140 microm. These are classified as very fine to fine sprays. Despite being relatively fine, modeling showed that the droplets would not evaporate as rapidly as most similarly sized agricultural sprays because the nonvolatile proportion of the tank mix (active and inert adjuvant ingredients) was large. Thus, longer range drift is small and most drift that does occur will deposit relatively close to the application area. Drift will only occur downwind and, with winds of velocity less than the modeled maximum of 9 km/h, the drift distance would be substantially reduced. Spray drift potential might be additionally reduced through various practices such as the selection of nozzles, tank mix adjuvants, aircraft speeds, and spray pressures that would produce coarser sprays. Species sensitivity distributions to glyphosate were constructed for plants and amphibians. Based on modeled drift and 5th centile concentrations, appropriate no-spray buffer zones (distance from the end of the spray boom as recorded electronically +/-5%) for protection of sensitive plants were 50-120 m for coca spray scenarios and considerably lower for poppy spray scenarios. The equivalent buffer zone for amphibia was 5 m. The low toxicity of glyphosate to humans suggests that these aerial applications are not a concern for human health.

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