Online map helps Minn. organic farmers avoid pesticide drift

Organic strawberries growing in Hutchinson, Minn., in a June 2010 file photo.
MPR Photo/Ambar Espinoza

The Minnesota Agriculture Department is encouraging use of a new mapping system to protect organic crops from pesticide drift.

The Driftwatch program allows growers to use a map to identify crops that can be damaged by pesticides.

The program covers organic crops, fruits and vegetables, grapes and Christmas trees, said Meg Moynihan, a diversification specialist at the Minnesota Department of Agriculture.

"It allows growers of sensitive crops to essentially let applicators of pesticides and other chemicals know that they're out there," Moynihan said, "so that the applicators can be proactive and take steps not to cause any unncessary and unintended drift onto their property and their crops causing damage."

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Pesticide applicators can check the map and see what areas to avoid when spraying for weeds or pests.

"We do have some very sensitive crops that really cannot take any drift at all," she said. "So this is a way to encourage good behavior and try to make sure problems don't happen."

Minnesota is one of nine Midwestern states participating in the Driftwatch program. Currently there are 119 growers and 5,880 acres enrolled in the program in Minnesota; 2012 was the first growing season Minnesota used the system.

The online mapping project is coordinated by Purdue University.