Pollution predictor

European researchers have developed new computer tools that can assess the potential risk of using pesticides in farming.

Pesticides used in farming can contaminate surface and ground waters through a number of means: runoff, infiltration and leaching.

To help assess the potential risk of using such pesticides, European researchers have developed a set of computer software tools that combine data on climate, soil and crops.

The so-called Footprint software tools were developed by a consortium of 15 European institutions led by Bureau de Recherches Géologiques et Minières (BRGM), the French national institute for research on earth and environmental sciences.

Researchers at the Science and Technology Research Institute at Hertfordshire University, Cranfield University’s National Soil Resources Institute and the Water Resource Systems Research Laboratory (WRSRL) at Newcastle University were also involved in the project.

The software tools encapsulate a number of different scenarios that represent a specific type of agricultural area in Europe. For each scenario, a unique combination of weather patterns, soil characteristics and crop growth characteristics are specified.

Hence, a user of the Footprint service can find a scenario that best matches an area local to them and discover what the likely fate of a pesticide will be in that area.

The software set includes information on routes of contamination by pesticides and the likely concentrations of pesticide contamination entering bodies of water.

It can be used to develop programmes to reduce the impact of pesticide pollution.

To access the Footprint software, visit: www.eu-footprint.org/FOOT_tools.html