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Ver1.4. Pesticide Handling Areas and Biobeds. A presentation for farmers, operators and advisers. CAUTION Seek Regulatory Advice Before Building a Biobed Contact the Environment Agency's Agricultural Waste Line for advice 0845 6033113.

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Pesticide handling areas and biobeds


Pesticide Handling Areas and Biobeds

A presentation for farmers, operators and advisers


Seek Regulatory Advice

Before Building a Biobed

Contact the Environment Agency's

Agricultural Waste Line for advice

0845 6033113

Developed for the Crop Protection Association and Agricultural Industries Confederation by ADAS. The assistance of the Environment Agency, SEPA & the Farming Unions is also acknowledged. This is part of the voluntary initiative to minimise the environmental impact of pesticides


  • Main issues

  • Options for Pesticide Handling Areas

  • Sizing

  • Management and operation

  • Likely costs

  • Final water disposal


  • High levels of some pesticides have been found in surface water

  • In UK water companies now need to mix or treat water to comply with the EC Drinking Water Directive

  • Sprayer use, and in particular pesticide handling areas, can be a significant source of water contamination.

  • The Water Framework Directive identifies priority substances and the need to meet good ecological status thus indicating a further need for compliance.

Sources of pesticides in the environment

Sources of pesticides in the environment

Sources of pesticides in the environment


Atmospheric output,




Residues in soil, water, crop, food, livestock,wildlife

Crop protection



runoff to surface






to groundwater


Garden & amenity pesticides

Residues in water sediments/biota


Catchment studies
Catchment Studies

  • In UK, Germany and Sweden

    • 20-70% pesticide load in surface water catchment is derived from point sources

  • UK - River Cherwell study 1998-2000

    • Funded by Bayer CropScience (UK) Ltd

    • 40% of catchment pesticide load originated from concrete handling/washdown area

Pesticides in water

Pesticides in water: sources of contamination

Pesticides in water


Point Source

Non-crop use


tank filling



waste disposal


surface flow




faulty equipment

other hard





amenity areas

Sources of farmyard pesticide pollution

Bayer CropScience Cherwell Study

Sources of FarmyardPesticide Pollution

Concrete filling areas
Concrete Filling Areas

Typical concrete filling areas showing contamination and run off

Best practice aims
Best Practice - Aims

  • Minimise contamination incidents through good operational routine

    • Limit contamination spread from inadvertent actions

    • Minimise water volumes (rain and washings) on handling area

    • Store empty containers safely and upright after use

    • Dispose of containers frequently and safely as permitted.

Through best practice

pesticide contamination of water from

handling areas can be reduced

by as much as 99%

Always comply with advice

in Codes of Practice

Sprayer loading area options
Sprayer loading area - Options

  • Concrete

    • with / without portable bund

    • with permanent bund

      • drained to sump

      • drained to treatment -biobed or chemical

  • Soil / grass

  • Drive over system

    • drained to sump

    • drained to treatment - biobed or chemical

  • Concrete

    • Portable bund

      • localises any spills

      • collect and transfer back to sprayer tank.

    • Permanent bund

      • ensure area does not receive other drainage water

      • construct a 100mm lip/bund around filling area

      • Direct drainage off concrete away from normal drains to...


    Minimise rainfall

    Match tank size

    to collection quantities


    through a licensed

    disposal contractor..


    Consider a Biobed

    Portable Bund

    Available from

    Soil grass
    Soil / Grass

    • Where site allows, filling the sprayer over a permeable surface can be useful. Natural breakdown of the pesticides is achieved by microbial action in the soil

    • BUT

      • Site >10m away from field drains and watercourses;>50m from springs, wells and boreholes

      • Prevent soil compaction by use of drive over grid or hardcore

      • May need to move site around periodically if compaction occurs

      • Avoid use on heavy clay

    Handling area with a biobed
    Handling Area - with a biobed

    • A well planned, designed and operated area linked to a biobed will allow pesticides to be retained and degraded by a considerable amount (10,000 -100,000 fold reduction)

    • A pesticide handling area (mixing and sprayer loading only) may be linked to a biobed without the need for a Groundwater Authorisation from the local environment agency.(See sprayer washing note on next slide)

    Sprayer washdown special note
    Sprayer Washdown- Special note

    • Best Practice for tank washings and sprayer exterior surfaces is to carry this out in the field

      • Any washings should be discharged onto the previously sprayed cropped area

      • Observing maximum dose for that area

      • Follow Statutory (Green) Code advice

    If sprayer washdown is intended at the pesticide handling

    area with disposal to land elsewhere, unless a lined

    biobed is being used, a Groundwater Authorisation must be

    obtained from the your local environment agency

    Biobeds and the law
    Biobeds and The Law

    • EA and SEPA support Lined Biobeds as significant improvement over current practice

    • NEW Regulatory advice for England and Wales from EA

      • Groundwater Authorisation (GWA) not required for lined Biobed

      • Water from lined Biobed can be “irrigated” or re-used without GWA

      • Site will have to be registered with EA in the future but is expected that registration will be free and can be done on line

      • Scotland check with SEPA

      • Northern Ireland check with EHS



    Design, Construction, Use and Maintenance

    Biobed system components
    Biobed System Components

    • An area (bunded) where the sprayer stands

    • Drainage from that area to a biobed

    • The biobed

    • Drainage from the biobed

      • either direct to the soil

      • or to a designated disposal area

    Biobed design types
    Biobed Design Types

    • Offset - the sprayer mixing and loading area is separate from the biobed area

      • Features:

        • Bunded concrete,

        • Slope of 1:100 to silt trap

        • Drain - to supply biobed

    • Direct - the sprayer mixing and loading area is directly over the biobed area

      • Features

        • Direct - bunded

        • Steel drive over grid or wheel tracks

    Pesticide handling areas linked to biobeds
    Pesticide Handling Areas linked to Biobeds

    • What do the designs look like?

      • Offset - A separate area, bunded concrete, where the sprayer stands and any liquids drain to a biobed

      • Direct - A drive over grid all liquids drain directly to the biobed below the grid.

    • Both designs may use lined or unlined biobeds; but only lined biobeds are suitable for washdown

    Offset biobed with disposal area
    Offset Biobed with Disposal Area

    Suitable for wash down if Registered

    Bunded area

    Turf over


    with disposal area

    Disposal by drip or sprinkler




    Direct lined biobed with drive over
    Direct Lined Biobed with drive over


    -with disposal area

    Suitable for wash down if Registered

    Steel Grid

    Disposal by drip or sprinkler

    Turf over




    Location location location
    Location.. Location.. Location..

    • Close to sprayer water filling point, chemical store and electricity supply

    • Away from other traffic / access routes, footpaths etc.

    • Avoiding collecting extra rainfall - check yard contours, other drain routes and overflow issues

    • Separate from other drains / watercourses(>10m;>50m)

    • Groundwater Risks?

    Pesticide handling area dimensions
    Pesticide Handling AreaDimensions


    Concrete pad


    300 mm


    W = Sprayer transport width + 2 m

    L = Sprayer length + 1.5 m

    100 mm

    Drain via silt trap to pump chamber

    Sprayer loading area direct
    Sprayer loading area - Direct

    Size - as for offset

    Grid - to support total full sprayer weight

    Mesh must be removable for biomix annual top-up

    Grid size 100 x 40 mm to suit foot safety and soil/mud flow through

    The biobed what is it
    The Biobed -What is it?

    • Normally a hole in the ground filled with:

      • Either a composted mix 50% by volume straw,

        25 % soil, 25% peat-free compost (biomix)

        with turf on top

      • Or a friable loamy soil with turf on top

    The hole may be lined with an impermeable liner - or not, dependant on system function, soil type, local drains, local environment agency advice etc.

    Biobeds function location and size
    Biobeds -Function, location and size

    • How do they work?

      • By locking up the pesticides and then providing conditions for enhanced microbial degradation of the active ingredients over time

    • Location

      • A biobed can be sited independently from the loading area, taking account of local drainage, access, groundwater risks, contours etc.

    • Size

      • Where a 24 m, 3000 l sprayer has been used then

        5 x 4 x 1 m deep bed has been satisfactory, though local rainfall and frequency of use will influence final size.

    Biobeds should always

    be at least 1m deep

    Biobeds components
    Biobeds -Components

    • The biomix materials could be varied from the mix suggested. Guidance must be sought to ensure required properties exist.

    • Turf cover over the biomix is vital to encourage the biological activity of the mix and assist in the management of the moisture status of the biomix.

    • Efficient distribution of the water over the biobed surface is considered critical, drip irrigation is suggested at 400 mm spacing

    Drip header pipe

    Good turf growth

    Sizing summary
    Sizing Summary

    Loading area with working allowances, guidance only, best to measure unit on site.

    Biobed - excavated in soil, 1 m deep, 300 batter on sides, 5 x 4 m area suggested as suiting most situations.

    Rule of thumb: Biobed area should be at least two/thirds of the area from which it is receiving liquids

    Offset system plumbing
    Offset - System Plumbing

    • From offset loading area, install pump in small chamber, e.g. 0.75 x 0.75 x 1m deep.

    • Pump, with integral float switch - approx. 40 l/[email protected] head, installed to appropriate regulations.

      Site all pipe runs for adequate frost protection.

      Pipe to optional holding tank or direct to drip over biobed.

    • Excavate biobed and liner with sealed drain as appropriate. Liner to be 1.5mm geotextile membrane on specified inner liner and/or sand as detailed.

    Direct system design
    Direct System Design

    • Design and construct grid to adequately support spray vehicle and ensure safe operator use.

      • Operator should be kept off biobed surface for functional and safety reasons.

      • Allow for grid to be removed in sections for annual biomix top-up.

    • Construct foundations, as appropriate, avoiding support on biobed liner if used.

    • Excavate biobed and liner with sealed drain as appropriate.

    • Liner to be 1.5 mm geotextile membrane on specified inner liner and/or sand as detailed.

      See further biobed installation notes

    Biobed installation 1
    Biobed - Installation 1

    • Biobed can either be a biomix - straw, soil and peat-free compost, or loamy soil

    • Biobed will need lining where washdown is to be practised (with Groundwater Authorisation)

    • Lining must be sealed to outlet drain effectively with coarse filter over drain inlet, e.g. 6 mm mesh

    • Where unlined, ensure that subsoil is uncompacted

    • Lining should overlap top of side batter by approx. 300 mm thereby preventing unnecessary rainfall reaching biobed

    Biobed installation 2
    Biobed Installation - 2

    • Direct drain to optional tank or small pump chamber as before, or to pump to final disposal area

    • Biomix must be composted for 4-6 weeks before use and evenly loaded into hole. Overfill hole to allow for early sinkage

    • Turf should be laid at time of filling to encourage growth. Turf does not need to be high quality and is laid over the surface of the biomix, watering early to encourage growth

    • Install drip irrigation, hard hose type best, laid onto the biobed turf surface as well as the final disposal area, lightly anchor drip lines

    • Test pump system before use

    Biobed management short term
    Biobed Management- short term

    • Biobed irrigation will maintain regular watering of turf and thus control biomix moisture condition

    • Grass growth will encourage moisture use and thus evapo-transpiration from biobed

    • Check weekly for condition and function. Investigate any tendency for waterlogging.

    • Any foliage cut from biobed turf cover to be mulched over biobed area

    Biobed management long term 1
    Biobed management- long term 1

    • Where biomix is used, material will degrade and level sinks by approx. 300 mm per year

    • Biomix top-up annually necessary. Dependent on turf growth, turf may be peeled back (with adequate operator protection) and new mix added to restore level, replace turf.

    • Soil based systems probably will not ‘shrink’ as fast.

    • Check irrigation function

    Biobed management long term 2
    Biobed management- long term 2

    • Biomix material in the hole will probably have a life of 6 -8 years before replacement or recycling

    • Removal of biomix should be done carefully (with appropriate operator protection) to a concrete area for further composting for one year. Research suggests any pesticides remaining are fully degraded in that period.

    • Drainage from this area should be preferentially routed to the replenished biobed.

    • Final disposal of the spent biomix material must be in accordance with advice from local environment agency.

    Water distribution disposal area
    Water distribution- disposal area

    • Where drip irrigation used, lay hard hose pipes at 400 mm spacing with drippers at around 1.5 l/h flow rate.

      • 1-1.5 running hours per day applies 2-4 mm of water, dependant on equipment used.

    • Set controls, e.g. level switch and any timers, to achieve this, allowing for override in intense rainfall

      • buffer available from optional tank if installed

    Typical costs offset
    Typical Costs -Offset

    • Sprayer loading area - depends on whether adequate concrete present with bund added or new material - range £300 - £850

    • Each chamber £140, pump £60

    • Biobed, excavation and materials £500

    • Liner, if needed with drain £1000

    • Drip irrigation to biobed and final disposal, depends on areas £200- £400

    Typical costs direct
    Typical Costs -Direct

    • Sprayer vehicle grid - range £2000 - £5000

    • Biobed, excavation and materials / foundations £800

    • Liner, if needed, with drain £1000

    • Each chamber £140, pump £60

    • Drip irrigation to final disposal, depends on area £300

    More information
    More Information



      • choose Library, then publications then Best Practice Guides,

        • Pesticide handling areas

        • Biobeds

        • Biobed Manual

    • ADAS Gleadthorpe

    • Cranfield University

    • Environment Agency


    • Scottish Environment Protection Agency

      • PEPFAA Do’s and Don’t’s Guide


    • BASIS CPD Points AP/032/034/d = 1AP

    • NRoSO CPD Points N0340530c = 1AP

    Practical Simple Solutions

    Protecting the Environment