Buffer zones or strips come in all shapes and sizes, and are designed to protect sensitive areas. Sensitive areas include permanent vegetation to maintain good water quality (riparian areas around rivers, lakes and ponds), control erosion (shelterbelts) or provide wildlife habitat. These areas are also typically habitat for pollinators and other beneficial insects. Every product applied to canola has a buffer zone requirement on the label. This information is also included with product listings in the provincial crop protection guides. Alberta guide Manitoba guide Saskatchewan guide
A flea beetle case study. Flea beetles typically overwinter in covered areas such as shelter belts or ditches. In the spring the beetles move in toward the headlands of the field and feed on emerging cotyledons. If aggressive feeding occurs and the action threshold is reached, producers are recommended to spray just the headlands to manage the beetles. This practice helps to save producers money while eliminating a prophylactic application across acres that were not at the established action threshold. But headlands up against sensitive habitat or riparian areas will require an un-sprayed buffer. Most insecticides require a 15m (~50’) buffer zone around environmentally sensitive areas.
When spraying insecticides, consider the buffer zone requirement on labels. Low-drift sprays will also limit drift into these areas.
Buffer zone examples from insecticides on flea beetles (from the Saskatchewan 2018 Guide to Crop Protection):
Cypermethrin – DO NOT apply by ground equipment within 15m of water or waterfowl habitats. For aerial application a buffer zone of 100m must be left around environmentally sensitive areas such as ponds, stream, rivers, dugouts and wetlands.
Deltamethrin – For ground application, observe 15m buffer zone from environmentally sensitive areas.
Lambda-cyhalothrin – For ground application, observe 15m around aquatic habitats. Buffer zones can be reduced by 70% when using shrouds and by 30% when using cones mounted less than 30cm (12″) from the crop canopy.
Malathion – No established buffer zone listed in Crop Protection Guide. Check label.
Permethrin – Observe a 15m setback distance or ground and 100m setback distance by air near water bodies or other sensitive areas.
Voliam Xpress – Observe 15m around freshwater habitat; this is required between the point of direct application of Violam Xpress and the closest downwind edge of sensitive freshwater habitats. Spray drift buffer zones can be modified based on weather conditions and spray equipment.
Health Canada, Buffer Zone Calculator
Alberta Agriculture and Forestry factsheet on buffer zones