Grandfather rights

Published 11 September 15

European legislation coming into force this November requires all users of professional pesticides to hold a recognised certificate. Everyone using professional pesticides such as weed killers, herbicides, fungicides, insecticides or slug pellets is affected – including farmers; grassland and arable alike.

It is already the case that all users of professional pesticides born after 31 December 1964 or anyone applying pesticides as part of a commercial service, must hold a specified certificate. Those born before 31 December 1964 have benefited from an exemption commonly known as ‘Grandfather Rights’. This exemption ends on 26 November 2015 and from this date anyone making applications needs to be properly trained and qualified, regardless of age and experience.

What do I need to do?

If you wish to apply professional products yourself, you will need to be trained and qualified. When you buy products from an agricultural supplier, as opposed to a garden centre, they are likely to be for professional use but it’s a good idea to ask if you’re not sure.

If you are currently using professional pesticides, you need to decide if you would like to continue using the product(s), in which case you will need to gain a specified certificate. Alternatively, you could choose to only use products which are authorised for home and garden use or hire a contractor with the appropriate certificates and insurance to do it for you.

When you decide you want to continue using professional products yourself, you will need to know which certificate is the most appropriate. If you have had Grandfather Rights and only apply pesticides to your own land (owned or rented), you can take a specially designed ‘Safe Use of Pesticides replacing Grandfather Rights’ certificate. This is a new qualification which takes the experience that applicants will have accumulated over the years into account.   

If you were born after 31 December 1964 or intend to apply pesticides on someone else’s land, even if only occasionally, you will need to take the ‘Safe Use of Pesticides’ certificate and an application qualification which is specific to those products.

Rebecca Wells, from The Voluntary Initiative, offers some advice on deciding which option to go for. “When deciding how best to proceed, it is important to think carefully about the type and amount of pesticides you intend to use. If you only use pesticides very occasionally, it might not be worth your time undertaking the training. If you already use a contractor or have someone else working on the farm who holds the right qualifications, it may be worth talking to them to see if they can also take on the pesticide applications. Under the same piece of European legislation, all vehicular mounted or trailed sprayers over five-years old will need to be tested by November 2016 and then at regular intervals thereafter. This could have an effect on your business decision regarding Grandfather Rights and how to go about applying pesticides in the future.”

To find your local training provider and test centre, visit City and Guilds Land Based Services or Lantra Awards, while a professional agricultural contractor can be found on the website of the National Association of Agricultural Contractors. More information about the options when Grandfather Rights have ended or about best practice in the use of pesticide can be found on the site of The Voluntary Imitative.

Please note, there will also be new requirements relating to the purchase and use of rodenticides. These are separate to the professional pesticide legislation. For more information, see