‘Phoenix’-area dog walkers ran to escape when a foul-smelling yellow mist descended on them.
One of the pet owners said she was strolling along a bridleway between Whittington and Fradley when she saw a tractor.
As it came towards her in an adjacent field she could also see a plume of spray drifting in her direction.
“There was a horrible smell that seemed to catch in the back of my throat,” she said.
“I tried to escape from the cloud by going across a field on the opposite side of the bridleway.”
She said another woman and her dog were also caught in the spray – she too had to get off the bridleway to get away from it.
But the villager said a horse rider who arrived shortly afterwards rode into the field that had been sprayed.
It seemed she was oblivious to the noxious-smelling material that had just been put on the land.
The walkers said there was a “moderate breeze” blowing the chemical across the bridleway and into their faces.
Official guidance says in those conditions it is “inadvisable” to spray crops.
And it seems the farmer responsible may have been committing an offence.
The Plant Protection Products (Sustainable Use) Regulations 2012 (PPR), say precautions must be taken to protect human health and so sprays must be confined to the crop.
Caught by the breeze
All that is known about the chemical being used is that it came out of boom nozzles set at around two feet off the soil in a bright yellow spray.
There are many powerful agrichemicals used in Britain.
It worries environmentalists and doctors that the PPR accepts they can damage human and animal health.
They do harm
All the regulations seek to do is “reduce” the risk.
That applies to contamination from direct spray and residue picked up off the ground.
Water run-off also causes problems as the toxic materials enter local watercourses.
In a landmark High Court case, in 2008, the government was ordered to ‘rethink’ its policies on agrichemicals and give human health more priority.
The action was brought by Georgina Downs. She showed the Court compelling evidence that farmers spreading toxic materials had damaged her health.
Since then the growing industrialisation of farming has brought the industry and public into increasing conflict.
In the Whittington area is has been claimed that invertebrate populations crashed because of agricultural chemicals.
Bee populations have been decimated across the country with neuro-active neonicotinoid poisons thought by many to be the culprits.
Many scientists now believe tackling pests with ever stronger toxins will ultimately be counter-productive.
They say that no matter how the chemicals are used, they cannot kill 100 per cent of the pests they target.
That, they say, leads to insect survivors producing new generations that rapidly build up an ever greater tolerance to the poisons.
Human life at risk
Exactly the same mechanism is believed to have caused the collapsing effectiveness of antibiotics in controlling human diseases.
It is claimed that a large part of this growing and deadly problem has been caused by the massive and routine overuse of antibiotics in farm animals.