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Project Train the operators to prevent pollution from point sources

In past years, several small pilot projects have been carried out on water pollution from plant protection products (PPP), achieving reductions in PPP concentrations in some surface waters of over 90%. There has, however, been little or no coordination and exchange of experiences between these initiatives. Moreover, due to the small scale of their implementation, the methods developed are seldom directly transferable to the national or EU level. 

TOPPS intends to create awareness on six main critical processes: storage & transport, the phase before, during and after spraying, and residue disposal management. It acts via a well-organised European network of partners to achieve its objective: identifying and disseminating advice, training and information at a larger co-ordinated scale in Europe with the intention of reducing of plant protection product spills into ground - and surface water.

Project webpage at DG ENV LIFE database.

Project number LIFE05 ENV/B/000510
Acronym TOPPS
Geographical coverage Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, Poland, Slovakia, Finland
Budget (in €) 2603332
Programme EU-LIFE
Web site ttp://

- Best Management Practice for the safe use of Plant Protection Products;
- Best Management Practice for stewardship activities for sustainable risk mitigation with regard to water
- Generic skills and knowledge required for the safe use of Plant Protection Products and to build a common
  training framework ;
- Options/ tools and practices and minimal technical specification for hardware tools (spraying requirements,
  rinsing tools, filling and cleaning places, sprayer requirements etc.)
- Training and demonstration tools for "intermediates" ( influencers of operators) to train and inform operators on
  the prevention of pollution from point sources ;
- A generic checklist/ guidance on safe use of PPPs for specific target groups: e.g. farm managers, sprayer
  contractors and extension services.

Further TOPPS objective are the implementation and dissemination of this strategy: In 5 selected TOPPS pilot catchment areas (Poland, Denmark, Germany, Italy, France-Belgium) in the EU farming community.

Through multi-stakeholder training and awareness-raising, the project sought to attain a significant decrease in water pollution from PPP. It would directly address PPP-users (mainly farmers), but also train key ‘PPP-intermediaries’ (distributors, advisors or agricultural schools, etc.), who would, in turn, inform PPP-users on the prevention of pollution from point sources.
The project aimed to develop:

  • best management practice guidelines for safe PPP use;

  • a common training framework;

  • minimal technical specifications for PPP-container rinsing instruments, filling and
    cleaning places, sprayers, and other related tools and practices; and

  • a checklist for safe PPP use, aimed at farm managers, contractor sprayers, extension
    services and other actors.

    Results Best Management Practices (BMP) have been finalized, as a key deliverable of the project. The aim was to agree on practical solutions and recommendations to reduce point source losses of plant protection products to water. A consolidated version, representing and including the feedback of all EU Member States, had been presented at the European Stakeholder workshop. These BMPs relate to all relevant process steps such as transport, storage, handling and filling, spraying, cleaning, and the disposal of remnant spray solution. For each of the processes key statements were developed which describe "what to do". For each "what to do" the "how to do" has been specified, considering regional characteristics in terms of regulations.

    Eleven demonstration farms have been set up to provide trainings to advisers and operators, the target audience for TOPPS. In addition, three demonstration trailers have been finalized and transferred to various regions. These trailers will be used on field days and farm shows. Leaflets, various training materials, checklists and publications on TOPPS have been produced. These checklists can be used by farmers to audit their practice. Generic training material adapted to local languages and conditions have been generated by the TOPPS partners.

    An Internet based database is continuously updated with newest and relevant documents. The member's part of the website contains about 1400 nominated experts, of which around 100 feed and use the TOPPS knowledge platform, as well as 1300 TOPPS relevant organizations.

    Audits on awareness and behavior, on techniques and infrastructure have been finalized. They were conducted to form the basis for the "up scaling" process of BMP dissemination and for training activities. These audits revealed regional differences in terms of legislation, agricultural practices, climatic conditions, and awareness. These audits confirmed the need for trainings and advice on the prevention of point sources.

    The TOPPS project was successful in achieving its objectives, to develop common European best management practices’(BMP) guidelines and to promote the BMP principals (through advice, training, and demonstrations) towards preventing point source pollution to water.
    The project is innovative in that it is the first project to develop a strategy for the implementation of sustainable use of PPP on a European level; while multi-stakeholder approaches have been demonstrated with significant reductions in PPP concentrations in water, these demonstrations have occurred in a number of small scale pilot areas throughout Europe (e.g., in the UK, Sweden, Belgium, Germany, and France). The highly innovative aspect of the TOPPS project lies within the way it has been organised, the methodology used and the ambitious goals it set out to reach.

    BMP guidelines
    A key result has been the development of the BMPs guidelines to avoid water pollution from point sources on the full range of farmers' working processes: on transport, storage, before spraying, after spraying, and remnant management. The BMPs were developed by more than 300 experts and helped reach a consensus over 15 countries (the guidelines were translated in 12 languages). The BMP is now considered to be a reference guide to avoid point sources. Some national authorities have even taken the BMPs as their official recommendation, such as in Poland.

    Other main results are the:

  • development of best management practices’ brochures that have been translated in 15 languages;

  • publication of 400 articles, of which 300 were disseminated in the farm press media reaching an estimated 10 million professional users (or 80% of key EU stakeholders and intermediaries);

  • development of an extensive network of PPP experts that is considered to be a significant asset on a European level since agri-environmental advice and best management practices currently have no other European platform;

  • training to over 4 000 farmers and 1 500 advisors; and

  • presentations at 65 fairs and field days (visited by an estimated 2.7 million visitors) and numerous conferences (approximately 30).
  • Target Community Legislative Reference
  • Directive 2000/60/EC - "Framework for Community action in the field of water policy" (23.10.00)

    Period [01/11/2005 - 31/10/2008]