Saturday, February 23, 2019

Integrated pest management at heart of crop production

February 1, 2019 by  
Filed under Crops

Integrated pest management techniques will play an increasing role in UK crop production post-Brexit – agronomists are leading their implementation on farm.

Speaking at a last month’s annual conference organised by the Association of Independent Crop Consultants (AICC), NFU president Minette Batters said 42% of farm businesses would make a loss if direct payments are phased out after the UK leaves the EU.

Farm output would need to be raised by 10% or more to counter the loss of payments, Ms Batters told delegates at the Whittlebury Hall Hotel, near Towcester, Northamptonshire. But increasing output would have to be done in an environmentally sensitive way. 

Integrated pest management (IPM) is a practice based on prevention, monitoring and control of damaging organisms using a range of cultural and biological methods – using plant protection products only when absolutely necessary.

Hybrid system

The public needed to know farmers used crop protection products responsibly, said Ms Batters. “This isn’t about using less – this is about us as an industry being transparent and having an evidence base [for use] and I think that will become more and more important.”

AICC chairman and Lincolnshire agronomist Sean Sparling echoed these sentiments. But he warned against a shift towards relying too heavily on non-chemical approaches, with the current hybrid system allowing the production of safe, plentiful and affordable food.

Modern plant protection products had passed a decade of regulatory scrutiny before being approved for use on a farm level, said Mr Sparling. Recommended by highly qualified advisers, such as AICC agronomists, they were safe to use, he added.

“We use them because the natural and cultural answers need more help today than ever before, as the problems we face in the field are evolving more rapidly than ever before, not helped by climate change,” explained Mr Sparling. “Neither systems are stand-alone solutions.”

Proactive

AICC members are proactive in the practice of IPM, with groups and individual members across the UK discussing approaches to controlling current pest, weed and disease problems on a daily basis.

The organisation also has the power to turn around nationwide surveys covering huge areas of the national cropped area in hours to help inform its strategy, demonstrated by its annual cabbage stem flea beetle study.

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