Sunday, November 19, 2017

Take a rain check on soil and water management

October 31, 2017 by  
Filed under News & Business

Rising demand for sustainable supplies of low-cost food make it more important than ever for farmers to boost productivity while protecting the environment, say advisers.

A sound understanding of soil and water management can help growers achieve both these goals, says BASIS marketing and technical manager Lucy Cottingham, who trained as an agronomist – especially when it comes to keeping pesticide residues out of water courses.

The environmental issue of pesticides in water has been a problem for many years, says Ms Cottingham. But pesticide exceedances are increasingly under the spotlight because water companies are under pressure to produce safe drinking water at a minimum cost.

“Some pesticides cannot be removed from drinking water, and those that can be, are costly for water companies to take out, causing an increased price for the consumer. It is important that farmers and water companies put their heads together to tackle this issue.”

Without careful management by growers, it is likely that key active ingredients will be removed from the market because of the environmental threat, says Ms Cottingham. Fortunately, this risk can be minimise through best practice and simple steps.

Integrated approach

To help reduce the chances of nutrient leaching and pesticide run-off, farmers are encouraged to consider an Integrated Crop Management (ICM) approach that will also reduce their reliance on pesticides and in-turn boost productivity.

“Encompassing a holistic programme of all the tools available to manage weeds, pests and diseases, considering cultural and biological controls ahead of chemicals can help to implement a successful ICM programme.”

Careful soil management is a key starting point for a good ICM strategy. “A well-established seedbed will go a long way to minimising pesticide use, as crops will be able to get away quickly meaning they’re healthier and better able to withstand disease, out-compete weeds and pests.”

Ms Cottingham argues that a more detailed understanding of how to manage natural resources is essential if farmers and agromists are to adopt suitable soil and water management programmes that help futureproof their systems.

Build knowledge

Procam agronomist Kevin Pearcy sets out to do just that. Mr Pearcy signed up to a BASIS management course in a bid to expand his knowledge of the vital elements – and ultimately provide more informed advice to farmers.

“I took part in the first ever BASIS soil and water management course in 2004, when I wanted to broaden my understanding, I followed this with other modules to achieve the BASIS graduate diploma. I can’t stress the importance of others in a similar position to follow suit.

“The week-long course covered all aspects of soil and water management, that assist in working with or advising on an appropriate, all-encompassing management programme. It built on my current knowledge of areas including cultivation, irrigation, drainage and soil protection.”

Mr Pearcy says he uses the
information gained from the course daily – helping farmers grow the best crops possible, while working efficiently and sustainably. “The course broadened
my awareness of all areas of soil and water management, rather than just focusing on one major aspect.”

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