New systems need to be developed that measure the use of integrated pest management (IPM) to evidence decisions being made on farm that do not involve the use of chemicals.
Speaking during the plant health session of the NFU Conference, newly elected NFU vice president, Tom Bradshaw said: “We are now becoming a statistic every time we go across a field with a spray. Environmental NGOs are using [current] metrics against us. We need to come up with metrics that are better at showing the environmental impact we are having on farms.”
This comes after George Eustice said IPM had ‘not moved on much since the 1990s,’ at a previous NFU conference.
Mr Bradshaw added: “There’s no way of evidencing the decision making we are making on farm that is part of our IPM. We record the [chemical] active decisions we make on farm, but we aren’t very good about talking about the methods that we don’t legally have to record.
“We don’t write don’t down why we choose a certain variety because it’s got the best disease resistance, standing power or is most suited to that late drilling date. When we reach for a can it’s usually the last resort, rather than the first part of the programme.”
Holly Yates, deputy director for chemicals, pesticides and hazardous waste at Defra, said she was getting pressure from the secretary of state to push IPM, and the call for better data and metrics is ‘absolutely key’, but she had been concerned about asking the industry for more form filling.
She said: “For me, that baseline of where are we is absolutely essential for us to have a sensible conversation about how we can move it forward.”
Dr Paul Neve, AHDB’s new head of IPM and crop health, said although the industry had been discussing IPM for many years, one of the challenges to adoption is the lack of national strategy or joined up approach.
He said: “Implementation depends on cooperation between researchers, agronomist and farmers. A lot of IPM is coming from people selling PPPs and I think we really do need to bring all the stakeholders on board with this strategy and have a much more integrated approach.”
Anthony Snell, a soft fruit grower from Herefordshire said his sector in particular were very focused on the use of bioproducts and IPM, but other sectors need to join them.
He said: “We’re spending between £1500-2400/hectare on bioproducts to control mildew, botrytis and pest and diseases. It would be great if other sectors could really get into it and it can really grow. The problem is the cost is absolutely astronomical for these bioproducts. We need more people to use them and eventually they should be cheaper than agrochemicals.”