Signing up to the Voluntary Initiative brings benefits even for farmers who are already active in environmental management, according to research conducted by the Farming Wildlife Advisory Group.

FWAG has assessed the environmental performance on ten “indicator” farms which have implemented VI measures in order to minimise the environmental impact of pesticides.

The farmers involved were classed as “above average performers, active in environmental management before the VI began”.

The study found the requirement for Crop Protection Management Plans challenged all the farms in the indicator sample to change their behaviour and attitude.

Other changes initiated by the VI included improved agronomist advice on environmental issues as a result of BETA training, a high uptake of the National Register of Sprayer Operator accreditation and high LERAP compliance with all farms scoring the maximum ten points.
 
“This first assessment of the indicator farms shows that even when farmers are doing a pretty good job, there is still scope for improvement,” said VI Manager Patrick Goldsworthy.

“A key aim of the VI is to engender changed thinking and behaviour on farms, both in terms of how they use pesticides and broader environmental issues.

“By continuing to monitor the indicator farms we believe we will gain a better feel for the environmental impacts of the VI.”