14 March 1996

BASIS course plugs the gap

farmers weekly farms manager, John Lambkin, spent two days in the classroom in February improving his knowledge of crop protection management. He describes his experience of a BASIS for Farmers course

TWELVE farmers and farm managers met on a wet and windy day in mid-February to register for their "BASIS for Farmers" course organised by the Rutland Training Group.

The venue was the Greetham Valley Golf Club near Oakham and the tutor, Debbie Wedge, an independent agronomist and crop consultant from Essex.

Her first questions set the tone for the following two days. "Why are you here and what do you hope to gain from the course?" She was looking for plenty of participation.

For my part it seemed that learning more about crop protection was a responsible action for a manager of a farming business. I had looked at the full BASIS training course and decided I would probably not go that far – at least not for the moment. A condensed version seemed a good interim measure.

The two-day agenda looked formidable. It aims to plug the gap between the PA1 and PA2 tests taken by most sprayer operators and a full BASIS qualification. By providing an understanding of integrated crop and pest management, the course also aims to help people who make crop protection decisions on the farm do so more safely and efficiently.

To many, integrated crop management is no more than farming well and using common sense, balancing the requirements of running a profitable business and showing responsibility and sensitivity to the environment.

The system is not designed to sacrifice yield or quality but to give producers a marketing advantage for produce grown in a way considered more acceptable to the consumer.

By using all available methods of pest, weed and disease control so that they complement one another, the hope is that the use of pesticides may be minimised and the environment enhanced as a result.

During the afternoon of the first day the course forged its way through the plethora of pesticide legislation. Understanding its importance should not be underestimated. But when a weed identification exercise followed, the faces of all participants – showed a clear sense of relief.

Next came a session on pesticide safety, the approval scheme, product labelling and storage.

Day two started with our trainer launching herself into describing how pesticides work. Types, formulations and modes of action were covered in quick succession, followed by adjuvants, fungicides, insecticides and herbicides.

This was more like the course I had anticipated and more interesting and relevant to my work than the legislative framework we had ploughed through the day before.

After lunch the course turned to herbicide resistance and strategies to avoid it developing. The section on pest recognition and disease identification only whetted the appetite unfortunately.

After tea we did a few exercises and case scenarios. But the mind was beginning to focus on the exam. This was a "no-nonsense, notes away, no conferring" affair lasting 60 minutes and consisting of a multiple choice element and five questions requiring four one-line sentences each. Not too bad in the final event and thankfully not too many tricky questions on acts and regulations.

A tentative phone call to the BASIS headquarters at the end of the month revealed that I had passed!

All in all I would have ho hesitation in urging other farmers and farm managers to sign up for this informative course. &#42